What does it Mean to “Educate” Someone or Yourself?
Education as a device in the struggle against oppression means better informing other people or yourself about what’s going on in the world. This can be about a multitude of different things and in a multitude of different ways. You can engage in a conversation, you can have a formal debate with someone, you can talk things out to yourself (no this doesn’t make you crazy…necessarily), you can write papers and use the research and the paper to be better informed, etc. etc. etc. All of these ways are ways in which you or someone else can be better informed about what’s going on in the world. Education has been one of the mainstays of almost any ideology to get it heard more. Since the invention of the internet and better technology in general this has been especially relevant with being able to talk and inform others about things more easily and making the costs of writing papers and having them seen by many people much lower as well.
So how does education exactly play into the 4 strategies against oppression? Well in order to better apply any of the strategies that I’ve discussed so far one must know not only about them but what they are up against and how it works, etc. The more informed about a topic you are the more likely you are to handle it more efficiently than you otherwise could have. This of course doesn’t guarantee perfection or being right all of or even most of the time but it means you’ll more likely than not deal with the realoty of things in a better way than if you were less informed.
If education just means telling people things about the world around them how do we do this within an anarchist context more specifically?
How do we Educate Efficiently?
I think there’s something to be said about the fact that there’s at least two major things to education: substance and style. The first is the content of the message itself. What are you saying? Is it worth talking about? Does the person care? Why would they care? And so on. While the style is more about how you present it. Generally no one is going to take seriously someone who says things very snobbishly or someone who can’t speak up may not be paid attention to as much, etc. And so not only is the meat and bones of your presentation important but what spices and such you put on them…I think that’s an awful metaphor but I hope my point was illustrated well enough either way.
Now for us as anarchists we’re in a particularly bad spot because of the silly things that are attached to our ideas or the label we have. We’re called terrorists, proponents of a philosophy without a plan (maybe not necessarily a bad thing though), violent, bomb throwers, miscreants and so on. So many of us as anarchists start off at an immediate disadvantage. This is why some people who think the state is unnecessary and would rather have more self-governing/ruling/managing society full of voluntary associations don’t call themselves anarchists. Now this is at first perhaps just a rhetorical move, more spice than meat and bones to some. To that I say it’s all about how you really strive to make it different. You could call yourself something else (and I don’t necessarily think we as anarchists should but each individual makes their own choice regardless) but if you’re going to do that make it matter in your discussions and don’t just have it to spice things up. Rhetoric can be nice and can catch the eye but if there’s nothing there to keep the attention then there’s not much to it.
Now since I’ll assume you’ve kept the label let’s work from this assumption and say that most people still may want to hear you out. They may be skeptical of you from the get go but I don’t think many serious people would automatically stop hearing you out if you openly declare yourself an anarchist. Speaking from personal experience most people who do that sort of thing aren’t generally worth talking to from the get go or don’t take their own positions too seriously at any rate. Either way it’s more fruitful in my opinion to talk to people who will talk on level with you and treat you as an equal.
To pause for a second we must realize that conversation is of course one of the biggest parts of education but also that reading, writing and experiencing events also has a big effect on people from time to time. Slogans, signs, websites, essays, etc. etc. can all effect the person as well.
But to get back to the part about being treated as an equal I think this is really what people look for when they talk to others. Generally people won’t bother with someone they don’t feel treats them fairly (and if you’re unsure of their standard of fairness just assume calling them a statist again and again isn’t meeting it). To a certain degree sometimes it’s just helpful all together to just forget the labels and focus on solutions.
And that’s just to whatever extent labels are hurting the conversation. Labels shouldn’t be completely discarded to the extent that they help a conversation. And this is where more conversation edict is to be remembered: there are no universals only helpful general rules. Now whether this applies more broadly than just in conversations I’m unsure of but I do think generally people tend to look at signs of respect similarly. Talking to people in a sincere but hard demeanor should be ok for most people but don’t get too overly-vocal or preachy about how good anarchism or whatever you’re talking about because that tends to put people off. There’s plenty of general rules for talking to people and I think it really comes from constant experience with different people that you get a good grasp on them. Because of this I don’t think I’ll doddle on that point anymore except to say that they should be kept in mind.
