As those of you who have read any of my posts will know, I have a firm belief that if we work out how to make the best use of the amazing communication technology we have at your fingertips, learn the skills of civil exchange, and use these skills to achieve productive collective effect, then we will be able to deal with the significant challenges we currently face. This is at a time when we watch the old, hierarchical, institutional world collapsing around us. The inability of those in charge of large corporations and governments to keep up with and adapt to the changes affecting us is becoming more and more obvious by the day.
My sense of what is possible were largely formed through the work I did inside the BBC encouraging our internal online community to grow and thrive. I realised that it didn’t really need management in a conventional sense. If I trusted people, and gave them the time and space to work out how to use the platform to work together, they would do so. At the time someone, I think I it might have been +Eddie Black, called me an organisational anarchist. I was slightly uncomfortable with the connotations but at the same time quietly chuffed. This incident triggered in an interest in the topic and I began delving into original thinking by the likes of Kropotkin and others. But my focus on the topic reduced and I found other things to worry about.
However the more I worked with organisations of all sorts, commercial or governmental, not for profit or entrepreneurial, and heard people struggle to maintain confidence in a world view that is increasingly irrelevant while lacking a convincing new one to replace it, I realised that we need to learn how to see the world and operate in it in fundamentally new ways, and we need to learn quickly.
I am currently revisiting some of the books on anarchism that I set aside all those years ago and adding as much new thinking as I can to my understanding of the topic. It is still a very loaded word. Partly through the actions of those in the early 19th century who believed that direct action was the way to bring about change, and partly due to the now familiar black garbed disruptors who turn out at any significantly large demonstration in the UK, many people have an understandably negative view of anarchism. But in fact when you start to dig into the subject it is in essence the ultimate in democracy. It is based on the belief that humankind wants to learn, develop, be creative, and be productive together without the need for higher authority.
The perceived need for hierarchy and control has been taught to us consciously and deliberately for centuries if not millennia. We feel that without someone in charge we will descend into chaos. This is not true. The need for authority is not inevitable. We can learn to do better. Anarchism might not be the whole answer, and not for everyone, but the ideas behind it should, I believe, be part of the mix.
This documentary from BBC four called "The Accidental Anarchist" tracks the development in understanding of former British diplomat Carne Ross as he transitions from the world of international politics and strategy, to the amazing story of the Kurdish fighters fighting ISIS and the anarchic principles of the society that they are defending and which supports them. In the process he help explains some of the ideas, history, and potential of anarchism and compares the Kurds’ achievements to those of the Spanish anarchists of the thirties famously described in Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.
[If for no other reason please do watch the documentary to the end to see the inspiring women Kurdish fighters literally on the front line in their battle agains Isis. As one of them says “Without having free women you can’t have a free society”.]
When I get around to writing another book I am going to call it "Changing the World, One Conversation At A Time". I need to keep up the focus in my research and get on with writing it quickly because the need for us to learn how to do this stuff is becoming more pressing by the day.