There is, I think, one fundamental difference between anarchists – those who believe human association should be voluntary and reject the idea that the State has or can have benevolent motives – and people of most other political persuasions. If you have barely any politics at all, if you are what Ortega y Gasset calls the mass-man, you might identify with the State because you feel it is a part of you and, like you, anonymous. All actions taken by the State, then, are in some sense your actions because the state is on your side. If you are a committed right-winger or left-winger in the mainstream sense, then you will believe one of two major parties to be fighting for your interests. Even if you are in some small sense a ‘radical’, there are still Communist Parties and Libertarian Movements to hold up your flag, to win small victories and make progress for your interests. Not so for the anarchist.
If you are an anarchist and even moderately honest, you must believe that there is nobody in the halls of power with a shred of concern for you. You must also believe that nobody there is much concerned about the mass-man or the left-winger either, but that is less important. The point is that while others might maintain hope in political change – in their side advancing in the endless battle for power – you must hold to the position that there is no hope, that if anybody champions your interests it will only be briefly and as a pretext for some less palatable goal. In short, to the extent an anarchist has an active political life (campaigning and voting, concerning herself with laws and bills) it must be a politics of despair.
Does this mean anarchists must despair themselves? I don’t think so. I think anarchism, rather than a route to political change or revolution, is a true understanding of the nature and manifestations of power. If it is a route anywhere it is a route out of politics, towards art or gardening or chess or whatever you like. The successful atheist doesn’t spend her time railing against the God she doesn’t believe in; rather she sleeps in on Sundays and drinks coffee with her friends. Likewise, the successful anarchist doesn’t attempt somehow to change the face of politics. She stays home on voting day and plays with her dog. Here, I’ll stop trying to paraphrase Jacob Bacharach and just quote him:
It is futile to get worked up about these things. Your friends are all posting Proud to Be messages in their Facebook feeds, but you are bigger than that. Your soul is bigger. You walk into the kitchen. You put the music on loud and you get the nice fish out of the refrigerator. You give the dog some crackers, and you kiss your boyfriend, and you open a nice IPA, because you feel like a beer tonight. Martin Luther King, Jr. isn’t rolling in his grave, guys. He’s dead. And the dead have one up on us, for they are constitutionally incapable of giving a fuck. You kiss your boyfriend again on the lips, and you pay all those assholes exactly the attention they deserve, which is none at all.