Notable anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote: “The social revolution means much more than the reorganization of conditions only: it means the establishment of new human values and social relationships, a changed attitude of human to human, as of one free and independent to his or her equal; it means a different spirit in individual and collective life, and that spirit cannot be born overnight. It is a spirit to be cultivated, to be nurtured and reared, as the most delicate flower it is, for indeed it is the flower of a new and beautiful existence.”
I want to break this down.
Berkman speaks of “social revolution.” Social revolution is a bottom-up revolution aiming to reorganize all of society. It’s an admission that the current order isn’t working. As things now stand, there are false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that are governing our lives and world. We must first recognize that these are present inside each of us individually. They are poured into us from an early age through religion, education, government, media, and popular culture. These falsehoods have been programmed into our heads, and we have been socialized into systems and structures that operate upon them. The cycle is complete once we follow suit and perpetuate these false narratives, ideologies, and systems ourselves. The first step in social revolution is rooting out the falsehoods within ourselves, and accepting how we have been complicit in creating and perpetuating what Orwell called “the empire of lies.”
Berkman sees social revolution as something deeper than rearranging the same furniture into a different configuration, which is basically what government and politics does regardless of whatever party is in place. Instead, Berkman spoke of establishing “new human values and social relationships.” Did you read that? NEW! As in, something that does not currently exist. As in, birthing a new reality into our world that operates upon a whole new way of being human and in relationship with each other. What is the source of this transformed way of being and relating? Perhaps a better question is, WHERE is this source? Answer: inside you. There is a life, spirit, consciousness, tacit understanding, higher awareness [insert your word here] that runs through all of us. It’s what is most real in our deep feelings, and what we know is true in our gut. It’s the direct and unmediated experience of peace, liberation, love, harmony, oneness, joy, abundance and well-being. It knows nothing of fear, separation, division, greed, injustice, oppression, scarcity or lack.
One of the central tenets of the empire of lies is to mistrust what lies within us. We have been taught to externalize power and authority to people, systems, structures, and hierarchies outside ourselves. We learn to trust and obey the school teacher, minister, politician, doctor, and the countless number of “experts” who we allow to do our thinking and deciding for us. By the way, ours is a REPRESENTATIVE democracy, not a direct democracy; there is a difference.
So, let’s say we turned to the power and authority that is inherent within each of us in and tapped into that higher awareness that points us toward peace, harmony and liberation instead of fear, separation and greed. What if we reached down into what is real in our deep feelings and what we know to be true in our gut, and started speaking to one another and acting from that place? What would that actually look like? Berkman described it as “a different spirit in individual and collective life.” Makes sense. Operating from our higher awareness would transform what it meant and looked like to be human individually and collectively in our social relations with each other. Berkman is describing a new world being born and becoming real.
However, Berkman also pointed out that this reality and world cannot “be born overnight.” Instead, he said it is something “to be cultivated, to be nurtured and reared.” Social revolution and birthing a new world isn’t something that happens all at once. It’s not going to fall out of the sky or magically appear. We’re going to have to cultivate, nurture and rear it.” In other words, we are going to have to take direct action individually and collectively to make the empire of lies obsolete and birth a new world in its place.
This is why I have been speaking about the need for inner anarchy. Inner anarchy is the path of deprogramming ourselves from false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies, and turning toward the guidance and empowerment of our higher spiritual awareness. It’s divesting ourselves from the current order that operates upon those false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies, and creating a new reality in its place through direct action individually and collectively. Both the inner world and the outer expression are equally significant, and one without the other will not work. There are some who come at this equation more from the spiritual/inner side, and others who come more with an activist/outer focus. Think of this as the yin and yang – the two are integral to one another and form a whole. They both are equally necessary and cannot be separated from each other.
Berkman saw that the outcome of all this was “a new and beautiful existence.” Yes, another world is possible. The only question is if enough of us are truly willing to take the path of inner anarchy all the way. People are all gung-ho until they realize or experience how discomforting and destabilizing it is in the short-term. The old order isn’t going to go away quietly into the night, and we are not going to figure out how to sort out a new social order based on our higher awareness in a week. This is not fast-food revolution. Everyone wants a new world until they are confronted with the fact that many of our comfortable and prized ways of ordering ourselves do not line up with our higher awareness, such as hierarchal power structures, government and capitalism. Berkman’s “new and beautiful existence” would no longer necessitate these because the new world, as Berkman stated, would be “a changed attitude of human to human, as of one free and independent to his or her equal.”
We have the higher awareness to do this, but do we have the guts to do it?
(Graffiti by Baksy)