Caleb Duarte Piñon distinguishes between monuments and altars. Monuments are overwhelming, huge, hard to break, violently jammed into the earth. They reinforce, reproduce, extend power. Monuments violently silence stories people tell about themselves, they suppress every story but their own. The stories told by monuments end in morals. They serve power, they work to control. Only the powerful can call monuments into being.
Altars are human scale creations, spontaneously precipitated out of a shared desire to tell a shared story. Created both together and individually, this work coalesces socially to express something of the community. Altars are temporary, shifting, laid down upon the earth gently. They quietly amplify the stories people tell about themselves, they celebrate every story woven into them. The stories told by altars don’t end in morals. They don’t end at all, they’re liberating. Anyone can call altars into being.
When people say anarchism is a fantasy I believe they’re thinking of the apparent impossibility of setting up an anarchist government, imposing it on people, voting it into place, getting everyone to agree to its terms. They’re thinking of what would have to precede the first day of anarchism if anarchism were to be somehow instituted somewhere. And of the difficulty of keeping anarchism in place, protecting it against threats, maintaining it. This is a mistake.
Anarchism begins when people stop being coerced whereas political systems rely on coercion both at their beginnings and for their maintenance. Forcing people to stop being coerced is a contradiction in terms. Anarchism can’t be instituted or put in place, it can only coalesce. Anarchism starts when people stop obeying authority. So how do we get to a society without coercion? What’s the path to the anarchist utopia?
Skill improves with experience. An experienced artist may be able to paint with one quick line something that would previously have taken a whole canvas full of brushstrokes. This is an individual process, but it happens in society as well. Social systems also become more efficient with increasing experience. A shepherd with a dog, a fence, and an ATV can control more sheep of the sort bred to respond to those tools with less effort than could ever have been done without them. They’re all elements in a social system.
Policing in the United States is also a social system, founded in the need to control enslaved human beings. The very visibility of the horrors of slavery, the constant terrorism required to hold human beings in bondage, was a weakness in the system. The enslavers’ legal technology didn’t constrain their brutality towards their victims, so any systemic restraint must have gone towards stability. Isolation of slaves was one solution to this problem, a solution adopted by England with the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, which kept slaves out of sight in the Americas even as the blood soaked money continued to pour into the treasury.