(ANTIMEDIA) Anarchists have gotten a bad rap. From the self-described anarchists who riot in the streets to the doomsday Hollywood franchise The Purge, many have been led to believe anarchy is synonymous with chaos, terror, and violence. President Trump even chimed in recently, referring — without evidence — to “professional anarchists” who were paid to protest his reign.
Few people associate anarchism with consciousness, spirituality, veganism, music, meditation, yoga, peaceful parenting, homesteading, and cryptocurrencies. Few associate it with peace, non-aggression, and basic respect for human life and individuality.
But that’s what a recent days-long conference in Acapulco, Mexico, just sought to challenge.
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The Anarchapulco conference recently held its third annual incarnation in the city of Acapulco, located in the drug war-riddled state of Guerrero, Mexico, a region where soldiers patrol the streets armed to the teeth. But in a city that beams vibrancy and vitality in spite of a visible police state, hundreds of anarchists from around the world have found a home.
Shedding Statist Dogma
The festival is put on at the end of February by Canadian expat Jeff Berwick, who hosts a podcast called Anarchast, where he interviews prominent anarchist intellectuals and activists. The event is a culmination of many of the ideas discussed on Berwick’s show.
Some of the speakers at the event focused on the political — or rather, apolitical — nature of anarchism. Renowned anarchist Larken Rose, author of Most Dangerous Superstition (hint: it’s belief in government), tackled some of the most fundamental reasons to embrace anarchism in his tongue-in-cheek-titled talk, “Sacred Cow Shish Kabob.” By breaking down many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding what many anarchists refer to as “statism” (the belief in the need for government, or the State), Rose made clear the problems with central authority.
He addressed a wide variety of misguided beliefs about the State, including nationalism and saluting the flag, an act he noted amounts to a pledge of allegiance to the government, itself. “I pledge allegiance to the flag…and to the republic, for which it stands,” he explained, is a phrase that blatantly professes loyalty to the institution — not the ideals of freedom.
This led him to one of his most salient points: Rose argued that despite a country’s adoption of a constitution or label like a “republic,” gross oppression still occurs in the name of representation and liberty. He cited the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, noting, “Yep, has a constitution, yep, allows them to vote, yep, has a bill of rights,” noting the same is true for the People’s Republic of China, the historical Weimar Republic, modern-day North Korea, and numerous other seemingly democratic governments that have all the trappings of “freedom.” They have all severely oppressed individuals, just like the United States, yet another republic, has.
Speaking on oppression, Lynn Ulbricht, mother of imprisoned Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, spoke about the dangerous precedent set by the U.S. government in its prosecution of her son. Ross, who founded a dark web marketplace that, among many other things, allowed for the sale of illegal drugs, was sentenced to life in prison though he never actually sold narcotics.
Pointing out that major corporations have also sanctioned “illegal” activity with no legal repercussions, she highlighted the dangers Judge Kathleen Forrester perpetuated in Ross’ conviction. Among them was the unquestioning acceptance of digital evidence, which Lynn pointed out is easily manipulable. She noted one expert witness on this topic was barred from testifying in the case. Most chilling, however, were the judge’s words to Ross, which Lynn presented on a slide:
“Silk Road’s birth and its presence asserted that its creator, you, and its operator, were better than the laws of this country, and there are posts which discuss the laws as the oppressor and that each transaction is a victory over the oppressor. This is deeply troubling and terribly misguided — and also very dangerous.”
Forrester objected to Ulbricht’s subversion of the war on drugs, and explicitly expressed her disapproval not of his actions, necessarily, but the beliefs that inspired them:
“It’s notable that the reasons that you started Silk Road were philosophical and I don’t know that it is a philosophy left behind,” she told him.
The judge’s thought policing, control-seeking attitude is perhaps the most precise reason anarchists oppose the State.
Rooted in the non-aggression principle, the basic tenet of the anarchism represented at Anarchapuclo is the notion that humans are free to do as they wish as long as they are not using violence against others. All human interaction should be free of force, fraud, and coercion, and all human interaction should be voluntary.
As such, it follows that because no one is asked to pay taxes, but rather forced, the government represents an inherently coercive system. Similarly, tax payers are not asked what programs they’d like to fund. This relationship between government and subject is coercive specifically because what ultimately defines the institution of government is what many anarchists at Anarchapulco might refer to as a “monopoly on violence.” Any regular citizen is barred from stealing or committing violence, but if the government does it, it is considered “taxation” or “protecting and serving.” This is the fundamental authority and double standard anarchists at Anarchapulco reject.
While most of the speakers at Anarchapulco subscribe to this basic philosophy, at least one did not; Lauren Southern, for example, a Canadian activist and author of Barbarians: How The Baby Boomers, Immigration, and Islam Screwed my Generation, seemingly fits in more with the alt-right movement than peaceful anarchism that universally condemns the State. So does Milo Yiannopolous, the controversial political personality who attended the conference last year but was removed from the list of speakers this year due to, as Berwick simply put it, his “statism.” Southern’s presence this year prompted at least one challenge from the audience questioning her continued belief in government and left some questioning why she was a featured speaker in the first place.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of speakers espouse the philosophy of anarchism. But rather than simply focusing on the negative aspects of State control, many focused on the beauty and possibilities of freedom and the ways to attain it in our own lives.
