Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Socratic dialogue with an anarchist

I was in Melbourne last week attending an Australian Skeptics Convention. Many others were in Melbourne as well. All were there for a good time - especially the anarchists engaging in running skirmishes with the police. (The skirmishes were one-sided - the anarchists skirmed, but the police exercised restraint.) The anarchists were having a great time - they appeared to be angry, and the press described them as such, but they were only feigning anger while experiencing joy. The most common logo was this one. I decided to spoil a young woman anarchist's fun by expressing sincere interest in their agenda. The dialogue follows (I won't use quotes as it would be tedious to do so).
Me: I see you want to abolish capitalism.
She: Yes.
Me: I'm very interested and perhaps I might join your group - but I need to know more about your program. How do you propose to abolish capitalism?
She: By revolution.
Me: That's interesting, how will you organise yourselves to bring about such a revolution?
She: Well, when we have enough like-minded people, we can organise ourselves to subvert capitalist institutions by undermining them from within.
Me: It seems to me that you are on dangerous ground here. Once you start organising yourselves then you will need leaders, processes for makng decisions, allocation of roles by a central authority, punishment of those who don't accept that central authority... won't your organisation turn into a sort of proto-state within a state?
She: We can avoid that by keeping to a collectivist agenda.
Me: I may still be interested in joining your group. Assuming you are successful, and as you start to develop into a proto-state, I can form a core group of real anarchists dedicated to overturning your pseudo-anarchist but actually fascist proto-state. Of course, I must be ever-watchful that a more radical subversive group doesn't develop within my group in order to overthrow us.
She: That's bullshit, you're just stirring.
Me: No I'm not, honestly... just one last question, are those Nike trainers you're wearing? Hey everybody, look, she's wearing Nike trainers, she's a capitalist stooge and maybe a police plant... look out, she's got a camera, she's taking pictures of us... come and see the violence inherent in the system...come and see the violence inherent in the system... I'm being repressed!

Of course, this isn't really a Socratic dialogue. Socrates allowed his respondents to develop extended responses to his finely judged questions. As they responded to Socrates they developed insights into the anomalies in their position, and their perceptions inexorably moved towards more truthiness. All I did was amuse myself, and the cretin I was talking to was incapable of insight.