Living in the ‘State of Anarchy’

12.03.15
John Donges
Culture + Religion /03 Dec 2015
12.03.15

Living in the ‘State of Anarchy’

Every morning when I wake up, I open the BBC webpage and igihe.com, France 24, JeuneAfrique, etc to find out how people in my neighborhood and those miles away have spent their day or what kind of realities they wake up to or are leaving behind as they go to bed. More often than not news organizations and the internet media are eager to inform us about bad things that have taken place or will take place. The good things seem to be glossed over. This is the world we have become accustomed to: “good news is no news” probably because that is how we expect people to live and behave, only to be disappointed by their weird and bad behavior. We expect people to be nice to their fellow human beings but more often than not they treat them cruelly. An ideal world mingles with a real world where the good and the bad coexist. The real world cannot be divorced from an ideal world.

Realists thinks that the world is about power and interests which more often than not lead to conflicts and war and therefore we must become accustomed to this kind of world, to this state of anarchy, where the powerful rule the weak and thrive as the weak perish. The realists want us to believe that we are living in a Darwinian world where everyone should fend for themselves in order to survive.

We refer not just to people but to groups, and stated actors as well as non-state actors, to international relations, to international politics. They want us to believe that the world as it was yesterday is what it is going to be tomorrow and that there is little, if any, difference. They think that those who dream of a peaceful world should stop dreaming and forego idealism. A possible world is just possible but not actual. I refuse to associate myself with realists. They may be right that there is a great probability that tomorrow will resemble today or yesterday but they cannot be absolutely sure that there will be no change, no matter how small. Theirs is just an inductive argument.

A small change that might occur is the ideal that we hope for, the peace that we all strive for, the reason why we think that the anarchy we are living in may change, no matter how small that change may be. Indeed it may be the reason why realists have not just given up and accepted human fate because just like us they go to their offices to work. Work for what? For a better tomorrow, for an ideal, peaceful and more equal world. A world where the powerful will not just wake up and decide to bomb people in another country with little or no concern or responsibility for the those affected –present or future. A world where heavy rains and air pollution will cease to kill and starve poor people who do not know that these climate changes were caused by irresponsible or ignorant people from miles away. A world where a group of people will not wake up and decide to exterminate their fellow human beings. A world where women and children will no longer die of hunger and will get adequate health care treatment and education. A world where terrorists will cease to kill people that they do not even know –no matter the reasons that cause them to act so dispassionately. A world where no one will want to dominate and exploit others. A world in which incurable diseases are eradicated. Simply a better world than today.

But neither do I associate with idealists. It is naïve to think that the world will ever be totally free from war, hunger or disease because our world is filled with human beings. However, the world can be better than it is today. A human being is a mixture of passions and reason.

His is a daily struggle over what controls what and what wins over the other passions and reason that are a part of him. Sometimes passions control reason but conversely reason can control passions. The conflict is transposed to the external world and is, in part, the system that governs our world. However, the system is more complex because it is not just created by people but it adapts to circumstances and laws-including natural laws over which humans may have no control. But this does not take away people’s rationality nor freedom and responsibility.

Humans are different from animals. Nevertheless, no matter how much effort is directed toward making the world a better place, people realize that it will revert to a state of anarchy over which they have little control. As Sandel says we lose the force that governs us. Maybe because some are more selfish. As Waltz’s Man, the State and War shows it is hard to grasp what the human nature is and what governs us.

The balance of reason and passions turns into a balance of power and interests. There always seems to be a big power that acts as a hegemony to prevent other forces from spilling over into the normal zone. But what happens when the hegemony runs mad? What happens if it ceases to reason and to control the balance of power? What happens if it creates friends and enemies alike? Its friends become the enemies of its enemies. Almost everyone starts to take sides and joins an alliance. Being neutral in a world of mad agents would seem like madness in itself. Everyone is compelled to live in a state of anarchy. Thucydides said that the powerful do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. But you and I can make the state of ‘anarchy’ livable.

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