Self-Healing & Solutions
The political focus of intellectuals like Rose and Edward G. Griffin, author of the Creature from Jekyll Island, Foster Gamble, director of Thrive, and FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) Director of Content Jeffrey Tucker provided the foundational philosophy of the conference. But what stood out most to many attendees was the commitment to higher consciousness, self-healing, and compassion many of the speakers articulated. Sterlin Luxan focuses on psychology and the need to cultivate compassion, improve interpersonal relationships, and improve our own well-being to ensure anarchism is a viable system. He gave a speech on these issues and the power of MDMA, a drug increasingly used to treat PTSD, to attain these goals.
Anti-Media journalist Derrick Broze and founder of the Conscious Resistance Network, spoke about his own path to freedom, through which he overcame drug addiction and developed his own model for sustainable anarchism; at his Houston-based Free Thinkers activist house, members grow their own food, volunteer in the community, and detach from established systems by withdrawing their resources from banks and other modes of control perpetrated by the establishment.
This exit from the system, or counter-economics, constitutes agorism, a strategy Broze adheres to and writes about in his forthcoming book, Manifesto of the Free Humans. Broze also hosted a meditation event blending his solution-oriented approach with finding internal peace.
Another speaker offering solutions was Vit Jedlicka, the founder of Liberland, a sovereign state located between Croatia and Serbia that “prides itself on personal and economic freedom of its people, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, which significantly limits the power of politicians so they could not interfere too much in the freedoms of the Liberland nation.”
Dayna Martin, who spoke about peaceful parenting and held a “family camp” day, also held an evening for women. In her Women’s Circle gathering, she stressed the importance of the feminine presence in promoting freedom and anarchism and held a ceremony to foster solidarity. One of the attendees to the circle, Lisa Freeman, organized daily activities for children throughout the conference. Both Martin and Broze participated in a panel on veganism.
The focus on self-healing to promote external peace was palpable. (Full disclosure: last year I attended the conference and spoke about yoga and freedom and how the two are synonymous. This year I taught a yin yoga class focused on releasing deep tension in the connective tissue and fascia to counter the stress and hysteria of the past election year.)
Other speeches included the power of ayahuasca to heal past trauma and promote gentleness and compassion, presented by activist and psychedelic activist Macey Tomlin, who is currently training to be a shaman (the festival also hosted a shaman-supervised ayahuasca ceremony for attendees, which has been viewed with skepticism by some but embraced by others). One performance, by Benny Wills of the political satire group Joycamp, used spoken word poetry to satirize the anarchist experience and the broader rabbit’s hole of “waking up” to the many injustices perpetrated by those in power He earned two standing ovations and consistent waves of laughter.
The comedy was a welcome addition to a conference that often must focus on violence and corruption to convey the coldness of the State. So too was an evening concert featuring artists and bands with conscious lyrics. Truniversal, a conscious hip-hop group, sang about “universal truth, love, and freedom,” while heavy metal rap group Backwordz offered harsh indictments of statism and promotion of non-aggression, self-ownership, peace, and self-defense.
Despite the many varied topics speakers discussed — and the many workshops, which included education in cryptocurrencies, media activism, and homesteading — the conference presented several overarching opportunities and sentiments: first and foremost, the possibilities of a world without the State to restrict freedom, but equally important, the vital role of the individual in bringing about change within themselves so they can participate in realizing this vision.
Perhaps most valuable, however, was the chance for anarchists from around the world to meet up in person — as opposed to connecting on the internet — to feel a real sense of community. As many of us spend our time online debating authoritarians, it is easy to feel alone, isolated, and that our desire for peace and freedom is a faint, distant, unattainable fantasy.
But in Acapulco, whether out by the hotel pool, out to lunch, or at the speeches and workshops themselves, this isolation transmutes into optimism. The best illustration of this positivity is perhaps the artwork by L.A.-based anarchist artist MEAR ONE that surrounded the main stage: to one side was a grim painting of a crumbled city and broken roads with a sign that read “Evacuate the State.”
To the other side was a warm portrait of a smiling young woman with her third eye wide open, surrounded by rich colors and cosmic auras. To one side was the failure of the current system, and to the other, the inspiring potential of freedom, love, and consciousness.
Throughout the conference, eager attendees smiled at each other in the halls of the convention center, happily exchanged bitcoin for pesos, and found solace in their peaceful advocacy for anarchism.
As Larken Rose observed of last year’s conference, “If nothing else, it can sometimes be an existential psychological relief to be around a bunch of people who DON’T want you to be enslaved by a ruling class.”
FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) director of content, Jeffrey Tucker, a longstanding voice of reason and optimism, perhaps best captured the essence of the conference during his keynote speech.
Tucker recently made headlines for kicking white supremacist Richard Spencer out of a student libertarian event in Washington D.C., and in Acapulco, he spoke about the historical threats to freedom from both the left and the right (he expanded his talk into a must-read article, “The Pre-History of the Alt-Right”). But even as he noted the many threats to freedom humanity has faced and continues to face, he reminded the audience of the great power of anarchism and freedom:
“Ideas are eternal. They’re immutable. They’re infinitely reproducible to every single person who’s willing to listen and willing to try. And you know how many of those people there are? Seven billion.”