‘There is a spelling error there,’ some will point out hurriedly.

So yes, this is a different spelling, buddy… and you’re not accustomed to seeing or using it. But the wonderful thing is that this spelling has a ‘key’ attached to it and you, I know, are someone who is surrounded by locked doors.

‘Locked doors?’

Yes, locked doors. Look at the desperation in the eyes of those who want the government machinery to take action on some issue and you’ll know what I mean. You see, the old fashioned ‘lawlessness’ is certainly there as much in the corridors of power as in the common man who violates a traffic signal or a cab driver who doesn’t want to respect the meter in his vehicle or even the cops who don’t want to act because that is how they may be making money. But then all this is plain lawlessness and not anarchy. Yes, they are all behaving as if they don’t care for leadership and are not bothered about all those squiggly clauses that remain on paper and are known as laws. Anarchy, incidentally, also has its Greek roots saying that the word means ‘without a leader’.

The non-existence of government

So, does anarchy mean that governance goes amiss? No. It just means the non-existence of a government that is not interested in working for the people. So what sort of a government are we all accustomed to? Well, I have grown up being fed on news and views about the government being non-existent except for the times when the election jamboree takes place… or that it is somehow full of people who call themselves leaders of all those who spread lawlessness… or scams are tumbling out of its cupboards ceaselessly… or haughty words that hurt… or exclusivity that is surrounded by beacons, Z-security, and an endless chain of paan-spitting peons and clerks who won’t let anything good happen! Government, my dear friends, isn’t the same as governance. The sort of governance we have been seeing these past decades is nothing but plain lawlessness evolving into a fine art.

Anarchists, on the other hand, ‘generally advocate a non-hierarchical, horizontal organization, typically through directly democratic structures.’ There are some who describe anarchy as a wholesome dose of opposition to authoritarian organisation and hierarchy… which is what an aam aadmi experiences when he goes to any government office for any work. Rules, regulations, and clauses are flung at his helplessness and he is shooed out if he doesn’t agree to be their equal and hugs corruption by giving a bribe. So yes, we all yearn for a society in which individuals cooperate as equals, don’t we? But this form of equality enters when you have a government that encourages lawlessness.

Our choice is invariably between anarchy and lawlessness

Most of us must admit that they have all been lawless at one time or the other. Some have got their driving license done in less time by paying a tout and others have called themselves lucky to have found the right source to get their railway booking done. Being a lawless citizen has always come with some advantage or the other… but were we an anarchist when we committed these crimes? No. We were just adding to the noise of lawlessness and societal chaos because the government was never willing to exercise its power to stop us. In fact, they wanted us to do all this and remain happily numbed so they could fill their Swiss accounts or have another flat in Adarsh Society or send their children to colleges and universities abroad. No wonder then that politics today has become a profession that the son or daughter of a politician automatically gravitates towards. So this is how I look at lawlessness… and this is what weak and toothless laws end up giving us. Ammon Hennacy writes, ‘Oh, judge, your damn laws, the good people don’t need them and the bad people don’t follow them, so what good are they?

Edward Abbey feels that ‘anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hard-headed realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.’ So where is the chaos in this definition? Where is lawlessness in this concept of anarchy?  Both chaos and lawlessness are on the other side, that is, the side of the rulers of a country who have fudged the thin line between power to govern and the power to dictate.

In the choice between lawlessness and anarchy, I would normally be confused. This is because even anarchy is a form that is alien to me. A form that I am not aware of. A form where the end result isn’t clear to me. However much someone may project that anarchy is akin to anarKEY and that this is the form that has the key to all our problems today, I’d be distrustful.

No leader can also mean millions of tribes again

Arvind Kejriwal has often said that power belongs to the people and that it is they who will need to come forward to exercise that right. But the fair truth is that people who aren’t literate enough to sign their names cannot be expected to understand how to give a direction to anything. The belief that anarchy is all about people influencing decision-making is like asking them to behave sanely even when in massive numbers. We know what happens when people get together in large numbers… there are small groups created without their even realising it and if taken on a national level, it may mean the creation of small tribes banding together to exist according to their tribes’ regulations. Come on now, we don’t want India to regress into a nation of tribes, do we?

Some will argue that these tribes will find their own allies and form townships… and society will need to regenerate itself. Such a thought puts fear into me. We know what the birth of a new nation means… we know what that chaos means… we know the years of struggle and suffering that it will demand.

But wait, let me examine the premise of ‘power to the people’ in a different way now. Wasn’t Bhagidari too supposed to be a concept that gave people the right to take decisions and manage some of their issues by themselves? Isn’t a co-operative society just the same as the sort of concept that Kejriwal is talking about? We have had these concepts right in our midst and nobody ever told us that these were such wonderful tools? Well, even democracy is actually nothing but consensus decision-making. It is only when these tools stray from their ideals that consensus degenerates into consensual… and then a coterie of smug villains rake in all the benefits and magnanimously distribute benevolent smiles and vacuous promises to the rest of the crowd. This is what has been happening in our country. We did begin as people-centric and ended up being power-centric. By the way, this happened because our leaders made sure that real education doesn’t reach everyone. Education means aware information… and our anarchist struggle for freedom decades back would have succeeded had we created a society that was based on real education about how society functions. Instead, we got obsessed with fudging figures what happened is what you can easily figure out now.

So anarKEY has been with us before and is simply revisiting. I hope we remain anarchic enough this time.


Arvind Passey
21 January 2014


Published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 27 January 2014

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