Communication in any area of life is vital. In the anarchist and libertarian space it is indispensable. If we cannot communicate ideas effectively, we lose ground and fail to convince people of the inherent truth in liberty.
Tragically, I notice a lot of poor communication in the anarchist and libertarian ecosystem. It’s not just that our communication is unclear or inaccurate. It’s that anarchists often deliver their message with vitriol and hate. Many spout insults rather than arguments from compassion or concern.
To me, this makes anarchists appear to lack self-awareness, and does not contribute to the spread of good ideas. It represents the breakdown of communication. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
As anarchists, we need to guarantee communication takes place in order to spur the paradigm shift. Powerful communication begins with self-awareness.
The Importance of Self-Awareness and Being Psychologically-Minded
Self-awareness implies that we understand ourselves and our motives for engaging in some type of behavior. Another term for self-awareness is psychological-mindedness. Being psychologically-minded means considering internal reasons for acting or sending a message. It means anarchists understand the emotional tenor of their actions and consider the feelings of others involved in a conversation.
In my experience, voluntaryist anarchists notoriously lean on logic and its concomitants Their goal is to convince another person of an idea using syllogistic reasoning. However, because anarchists are not thinking of communication dynamics between themselves and the person they are interacting with, they often have an emotional outburst when disagreement arises. I believe this partly occurs because many anarchists believe the emotional interplay is irrelevant or saps the strength of an argument.
For example, I have seen anarchists tell people about the importance of freedom and abolishing government, only to receive counter-appeals in the form of “who will build the roads.” The anarchist usually tries to continue combating these ideas, but if they receive more push back, they start calling the person an “idiot,” “fucktard,” “moron,” or another name. This is an example of why an argument devolves and causes miscommunication.
The Self-Aware Anarchist and Communication Styles
The key to prevent poor communication is to cultivate self-awareness. In a practice, this means the anarchist learns to recognize their own triggers and to remember no harm can come to them as a result of debating. The emotions that surge are merely reflexive, governed by the flight or fight mechanisms inherent in human physiology. If an anarchist learns to acknowledge their internal workings, they can communicate without insulting other people or spitting venom.
To mitigate the chance of reflexive outbursts, anarchists should consider these two points:
- Self-awareness includes acknowledging that communicating poorly and aggressively reflects badly on anarchists. If they lash out, hurl insults, and otherwise become insufferable to others, it causes people disassociate with them. This disassociation means the anarchists’ original message becomes lost. This does not mean the content and logic of the message is necessarily wrong, but if the anarchists loses attention of the other person, it doesn’t matter if the anarchist is right. Self-awareness suggests anarchists must comprehend their personal communication style. If anarchists ignore their personal communication style, they will likely not be able to evolve in terms of how they structure their messaging.
- Self-Awareness also includes understanding that emotional flavor intersects with all messaging, including online and offline communication. If the anarchist possesses self-awareness, they realize they are an emotional creature and thus emotions tinge the flavor of every message they convey. If an anarchist is hurling insults, unleashing racial slurs, or telling the other party to “fuck off and die,” it’s likely the anarchist does not have much self-awareness. It means the anarchist has not explored his internal flora and fauna to gain insight into why he reacts with such volatility. It means the anarchist has rejected emotional literacy, damaging his ability to communicate with compassion and clarity.
The I-Thou Mentality
If anarchists cultivate self-awareness, they will naturally learn to relate to others with more compassion and understanding. They will begin using what philosopher Martin Buber called the “I-Thou” relationship. This is a form of communication relationship where the anarchist views the other person as a human being rather than an dehumanized object. If the anarchists have discarded self-awareness, they will inevitably choose an “I-It” relationship. This is a form of relationship where the communicator views the other party as an object. It then provides the communicator with the impetus to call the other person names and demean them.
In Buber’s philosophy, he believed the I-Thou relationship represented a perfect harmony with God, or how an individual would interact with their creator. I personally believe the theistic part is optional. One does not have to be a god-fearing person to develop what I call the “I-Thou Mentality.” If an individual internalizes the I-thou mentality they will inevitably treat other people with decency, and their message will be communicated more effectively.
The I-Thou mentality is quintessential for the anarchist. Conversely, the I-It interaction is the same form of relationship that military drill sergeants have with heir recruits. This is the symbolic and linguistic material that leads to aggression and other forms of physical violence. If anarchists achieve the “I-Thou mentality” via harboring self-awareness, they will evolve into a relational being.
Evolution Into Relational Anarchism
Relational humans are uniquely poised to help inspire the proliferation of anarchism. They will help awaken people and quicken the pace of mass liberation. It will help abolish the nation-state and create empathetic, nonviolent communities. This is because a relational being has embraced self-awareness to the point of interacting with people peaceably. This particular kind of anarchist is called relational anarchist. They want to communicate for the purposes of understanding, rather than for the purposes of hatred.
The relational anarchist understands that anarchism can be created more easily when people share love and concern for each other rather than disregard and maleficence. Under the umbrella of relationalism, anarchist communities can be more readily created even if people disagree. They know that differences in economic organization, be it communist or capitalist, can all be achieved without violent interdiction.
Relational anarchism is simply the idea that anarchic communities naturally crop up if people do not harbor ill-will and nastiness. Relationalism is an evolution in the categories of philosophical anarchism. It takes into account the emotional flavor of the philosophy as well as the logical, economic, and moral vectors—but it all begins with the individual. The path to catalyzing more freedom begins with what Stan and Christina Grof called The Stormy Search for the Self. Without more self-aware anarchists, achieving liberty will be exceedingly difficult.