Path of the Black Flag- The Daily Life of an Anarchist

Masked and black clad Anarchist protesters at ...
Masked and black clad Anarchist protesters at the G20 Meltdown protest in London on 1 April 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anarchist characters behave, for the most part, like other characters. They go into the wilderness, into sewers, into dungeons & caves, kill things & people (and things that are also people), and take their stuff. Now, their motivations might be different- Anarchist adventurers might be fighting to save exploited workers rather than a princess, they might lay into evil knights more so than orcs & goblins- but operationally, they’re fairly similar.

So what about downtime? What do Anarchist fighters and wizards do on their days off? Again, they are broadly similar to their non-anarchist colleagues. The work, they play, they worship, they pursue their interests. There are, however, some variations on the standard theme.

Labor

Many Anarchists come from what are essentially working-class backgrounds. Whereas many other adventurers may be the younger children of nobility or the upper classes, Anarchists are much more likely to be the children of the poor, and to the working poor. As such, most Anarchists have at least a nominal training in a craft or a profession, usually one that is considered ‘low class’ by the dominant society. They may go into adventuring as a way to escape the poverty and toil of their backgrounds, but their interest in Anarchy tends to indicate they still identify with those backgrounds.

There are, of course, exceptions. Anyone, from any background, might possibly be an Anarchist. Many upper class people write books and pamphlets on Anarchy, and ironically many of those pamphlets and books help transmit the ideas of Anarchism to the next generation of Anarchist, many of those being working class individuals. Many other Anarchists pursue no trade, rejecting wholesale the standard social mores of work, family life, etc. They are criminals, vagrants, and artists. A significant number of Anarchist turn towards adventuring not because they want to develop their skills to help their fellow workers, or to fight for some high ideal, but because they don’t have the temperament to hold down a steady job.

No matter how they approach work, or don’t approach it, what broadly unites Anarchists is their dissatisfaction with the state of work, and labor. Anarchism originated as a working class political philosophy, and the exploitation of laborers by bosses and governments tends to be a central concern of the many different types of Anarchism.

Diversions

Anarchists like to have a good time, just like everyone else. Where they differ is in how far they will go for one. Governments often attempt to maintain control over their subjects by controlling their entertainments. Suppressing some, and promoting others for the propaganda and distraction value. The ‘circuses’ in ‘bread & circuses’ is a standard government strategy.

Bosses also attempt to control the entertainment of their workers. They schedule the times their workers may pursue entertainment, rationing it out so that they have just enough to keep them working, but not so much that they feel relaxed enough to consider ways of bettering themselves. Even then, they tend to manipulate the entertainments to pacify the workers, and to make it expensive enough that the workers need to keep working, just to afford the entertainments.

Anarchists reject these dribbles of joy and play. They reject the limits instituted by governments or bosses. They reject the limits put on people by religions, who say that one type of entertainment is wicked and immoral, and the other is fine. Anarchists tend to favor music, art, and theater that is suppressed or derided by respectable society. They are great patrons of ‘underground’ venues and social spaces. Many Anarchists are artists themselves, and make breakthroughs in their disciplines.

Protests

Anarchists tend not to be satisfied people. To be an Anarchist is to desire a political, economic, and social order that is constantly and violently denied, to the best of their ability, by very powerful people. So as you can imagine, there is a certain amount of frustration.

This frustration is often vented as a protest. Every Anarchist has their specific, ‘pet’ causes of concern, and often protest the improving or changing of conditions surround those concerns. In these protests they are often joined by those who share those concerns, but who aren’t themselves Anarchists. This often leads to conflicts, as while them might agree on there being a problem, they sometimes disagree on the origins of the problem, and often disagree on the solutions that should be demanded.

What happens at the protest depends upon the nature of the society that it takes place in. Relatively liberal governments will tolerate a certain amount of peaceful, well-behaved protest, and populations with a strong tradition of protests, agitation, and organization will tend to get their concerns addressed, or at least receive concessions designed to mollify the protesters. More authoritarian or insecure/paranoid governments tend to overestimate the danger of protests, and are quick to use force and violence to suppress them. Ironically, this usually leads to riots and the organizing of more militant forces, thereby creating the danger they were seeking to prevent. Governments with domestic intelligence agencies tend to implant undercover agents into protests groups, to keep tabs on them, blunt their effectiveness, and manipulate them into actions the government finds politically beneficial.

The effectiveness of protests is a subject of much debate among Anarchists. However, even if a protest is not directly successful, Anarchist often derive many indirect benefits from the act of protesting. They meet, socialize, and network with Anarchists, and learn the basics of cooperation and organization towards a common goal. For many Anarchists, protests serve as a sort of boot camp, training them for more advanced actions.

Crime

Anarchists are no strangers to crime. Some rulers consider the very existence of Anarchists to be a crime. Many Anarchists are poor, or come from poor families, and turn to crime as a means of survival. There are also those who find their beliefs, practices, and lives criminalized for other reasons, and so turn to crime for survival as well. Others see crime as a means of rebellion, and every criminal act an attack against the governments that impose them. Still others look at it more practically- there are so many laws, that are so unevenly enforced, that you’re probably breaking a law right now without you even knowing it, so why worry about it?

Still, the relationship is not a completely cozy one. While Anarchists might reject the laws of a government, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own laws, or at least commonly agreed upon standards for interacting with each other. Those Anarchists who a little too eager to break the laws of governments might drift into breaking other laws.

Then there is the relationship between ‘Anarchist’ criminals and ‘career’ criminals. Just because both groups break the law, doesn’t meant they are in philosophical agreement. Many career criminals would react with horror at the notion that their crimes are attacks against the country, and will angrily proclaim that though they may be thieves, they are patriotic thieves! For their part, career thieves tend to mistrust Anarchists because their motivations are different, which makes them unpredictable, which is not an attractive quality in prospective partners in crime.

Still, the gold and silver of Anarchists clinks just like the gold and silver of anyone else, so thieves find customers among them. And while Anarchists might have odd motivations from the perspective of thievesĀ (like not being in it primarily for the money, for example), the many Anarchists to have the skills and motivation to do crime, and so are welcome to join up for a cut.

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