Armand: LIFE AND SOCIETY

By E. Armand
English version by Jules Scarceriaux.

The Anarchist Individualists wish to live their own lives in spite of and even against society. To this, the main objection of some people is that whether or not the Anarchist Individualists wish it they still remain an integral part of the group they repudiate and without which they could not subsist.

Even as the judge, the businessman, and the prostitute, the Individualist is not outside this environment but plainly in the midst of it. He relishes the same joys and experiences the identical sufferings as do his neighbours. He consumes their production and produces for their consumption. He could not even do without other men’s efforts, whereas they could easily do without his. Like everyone else he fulfils the functions that preserve and perpetuate the species. In a word, nothing, as an Anarchist Individualist, makes him differ from his fellow-men.

Now, at first glance it would appear difficult to contest the validity of such reasoning. But with a spark of reflection we realise that the argument attributes to society conceptions that simply depend on life; the latter is too much confounded with organised society. People fail to recognise the great power inherent in life itself; they ignore the fact that the very complex living organisms subsists wonderfully well without organised society, as man himself has done in the past.

Indeed to breathe, move, and reproduce are all phenomena which have nothing to do with the existence of organised groups. Nowadays man does not conceive of individual existence without social function. Still, in relation to life, society is merely an artificial appendage. Many forms of society hade disappeared, but their disappearance has never stopped life, for it has endlessly persisted even when continents have sunken away.

It is axiomatic that in order to grow and develop himself the fiercest Anarchist Individualist needed “society”. He needed it at an age when his character had not yet affirmed itself and when he could neither reason nor draw up any kind of appreciation.

Later on – the cause does not matter – he became a negator of authority and exploitation. Yet, because he found himself face to face with a social contract based essentially upon authority and exploitation, does it follow that he is in any way a debtor to the organisation which imposed it upon him?

Besides what is this organisation?

An agglomeration of facts and institutions having for its object the maintenance of the individual in constant subjection and his detention in an enclosure of moral conventions and economic servitude.

True enough, members of society have sometimes intellectually, morally and economically revolted against it. Although the Anarchist Individualists have (at least some of them) profited by what these ancestors or forerunners had accomplished or written, they are in no way indebted to then; for it is a fact that these pioneers found in their activity the only reward they were entitled to expect.

“Society” if we are not mistaken means factories, jails, armouries, toilers’ dwellings, prostitution houses, drinking joints, gambling places, manufacturers of asphyxiating gases and big business.

“Society”, no doubt, is the crowd that screams “Hurrah!” at the parade of the crippled from the last general slaughter; it is the long line of hunger men and women in front of missions; it is also he who takes his hat off when the flag-bearer goes by and who goes to the circus only when it calls for a sensational and risky stunt.

And to such society the Anarchist Individualist must render account?

Well, factories, big stores, exchangers, totalisers, monstrous guns, aeroplanes, churches, mansions, and all that civilisation has produced for the development of the milieu of which we are part, could disappear and nevertheless life would still continue.

The life which the Anarchist Individualist wants to live has no relation to the known social life as we know it. The Anarchist Individualist leads the existence imposed upon him by the environment because he is compelled, forced and constrained. Just as the prisoner wishes the disappearance of his jailers, so does the Anarchist Individualist wish to see society sink; for it impedes him, narrows his horizon, encumbers his forward movement and renders him a perpetual slave. No matter what his actions are, in the last resort, they always tend to screen him from the haughty arrogance of the social milieu, or tend to reduce the latter to pieces, which amounts to the same thing.

Unless he be a fool, the prosperity and future outcome of the “social life” do not bother the Anarchist Individualist; it is enough for him to feel and endure its restraint and tyranny. Life, and life alone attracts him; to live “in freedom” that strongly contrasts with the existence imposed upon him by the economic, political and social conditions. It is life that interests him, solicits, enlivens and lures him. The “natural” life, the one which ignores compromises, adulteration, glitter, deception, overcharged reputation, calculation, and climbing… in a word, all that characterises social life, everything that perpetuates “society”.

Between “society” and life the Anarchist Individualist chooses the latter, wishing to live in spite of all external pressures and forever excluding domination and exploitation of others.

(From “MAN! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries”, edited by M. Graham. Cienfuegos Press, London 1974.)

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