The Anarchist Parent (Questions on Anarchism – Part 2)

This is part 2 of Clark’s series on anarchism. For the first part, head this way.

Eventually anarchism must encounter the challenge of parenting. How does one be an anarchist while simultaneously exerting control over a child? The confusion here is really due to misconceptions. Primarily, anarchism is concerned with exerting the right kind of control rather than with exerting no control. To an anarchist, the right kind of control is one which controls someone for their betterment. For example, the anarchist seeks to eliminate governmental structures not because she wishes to be totally rebellious and free to do whatsoever she pleases (though some idiots claiming to be anarchists might act this way), but to allow the exertion of a new kind of control which is the morality of the individual. Indeed, control or obligation or authority can never be eliminated from the world although man may resist them. Man’s appetites will always exert some form of control and things like “the moral high ground” or charisma will always exert some authority. It is not the anarchist’s desire to see those things removed and, really, she could not remove them if she had millennia at her disposal; those things are entailed by humanity.

How then does the anarchist parent? The challenge is to avoid metaphorical and literal arm twisting. Truly, the challenge is to parent the way that God may be said to parent; He asks us to conform to the way the world works. He has made it that way and that may strike us as terribly unfair. But I think it can be demonstrated, not here but another time, that God’s world is the one best suited to our fulfilment. As such, He really asks us to conform to the way the best possible world works. The challenge is the same for a parent; she must create the home as a world, specifically a facsimile of the way the world works; she must learn to “play God” and do so morally.

How might she go about morally playing the role of God? She must seek to give the child whatever she needs to achieve her purpose, to realize her humanity to the fullest extent. Often parenting is understood in negative terms as the disallowance of certain actions. Parenting is less another name for prison warden and more a name for tutor which teaches every subject. This process relies on the child being able to be highly independent and able to learn on her own because, true to the maxim that lessons are better caught than taught, a child will learn more thoroughly on her own than strictly guided. So, then, what are ingredients to this mode of parentage?

Pillar one of this facsimile world is before a child even seems capable of understanding, she must be taught how to reason. Clearly, very early on, the child may not know much progress, but the concepts of logic and right reason must be drilled into her head through memorization and demonstration. It must be constantly humming in her ears because it is upon that early education that the rest of her life will be built. The parent will also likely find that discipline will be considerably easier when the parent is able to clearly articulate a reasonable reason for discipline and the child is able to simultaneously understand. This pillar is based upon God’s gifting of the intellect to mankind, so the parent gifts the right and orderly use of the intellect to the child.

Pillar two is quite simple but by no means easy. The child must, as soon as some comprehension is apparent, begin learning the history of human thought, not the history of the world, but the history of philosophy. From the pre-Socratics to the present postmodernism the child must move, albeit at a more condensed and rapid pace, along the same path that humanity is taken. This is not to cause the child to blindly conform to this path, but to give her the opportunity to analyze and criticize and so build upon the shoulders of humanity. Many a bright young person has been confounded and defeated by discovering that the world was not as she thought it was, as she experienced it in her parent’s home. Perhaps the greatest ailment of modern evangelicalism is this lack of interaction with previous work and, for this reason, young people often scramble to “reinvent the wheel” upon stepping into a facility of higher education. This pillar is similar to the process of a “classical” education and to God’s gift of history which is passed on by the parent to the child for the convenience of the child.

Pillar three is also quite simple. The child, at a relatively later age, perhaps seven or ten, must begin an examination of the arts; painting, poetry, music, rhetoric, etc. Similarly to the second pillar, this pillar seeks to show the child what has already been done so that she might build upon it. Again, this pillar bears similarity to God’s gift of creativity; the parent delivers not creativity itself, but the fruits of creativity.

Pillar four is physical exercise and, perhaps, a welcome familiarity to the reader. Physical exercise is of critical importance as a life-long habit. Although there are many forms of physical exercise, the kind most useful is a system which combines as many pillars into physical practice as possible. Therefore, some form of martial arts will fulfill this pillar most efficiently. The child will combine physical exercise with martial theory, a theory which is not only useful on the battlefield but in the life of the mind and in the boardroom. The child will also combine the core concepts of art and creativity with physical exercise and, lastly, the child will harness a sort of release of aggression and achieve a measure of self-control through martial arts. There are many kinds of martial arts and many which have been stripped of their effectiveness in favor of ferocity, but some form like Aikido, or traditional forms of Kung Fu like Tai Chi remain as effective forms of comparatively non-aggressive exercise. The emphasis through traditional martial arts is not to teach aggression. The intent is to teach the ideal of self-controlled strength and healthiness. Yogic exercises would form a suitable discipline also, as well as being less identified with martial arts, although, ironically, yoga was practiced in connection with martial discipline in history. This pillar is similar of course to God’s gift of a physical body.

