FAQ: Anarchy in Somalia and its relevance to Anarchism/Statelessness (Part 2)
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It’s not a country full of enlightened people; it’s a country full of highly superstitious people (hence the Islam). Yet despite this, the freedom offered by the large vacuum of power has offered comparative gains, even in country plagued by villainous warlords. Remember, it’s almost the same exact Somalis, except without a state; when there was a state, the bad guy was at the top and calling all the shots with the army and police at his disposal.
By removing that state, the bad guys now have to compete on a more level playing field with the actually decent and well-meaning people of Somalia. And while some of the bad guys are still around (we can’t expect them to disappear overnight with a history like Somalia’s), the decent people have shown the success a voluntary society can bring, even among individuals who don’t necessarily have the most rational beliefs.
Irrational religious people, as much nonsense as they believe, have to eat, drink, and do basically most things that other humans do, too. As long as you want to live and prosper, you are bound by rationality to some degree. And Somalia has simply become a better place to live and prosper as a result of greater economic freedom.
Q: But. pirates!
Ah yes, the infamous pirates of Somalia. Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!
The pirate story is as follows: in the Gulf of Aden, pirate groups have formed to capture merchant ships traveling nearby in order to collect a hefty ransom on the crew and cargo. Certainly, this is a clear cut case of theft. We all certainly agree that the pirates aren’t entitled to using violence and stealing for any reason whatsoever.
What’s really suspect is any criticism of what they’re doing by, well, anyone. Commonly ignored is the history behind these pirates: notably, the pillaging of the Somali fish stocks by foreign trawlers, endangering the livelihood of the very fishermen who form the pirates’ top recruiting pool, and the dumping of toxic wastes off of Somali shores by EU countries on the cheap (for the full story, read Johann Hari’s piece in the Independent).
Surely, two wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t believe in collectives, and hence don’t believe that an merchant of some European nationality has to pay for the actions of “his” government, which doesn’t necessarily represent any of the moral obligations he has generated as an individual.
The problem is really the criticism by countries which do the very same thing that the Somali pirates are doing, but only in a more organized fashion. According to the mainstream view of these Somali pirates espoused by said countries, it’s immoral for Somalis to do it because a) they’re black, and b) they don’t have uniforms. This isn’t explicitly stated, of course; everything is couched in terms of “theft” and “international law” and so on.
What types of ships are the pirates attacking? Sometimes those ships are carrying foreign aid none other than money stolen from taxpayers to be given toward causes they probably wouldn’t agree with if they knew about them. This is the same foreign aid that strengthened the Biarre regime in Somalia as it strengthened regimes all across Africa by destroying domestic agriculture and giving the powers that be complete control over the food supply. While the pirates don’t care about this, it’s ironic that the West accuses Somali pirates of theft and destruction, when that is exactly what foreign aid is made of and accomplishes.
But the hypocrisy is much deeper than just foreign aid. Toxic waste dumping and fish poaching off the coast of New York would result in a severe American military response. According to the mainstream view, the Somalis don’t have a central government sanctioning their patrolling of territorial waters, so when they do it, it’s illegal piracy.
So let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that Somali piracy is not about patrolling territorial waters and that it’s about arbitrary acts of seizure. I’m sure the pirates would advocate these acts of seizure as indeed being in some collective Somali interest. So when American ships interdict and seize ships in accordance with American environmental protection standards, trade embargoes, customs taxes, outright prohibitions (e. g. narcotics), etc. those too are arbitrary acts of seizure done in the name of national interest. When AMERICA does it, it’s national defense. When blacks without uniforms do it, it’s illegal piracy. The only thing justifying both acts is someone’s say-so. The only reason that this one-sided and hypocritical story wins out in our supposedly “objective” media is that one party is holding all of the guns.
Q: If you like anarchy so much, why don’t you move to Somalia?
Because it sucks there (for a wide variety of reasons beyond its political organization, as outlined above).
Typically, anything that isn’t one of the limited and mainstream “CNN” choices of political philosophy is going to hear these types of accusations of hypocrisy. These accusations naturally fail to respect the nuances of the view being attacked a crude form of sophistry that is often met with thunderous applause. (Kinda like this exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani way to miss the point, Rudy applauding morons! )
The simplest thing to point out is that “anarchism” denotes a wide variety of very different views. One mostly false stereotype of anarchism is that it is a political philosophy, much like socialism, communism, or fascism. While this may be true of some strains, it’s important for any rational person to sufficiently differentiate the person with whom he/she is speaking. After all, you wouldn’t want a Muslim you were arguing with to stereotype you as a warmongering Westerner just because you say that you’re American.
The anarchism I espouse is merely a consequence of the philosophy of rationality and personal freedom that comes first. It is not a prescribed system that should be imposed it is just the state of affairs that arises once people start behaving rationally. That the state of affairs in my ideal world would be stateless, and can thus be termed “anarchy,” is more of an afterthought than a central goal. The individual’s pursuit of happiness comes first, in a way that also universally respects the rights of others.
Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with irrationality and coercion, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rational choices to be made. There’s certainly nothing rational about putting the cart before the horse. A voluntary society (i. e. “anarchy”) is not an end in itself; it’s just that living in one would make one live a happy and moral life. ANARCHY IS NOT THE GOAL. GLOBAL UTOPIA IS NOT THE GOAL. A happy and moral life is the goal. So moving to Somalia certainly wouldn’t be much help to anyone trying to live a happy and moral life, given the misery and poverty there.
In summation, the central thesis of this FAQ is not that Somalia is utopia; it is most certainly not that Somalia meets every rational standard of respect for human freedom; it is that Somalia’s unique condition of statelessness has enabled Somalia to attain equal, if not superior, levels of stability and prosperity compared to its similarly-situated African neighbors. This success is, again, despite a number of factors that would otherwise make it another African hellhole (history of colonial domination and post-colonial meddling and intervention, irrational and dogmatic mysticism (i. e. Islam and general tribalistic baggage), hostile neighbors, etc. )
Given that taxpayers observing successful living without a massive government is a threat to massive governments, lots of resources are mobilized to frame world issues as if there is a speeding train coming for us which can only be stopped by government superheroes. Next time you hear about anything anarchy-related in the news, expect a healthy dose of vilification from the mainstream media. Soon enough, you’ll be watching cartoons rather than CNN.
[Special thanks for this article go to Wikipedia, one of the world’s greatest time-savers in terms of research aggregation. The benefits of decentralization even helped to write this article!
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