Lastly, when dealing with oneself insofar as education is concerned questioning your baseline assumptions is a great start. This is of course good for general conversation as well but keeping in mind that you know your assumptions better than the other person’s assumptions in most cases it’s more practical here most likely. Questioning assumptions, especially the deep ones is a great start to further intellectual development. You can question, “Why do I dislike the state?” “How do systems of oppression interrelate? Can they?” And of course you can ask a multitude of other questions to, it doesn’t stop there nor should it. You can write these questions down, pace up and down somewhere (preferably somewhere quiet and secluded) and go over it in your head or you could try to take it from there and discuss it with someone you feel comfortable sharing it with.
This is all of course by no means an exhaustive list of rules for self-improvement or conversations in general but I don’t intend it to be. I’m just trying to hand out many of my own thoughts and personal experience with how conversation can be conducive to getting other people involved as well as self-improvement.
Education and the Struggle
It’s always best when conversing with someone else to start from your strong points. If economics is your thing perhaps try to stay on that topic, same goes if it’s sociology or history, etc. Try to stay on what makes you the most interested in anarchism and discuss it from that angle. It may surprise the person you’re talking to if an anarchist has all these ideas on society, the economy and the world in general that they may not have thought of themselves. Of course one of the big things to advance people getting more towards anarchism is to tell people what anarchism really stands for and whether you’re a market anarchism or whatever it’s useful to bat away common objections to anarchism as a whole as well.
There’s certain types of outreach such as doing outreach with the left or discussing the hopes for liberty in our lifetime but what should really be kept in mind when you’re talking to other people is where they are coming from. How does the current system hurt them the most? Is the community they live in closed down by big corporations like Wal-Mart? Tell them that anarchists support community control and decentralization of the economy so the workers, consumers, producers, etc. all have more say. That is, society has more say than Our Enemy, The State does. That society and the individuals within it that make up the productive class and not the parasitic class of people (which agorist class theory and other class theories talk about) so that we can all have a better life.
Getting people more informed about how they can resist the state or other oppressive institutions and cultural beliefs, etc. in their community makes great headway and alliances on single issues. You can help build up unions, alternative cooperatives run by the workers to counter corporate and state power and use that to get more people involved in other projects as well. There’s plenty of material on the internet for us all to utilize. There’s entire libraries of anarchist thought and entire books on Youtbue, in PDFs, on countless websites and more. We have to use the technology we have to our advantage when it comes to the struggle in general but especially when it comes to education.
There’s not too much about education that you can’t find elsewhere and it’s not too tough of a topic to get into. Yet, conversely there’s many different interesting areas in it and I feel as if I’ve only dipped my feet into them so to speak. Nevertheless I don’t feel as if it’s necessary to do a complete run down of how to tell people to live a better life or talk with them about it.
My final thoughts on education and perhaps the series in general is that you have to first and foremost do these things for yourself. You need to be the example other people are going to go to, want to naturally emulate and going to want to cooperate with in voluntary and mutually beneficial ways for the betterment of people in general. You want to be that person and you want to be that person not by trying to mold other people into what you want them to be but by molding yourself and letting other people see what a great person you are.
Anarchism should not boil down to lifestyle or identity politics (though they are still important even once you have radical politics on the table) but it is important to make sure that you emulate the strategies you want to use and the type of person you’d like to see in the world.
Because if the world that these strategies help build within the shell of the old society are to be as beautiful as we all hope then self-education could possibly be better than external in many ways.
As Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world and that means not only emulating your ideology but the world, society and so on that you want to see and the people that inhabit it.
At the end of the day I’ve laid out the strategies that I think will work best and it’s up to you whether you’ll implement them or not. After all, you’ll convince yourself more than I ever would probably.