The truth is, that enacting each of these pillars simultaneously does two important things; stewards God’s gifts as well as, in parenting, stewarding the greatest gift, children. The anarchist parents by setting the child up to understand complex issues and to live healthfully, thus avoiding arm twisting. This also ensures that the parent cannot become a despot without actively surrendering authority to the child who will know exactly how to snap it up. The anarchist actively stewards the child by giving her the tools needed to become successful herself. The anarchist parent does not surrender authority but seeks to cultivate the morally and logically right authority in the home.

The Anarchist Parent (Questions on Anarchism – Part 2)

Questions on Anarchism – Part I

Note from Caleb: This is Clark’s first post. If you missed his intro, check here. Enjoy!

Dear sirs, I am.

G. K. Chesterton upon being asked what was wrong with the world.

The argument for anarchism must deal with what, to Christian anarchism, is probably the biggest challenge to the system. That challenge is a moral one, and centers around the claim that anarchism must purposely do nothing in regards to immoral practices to avoid placing an obligation on the individual which would defeat the supposed intent of anarchism. But, clearly, where evil is being done to the defenseless, good men cannot remain idle. So, then, how is the anarchist to engage this issue?

Firstly, we would hope that man would quickly learn from his mistakes. Essentially, if it is to be granted, as I think it must, that what is evil is also generally unbeneficial, then man will eventually realize the futility of evil and cease from it. But this may entail a great deal of suffering among those who cannot defend themselves. We will return to this issue.

Secondly, anarchism has nothing against voluntary associations made to protect the weak and so cannot be said to “do nothing”. Here another challenge may arise from the first, anarchism is said to achieve universal peace, yet, if these voluntary groups confront one another, what peace would there be? The anarchist must honestly admit that he has no full answer to this challenge. These groups will not be forced to maintain the peace, for that would, truly, defeat the intent of anarchism, which being the removal of manufactured or societal obligations and restrictions.

However, lying in the intent of anarchism, is the answer to the original challenge. The intent of anarchism is that every person be fully responsible for his own conduct. Why should this be the case? The fact is that, without responsibility, no man will grow to change his actions; he will not encounter the consequences of his actions if someone takes responsibility for them. This same principle may be pursued further, if man learns in proportion to his responsibility, then we may expect that if everything is left in the lap of the individual, then he will be learning as quickly as possible.

The moral things that are, in today’s society, left to organizations and the government, should be burning in the heart of every individual. Christ was adamant that the downtrodden be taken care of; that is the intent of anarchism; to return to the Samaritan the care of his neighbor. So what is the answer to the original challenge? It is that, in anarchism, evil only goes on because the individual has not countered it. The rule of reason must prevail, were someone does evil then we must reason with him. If he refuses to cease, then we may prevent him. But no government must ever take away the responsibility and, therein, the grace available to the individual. The argument that Paul makes, that where sin abounds, there grace abounds all the more[1], is central to anarchism. The idea being that grace is taken from man by a government who stops man from sinning. The objection may arise, again, what about those who will be caught defenseless? Is the death of the defenseless so little in the balance? In Ecclesiastes it is said that the sleep of the laboring man is sweet, whilst the sleep of the fat man is fitful[2]. This refers to the ultimate end of man; each will be judged justly and, so, that objection, which relies on the inherent injustice of death, is not cogent. A new objection may arise, why then do we defend life at all? Simply put, because of the potential joy present in that life; that is why we defend the unborn and all human life. This wondrous good, Joy is not truly available in the finite, earthly life but potential enjoyment of life may be had and so we defend the defenseless. But it could not be said that the potential enjoyment of the individual is more important than the potential enlightenment of the individual.

So, anarchism has no foolproof answer to the difficulties that the freedom of our fellow man will bring. But it is untrue that anarchism does nothing, and it would accomplish less than nothing to take away the responsibility from the individual and, so, divulge him of the grace available to him and his opportunity to learn from his mistakes. Anarchism’s intent is really a very long-distance one. No matter what happens, no matter who dies, there is the dream that an enlightened humanity will arise out of the rubble and achieve a society conducive to the query after truth.


[1] Romans 5:20

[2] Ecclesiastes 5:12

Questions on Anarchism – Part I