12 December 2013

Lost Along the Way

"I was once asked if the messianic idea still had meaning for me, and if it were necessary to retain the idea of an ultimate stage of history where humanity would no longer be violent, where humanity would have broken definitely through the crust of being, and where everything would be clear. I answered that to be worthy of the messianic era one must admit that ethics has a meaning, even without the promises of the Messiah."

(Levinas, Emanual. Ethics & Infinity)


The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary; he will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last day.

(Kafka, Parables & Paradoxes)


I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe—"That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

(Thoreau, Henry David. "Resistance to Civil Government")


I grant that I cannot really reconcile myself to the following expressions made use of even by clever men: “A certain people (engaged in a struggle for civil freedom) is not yet ripe for freedom”; “The bondmen of a landed proprietor are not yet ready for freedom”; and hence, likewise; “Mankind in general is not yet ripe for freedom of belief.” For according to such a presupposition, freedom will never arrive, since we cannot ripen to this freedom if we are not first of all placed therein (we must be free in order to be able to make purposive use of our powers in freedom). The first attempts will indeed be crude and usually will be attended by a more painful and more dangerous state than that in which we are still under the orders and also the care of others; yet we never ripen with respect to reason except through our own efforts (which we can make only when we are free). I raise no protest when those who hold power in their hands, being constrained by the circumstances of the times, postpone far, very far, into the future the sundering of these bonds. But to proceed on the principle that those who are once subjected to these bonds are essentially unfit for freedom and that one is justified in continually removing them farther from it is to usurp the prerogatives of Divinity itself, which created men for freedom. It is certainly more convenient to rule in state, household, and church if one is able to carry out such a principle. But is it also more just?  

(Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, 1793)


So the real question we have to ask becomes: what is it about the experience of living under a state, that is, in a society where rules are enforced by the threat of prisons and police, and all the forms of inequality and alienation that makes possible, that makes it seem obvious to us that people, under such conditions, would behave in a way that it turns out they don't actually behave?

The anarchist answer is simple. If you treat people like children, they will tend to act like children. The only successful method anyone has ever devised to encourage others to act like adults is to treat them as if they already are.

(Graeber, David. The Democracy Project)

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