Flirting with Anarchy

In my earlier days, I was tempted by the idea of anarchy. It had an edge to it; a romantic and revolutionary sound to it that separated me from the crowd of aspirational young capitalists. It was a rebellious alternative that any sensible young adult should be consider. 

In those days, I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. I’d read Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and found it a combination of mysterious and mundane but, still, the slightly bitter aftertaste left a lingering desire for a world where anarchy might reign supreme. 


Anarchy, according to the dictionary, is: “A state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems.” A more positive definition reads: “Absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal.”


What if? I wondered every few years as my pencil hovered over a name on a voting ballot. How would it be if we were all grown up enough to govern ourselves and didn’t need to choose a large number of people to take decisions on our behalf. Or, some cases, to even ignore the electorate’s wishes once they were in power. 


There are some people who might want to be told what to do and feel uncertain about having to make their own individual choices but we could accommodate them too – those of us bold and brave enough to take decisions could bear them in mind and act for them. It seemed a logical and reasonable proposition.


And then, dear reader, my fuzzy-at-the-edges fantasy almost came true.


First, there was the chaos of Brexit. And it was chaos, regardless of how anyone voted. Those who voted to leave were unhappy, those who voted to remain were equally miserable. 


How the individual voted is no longer the real issue. I think all of us imagined that by this stage there would be some kind of reasonably speedy resolution to the problem, even a separation as complicated as this one. 


Six years on, not really. And now we read we can keep expecting delays even up to next year if we try to go overseas. Our biometric passports apparently are not up to scratch. We are in a continuous state of flux, with little sign of an improvement.


Then, hot on the heels of the Brexit conundrum came Covid. It supposedly started in a Chinese wet market in Wuhan but now we wonder about cross-breeding bugs escaping from a laboratory. Whatever. It still took away some two years of our lives. More than a year since we supposedly opened up again, we are still feeling the shock-wave effects from that period. 


Some people are on permanent lockdown alert, others want to go out but remain frightened while the needs of the vulnerable – children and older people – which went unconsidered for so long are still up in the air. 


Then there are the people in the middle. The young healthy and middle aged who did not seem to be too much at risk from the virus – as awful as it was – but whose lives also were changed by covid. The effects of lockdown will go on for years.


One of the major consequences was those who were furloughed had a chance to reflect and to consider what they wanted from their lives. It seems that many were not as happy as they had thought previously. A Monday to Friday 40-hour a week was no longer as desirable as they once imagined. A result a government could never have imagined.


I’m listening to the news as we speak. I hear the NHS is on its knees because there are insufficient staff so operations are delayed and millions of people are on a waiting list.


Then I hear that some 600 officers from the Metropolitan Police are being investigated over domestic violence. It’s set up its own unit to look into the investigations. 


And then we come to today’s current government. What’s happening there? I won’t name them in case it’s all changed within the next week or two (it already has) but it seems as though we have a disparate group of MPs, senior and junior, who have forgotten politics is all about the people and what the MPs can do for them, rather than the other way round.


There seems to be no direction from anyone and no sense of purpose and it appears to have been like that since Covid. 


Philosopher Thomas Hobbes, via Leviathan, offered his interpretation of a social contract. A very simplistic summing up suggests that, in exchange for giving absolute authority to the monarch, he/she will protect you and your life. If the monarch fails in that duty, the social contract is broken.


Bearing in mind Hobbes lived during the terrors of the English Civil War, it is easy to see why such a contract would be so appealing. Absolute certainty in times of absolute chaos is a very appealing prospect. It is, of course, the antithesis of anarchy, that ideology I have found so enticing over the years. 


Apparently, our views tend to change over the years, becoming more conservative (with a small c) as we hopefully grow wiser with experience and life is less black and white than it seems in our youth. 


The anarchy idea perhaps stayed with me for some time longer than it should but now I feel as if I’ve been offered the chance to see what an anarchy-lite version might look like. 

I don’t like it. I feel as though I’m staring into an abyss with one foot creeping ever nearer to the edge. I want to feel firm ground beneath both my feet; I want to feel there is someone, somewhere in charge who has some real ability to pull me back from this frightening and continuing uncertainty. 

If there’s anyone out there who can come forward and deliver me from my head filled with fears, I’d be very grateful. Anarchy, it seems, is not for me.