So 2016 is coming to a close, and lots of people are pondering the future, reminiscing about the past, and contemplating the “big picture”—as people tend to do for about five minutes at the end (and beginning) of each year. So this would be a fine time, in between talking about all the insanity and evil generated by authoritarianism around the world, to point out some signs of humanity showing real, significant progress. Yes, I’m about to express optimism; deal with it. But first, a random tangent:
When you visit people you know, but who you only see every few months, or even years, and you see their children, or their house, or their waistline, do you ever find yourself saying, “Wow, I can’t believe the change!”? But to them, seeing those things every day, the change seems barely noticeable, because day-to-day, the change is trivial. But month-to-month, or year-to-year, it’s not.
And so it is with how people in general see the world: it tends to change very slowly—so slowly that it’s easy to miss, unless you back up and look at the bigger picture. If you’re an anarchist, constantly frustrated with how thick-headed and irrational your statist family, friends and acquaintances seem to be, here are a few points to hopefully make you feel better:
1 - Of the anarchists I know, almost all of them were statists before, since almost all of us were indoctrinated into that from the time we were small children. Think back to when you were the most thoroughly brain-washed, when you were believing in, advocating, or even zealously promoting “political” solutions to society’s problems. After you’re done wincing and blushing, keep in mind the progress you have made, and the transformation you have gone through. Then realize that that is clear proof that it is at least possible for someone else who is that bamboozled and duped to eventually see reality. Because you did.
2 - Compare how many discussions you now see about anarchism and voluntaryism, to how many you saw a few years ago. As someone who has been babbling about this for twenty years (I became an anarchist around 1996), I can tell you that the number of people I knew of back then who were advocating actual freedom—a stateless society—could be counted on one hand. (In fact, they could have been counted on one hand of someone who had had a serious table saw accident.) Now the concepts and ideas are showing up all over the place.
3 - Think of how many anarchists you know today, whether in real life or just online, compared to how many you knew just three years ago. Make a list, if you must. (Don’t forget to count yourself on the list, if you weren’t an anarchist three years ago.) I would be extremely surprised if you haven’t seen a huge increase. Yes, the numbers and percentages may still be very small, but the growth is the important thing. And that reminds me, while I’m being optimistic here, I might as well throw in this little mathematical thing, for those unfamiliar with how exponential math works:
Even if we start with the supposition that there are only 5,000 voluntaryists in the world right now (a drastic underestimation), if each voluntaryist were to help just three others escape their statist indoctrination each year, in a mere five years there would be over five million voluntaryists. A mere three years after that, voluntaryists would outnumber the entire current population of the U.S. A couple years after that, it would be everyone on the planet.
Critics will say that it’s not going to happen that way. And no, it won’t happen exactly like that. A lot of people are still far from being able to even consider the idea of a stateless society. However, when talking about the spread of ideas, there is a massively important phenomenon that works in our favor. When half of some population learns and accepts some new truth, it is pretty much inevitable that the rest will quickly learn and accept it, too. Sure, there would still be a few holdouts who cling to old superstitions even when the rest of the world has wised up, but they are statistically irrelevant. And as it happens, this phenomenon happens way before 50%. It tends to be closer to 10% being the “point of no return.” If you want to hear the same thing from people who wear lab coats (because we all know that lab coats make people infallible), here ya go:
This actually makes perfect sense. Sorry to state the bleeding obvious, but the main thing keeping people from learning new stuff is never hearing about new stuff. If you were in a country of 300,000,000 people, and three people there were trying to spread some new idea, hardly anyone else would even hear about it, and therefore would never consider it. But if, for example, there comes a time when there are 30,000,000 voluntaryists in the U.S., then everyone else will absolutely be repeatedly exposed to the ideas. The most important factors in a new idea “taking over the world” are:
1 - People have to hear about it. (Duh.)
2 - When an individual hears something from multiple sources, it automatically acquires far more credibility in his mind. (I couldn’t quickly find a link to that study, and I’m too lazy to keep trying right now.)
3 - Repetition is key. When someone keeps hearing an idea or a piece of information over and over again, it becomes more and more difficult for him to just reflexively disbelieve it.
4 - It is comfortable for people to believe whatever they think everyone else believes, and to automatically reject anything that some tiny, statistically irrelevant “fringe” group says to the contrary. But when that “fringe” starts to number in the millions, the average person begins to think that maybe it might be true, and then he might actually think about it.
Look at the progress of human thought and understanding over time, and you will see that the majority has always been dragged to the truth by a very small minority of people who actually understood what the hell they were talking about. Another way to look at it is that all those unthinking conformists aren’t committed to conforming only to bad ideas. They follow the crowd where ever it goes, because that’s easier than figuring stuff out for themselves. They would follow good ideas just as readily, if that is the easy route for them. Humanity moves forward when a very small number of people who actually think about stuff drags the rest of the “flock” in the right direction.
Yes, even your stubborn cousin Thelma, the most devout, indoctrinated statist you know, can and will become an anarchist when everyone around her already is. She isn’t an authoritarian because of principle or thought; only because of programming, peer pressure, and being familiar with those bad ideas. She will not have the fortitude or the conviction to stick by her crappy beliefs when she is constantly surrounded by people who have outgrown the lie of “government” and political “authority.”
No, it won’t disappear tomorrow, and the collapse of statism is likely to be pretty dang ugly and violent on the way to a free society. But the lie no longer has a monopoly on communications. And as soon as a significant number of people are hearing about it, and talking about it, and thinking about it—as they already are—the bogus political mythology we were all taught is on a one-way trip to the junk heap of history. So be of good cheer, try not to die, keep telling the truth, keep spreading the ideas of non-aggression and self-ownership, and by the end of 2017, you will be seeing some huge, positive changes. So yeah. Hope. And change. And stuff.
(P.S. I might as well be a self-serving twerp at this point and mention that my book, “The Most Dangerous Superstition,” as of yesterday, is finally available on Amazon again for a non-ridiculous price. For now you can be amused that on Amazon the book is currently $12 brand new, or $96 if you want a used one. That will self-correct shortly.)