Erdogan's reign of terror has become so open and clear that most people find it hard to deny Turkey is devolving into a totalitarian dictatorship. The citizens of the United States are asked to make a choice between an incompetent bigoted war-hawk and another incompetent bigoted wark-hawk. Terrorist attacks are now a weekly event in Europe. It's no longer possible to talk of a society or, if one really wants to continue doing so, we must admit that this society has been infected with an almost terminal cancer. After all, we have to deal with the mutual hate being forced down our throats by politicians and corporate media as well as a continuing economic depression the effects of which on the poor are disastrous - and never forget the rich continue to grow richer. The enormous problems surrounding the environment have almost been forgotten but have certainly not dissipated.
We've been born into a world where fear is the only lasting emotion. Solidarity with each other has nearly disappeared and the cancer has grown so big that some dare to claim that the government can mediate solidarity for us. Nothing is further from the truth as solidarity cannot be enforced. Solidarity can only come from ourselves. It's a form of resistance against economic and armed violence as it rejects all forms of violence and force. It's the form of resistance that has become, now more than ever, a most pressing necessity. The time to protest austerity is past as the welfare state and capitalism are dying. We can continue to ignore this simple fact and hope that politicians will magically save everything but, over the past several hundred years, they have proven themselves utterly incapable of providing us with a world of peace and safety. The dream that politicians will save us can only bring us a nightmare. Nevertheless, we do have to organise society as we cannot survive without each other. As such, the time has come to learn to trust each other again, and we can only do so by learning to trust ourselves.
What Are We Capable Of?
The most important insight people can get is a full understanding of their own capabilities. From an early age, we've been taught that hierarchy is normal and natural. Many of us have come to believe this is true and, of course, this is useful for those who are at the top of these hierarchies. Of course, the people at the top are the same people who decide what we're being taught. For us, at the bottom, this way of teaching is disastrous. Especially children are easily able to learn to interact with each other in horizontal and non-hierarchical ways. Fremeaux and Jordan, in their essay on Paideia, describe how children at that school resolve conflicts without any adults intervening. They don't use the totalitarian measures that are common in ordinary schools, such as detention, where the main goal is re-establishing order as quickly as possible. Instead, the students call a general assembly in which they, as best as they can, try to reconstruct what happened. They then continue to discuss the best way to resolve the conflict. Instead of trusting an authority figure to make decisions over their lives without the children having any control over them, the children control the entire process of making decisions themselves. Without a doubt, Paideia is not perfect but the experiences give us valuable insights into the capabilities of children to interact with each other in a more harmonious way. If children can do it, then adults must certainly be able to.
However, adults have the greatest difficulty living together harmoniously and we see the beginnings of this with children. Many of us have been bullied and while some will say that we're not hurt physically, we're definitely hurt emotionally. Thinking back to the way I was bullied it's become perfectly clear that the power structures of bullying are very similar to the power structures in society. Children grow up in this society and start learning the tricks from an early age. During the children's emotional development all forms of solidarity are made impossible. We emulate the way power works and teach ourselves that we should fight a war of all against all. Again, this is useful for those in power as a people who treat each other on the basis of solidarity - and will thus defend each other wherever necessary - is an enormous danger to their position of power. Just imagine what would go through your boss's head if thousands of people go on strike when you get fired. In the history of the Spanish Anarchist movement it was relatively common for comrades to organise a general strike in order to force the government to release their comrades from prison (Murray Bookchin, The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years).
The strength of practical solidarity makes solidarity such an important concept. When anarchists talk about the society they would like to see, solidarity is always mentioned as a core concept. Mutual aid itself is, at its core, a form of solidarity. After all, mutual aid doesn't mean we're going to keep complicated records of who did what for whom. Instead, mutual aid means we'll help others out of our own volition simply because we would like others to help us as well. For example, the Zapatista movement in Mexico recently donated three tonnes of food to striking teachers in Oaxaca. The Zapatastistas provide this kind of support because they see in the struggle of the Oaxaca strikers a reflection of their own struggle and hopes.
In fact, solidarity is a perfect example of the unity of egoism and altruism. Two often, people argue these two are diametrically opposed to each other where, in fact, they must of necessity coexist and feed into each other. Max Stirner already argued that there is nothing wrong with egoism as long as you're fully aware of your own egoism and respect others in theirs. After all, a self-conscious individual is completely aware of the necessity and usefulness of collective cooperation. For example, during the Spanish Revolution Gaston Leval visited many collectives and noted that collective cooperation tends to increase efficiency of production as well as a more sensible use of reasources (Gaston Leval, Collectives in the Spanish Revolution). From purely egoistic reasons it's clear that competition is a bad principle for the organisation of society. When we look around us we can clearly see the effects of competition: war and poverty. An incredibly small group may think to get the advantages of such a society but they too will learn that, as a as a popular quote says, their money can't be eaten. As a matter of fact, most money these days is virtual.
It's time to accept that competition doesn't work. This means that capitalism, built on competition, also doesn't work. After the many crises that capitalism hasn't been able to provide an answer for, this should no longer even be a point of debate. Nevertheless, capitalism still exists and continues to cause enormous damage. However, in this damage we can also find the possibility to work towards a society built on solidarity. The time to come together and start organising as many things as possible ourselves, including those things that the state still organises for us, is long overdue. This is necessary not just to help solve the problems we're forced to deal with at this time but also to relearn solidarity itself. We should have learned solidarity in our youth, like they are attempting to do at Paideia. However, we've been dramatically wronged in our education and, as such, will have to learn it as adults.
Oddly enough, many of us complain about society a lot but we don't generally do much more than just let off steam. People seldom seem to try and find a solution even though these solutions are necessary for all of us. Most people will accept that a world without money would be preferable but only few are actively working on it. Many have lost hope and those who have hope are driven into despair by the inactivity of others. As a society, we have to make the most important choice in our collective history. Either we surrender to a new series of tyrannies and the inevitable extinction of humanity, or we start building towards a harmonious world built on voluntary cooperation. To me, this seems an incredibly easy choice to make. Whenever you hear or utter another song of lamentation, think back to this text and consider how you could solve the problems together through solidarity. We can't wait for a capitalist or the state to solve these problems for us, not just because we would have no control over the eventual solution but also because they will always treat us as competitors. After all, the ideology of the state - and capitalism is part of that ideology - states that we must be in a war of all against all. However, we can choose to be better than that.