The quandary of anarchism as the tower crumbles

I am finding the quandary of anarchism[1] very troublesome today.

I had trouble sleeping last night because of what I saw with the police dog barking at a Black man yesterday,[2] and I wake up this morning to learn that Boris Johnson is indeed proroguing Parliament to ram through a hard Brexit;[3] that Donald Trump has essentially said damn the law, promising pardons for those who break it to build his precious border wall;[4] and that, after what I saw yesterday,[5] the Allegheny County Council voted down a proposal to institute a civilian police review board.[6]

Anarchism rightly views all this as illegitimate authority and indeed as violence but lacks either a legitimate means of displacing that authority or even a means of helping people to live without the illegitimate authority they have been conditioned over their entire lives across untold generations over the millennia to accept.

Meanwhile, as a species, we face existential threats to our survival.[7] The climate crisis keeps being worse even than scientists warn.[8] We have lunatics such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in control of nuclear arsenals that can annihilate us all.

These are problems inherent to power over others. They cannot be solved by a class of people who possess a vested interest in preserving their positions and privileges over others, who therefore engage in a perpetual contest over which of them will control which territories, which people, which resources; who compete to deny people on various sides of arbitrary borders, whether geographic or social, rights and privileges available to people on alternate sides of those borders. These problems are inherent to the very ability to deny those rights and even to label some as ‘privileges.’

Because in the end, even one’s life becomes a ‘privilege.’ As we see when soldiers are compelled to fight wars in that contest. As we see when police shoot unarmed civilians. As we see with the death penalty. As we see even with structural violence, the denial of even the basic necessities—food, health care, housing—of life, that shortens lives.[9]

It cannot go on. I simply cannot abide it. Something must be done—and the fact I write that in passive voice reflects 1) my powerlessness; 2) my failure; 3) that as an anarchist, I cannot even prescribe a solution;[10] and finally, 4) that I lack the social and cultural capital to even imagine a solution. Ultimately this is a failure of being locked in the theoretical and simultaneously of lacking any other means to address it.

And yet, something must be done.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Ethics,” Not Housebroken, n.d.,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019,
  3. [3]Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum, “Queen approves Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament ahead of Brexit deadline,” Washington Post, August 28, 2019,; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend Parliament,” August 28, 2019,
  4. [4]Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, “‘Take the land’: President Trump wants a border wall. He wants it black. And he wants it by Election Day,” Washington Post, August 27, 2019,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019,
  6. [6]Jamie Martines, “County council votes down Allegheny police review board, supporters vow to keep pushing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 27, 2019,
  7. [7]Lindsey Bever, Sarah Kaplan, and Abby Ohlheiser, “The Doomsday Clock is now just 2 minutes to ‘midnight,’ the symbolic hour of the apocalypse,” Washington Post, January 25, 2018,; Julian Borger, “Doomsday clock stays at two minutes to midnight as crisis now ‘new abnormal,’” Guardian, January 24, 2019,; Robert Socolow et al., “An open letter to President Obama: The time on the Doomsday Clock is five minutes to midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 14, 2013,
  8. [8]Naomi Oreskes, Michael Oppenheimer, and Dale Jamieson, “Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change,” Scientific American, August 19, 2019,
  9. [9]David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002).
  10. [10]Uri Gordon, Anarchy Alive! (London: Pluto, 2008).

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