The following is a follow-up to my original article, Is There A Fundamental Difference Between Anarchists & Autarchists? If you’ve not yet read the former, I would recommend doing so, for a little more context when reading this one.
When discussing my first article concerning the fundamental difference between anarchists and autarchists with a much-respected friend, we seemed to be mostly in agreement, though we also seemed to be dancing around the core issue, stating our tangent but concurred positions, rather than specifically identifying the more central common ground that I was attempting to elucidate.
So I decided to elaborate on my overarching point, perhaps explain it more in-depth:
When I asked my network on Facebook for what they thought the top character traits of anarchists would be, I was totally surprised at getting so many responses that were opposite of what I’d anticipated, like “there aren’t any common character traits” or “we just wanna be left alone” or worse, some of the commenters debating amongst themselves whether basic respect for other individuals was even a common character trait of anarchists! And then there was the one person who, upon reviewing the examples I furnished of honesty, integrity, authenticity, compassion, etc., said that those examples “seemed rather utopian.”
Now, I get it, many anarchists just want to be left alone, just want to do their own thing devoid of forceful intervention, as my friend also iterated. But in a peaceful, prosperous, cooperative society, everyone can’t just act completely isolated and care only about themselves and to hell with everyone else. Then we would, in fact, have chaos and lawlessness and riots in the streets, as many fear would happen under anarchy. And, exhibiting that attitude could also be what drives many statists away from the anarchism ideology. With that attitude, can you blame them for questioning how we would build a cooperative society, without a mechanism in place (govt) to FORCE cooperation from those unwilling to do so?
An orderly society requires communication, cooperation, peaceful exchange, and sacrifice of some personal autonomy (though not rights) in exchange for the benefits of cooperative endeavors, exchanges of value, division of labor, etc. Yeah, I’ve been using the term self-mastery in a self-discipline, self-control, self-governing context in this discussion, but the way I’m constructing the overarching concept of autarchism, self-mastery is but one tenet of the larger ideal, which is personal enlightenment.
And other, just as important tenets of personal enlightenment is mindfulness and non-egocentric living. And these ideals are what takes us to the responsibility/duty side of the “freedom coin,” rather than dwelling only on the rights/liberty side—i.e., not simply demanding that others respect our rights and liberty, but also taking responsibility for our choices, behavior, and actions, and striving for self-discipline, self-efficacy, and self-sufficiency, along with assuming our duty as human beings to help others—be they family, friends, co-workers, community, or humanity at large—which requires regular sacrifice of our ego, i.e., non-egocentric living.
IMO, one cannot simply be responsible for oneself (or one step removed, one’s family) and say to hell with everyone else, and achieve any level of personal enlightenment. And further, a peaceful, productive, prosperous, free society certainly cannot be achieved on that premise.
To achieve true freedom, demanding freedom from others isn’t enough; one must first demand freedom from oneself—and achieving personal freedom (enlightenment) requires discipline, responsibility, duty, and sacrifice (self-mastery).
And just as on the personal level, the more true freedom one wishes to acquire, the more responsibility/duty one must be willing to shoulder, then the same would apply across broader society—the more responsibility/duty individuals shoulder, in aggregate, the more freedom society at large will earn and enjoy.
So upon considering those surprising answers to my initial question, I concluded that apparently many anarchists do, in fact, take the egocentric approach of “it’s all about me/my family and to hell with everyone else”, which again, I don’t believe will successfully move us toward a free(er) society.
And so if we’re going to define autarchists differently—by including self-mastery and non-egocentric living as core tenets of personal enlightenment—then I’d say that only autarchists, as opposed to mere anarchists, have any potential of guiding the rest of humanity toward the achievement of a free, peaceful, cooperative, productive, and prosperous society.