April 1, 2009
It was heartwarming to read this morning that among those who broke into the Royal Bank of Scotland and fairly trashed the joint were anarchists. I’ve always been attracted to anarchism as a political idea because, as far as I can tell, anarchists have never agreed on what it means. In that regard, it’s like existentialism in philosophy, a perfectly good term, according to Jacques Maritain, except for the “incidental disadvantage” that it “has been used to mean so many things that it no longer means anything at all.” What could be more suited to a word like anarchism than confusion over what it signifies. The word certainly has panache. If I were going to break into an institution like the Royal Bank of Scotland and throw keyboards through the windows, I’d certainly like to be identified in the press as an anarchist. Who better than an anarchist – whatever that means – to make such a graphic protest against a stodgy old institution that just gave its chief executive officer a million-dollar-plus sendoff after the government had to rescue the bank from the consequences of its bad business practices? Sound familiar?
I think my favorite anarchist is Errico Malatesta. His surname reminds me of a squib from George Ade: “The more he thought about it, the more his head hurt.”