The radical nature of love. (Part 1/2)

It has been recognized in the past that love is radical in nature. One of the most famous Anarchists, Leo Tolstoy, believed strongly in the principle of love. In his famous letter to a Hindu editor which eventually reached the eyes of Gandhi, he writes:

As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence-as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual. Do not resist the evil- doer and take no part in doing so, either in the violent deeds of the administration, in the law courts, the collection of taxes, or above all in soldiering, and no one in the world will be able to enslave you.

Tolstoy makes a point about resistance against evil, but most importantly, he states that the law of love is so radical that it must necessarily exclude all participation in violence. He also states that most people do not fully believe in love because they are deluded by collectivist propaganda:

Thus it went on everywhere. The recognition that love represents the highest morality was nowhere denied or contradicted, but this truth was so interwoven everywhere with all kinds of falsehoods which distorted it, that finally nothing of it remained but words. It was taught that this highest morality was only applicable to private life-for home use, as it were-but that in public life all forms of violence-such as imprisonment, executions, and wars-might be used for the protection of the majority against a minority of evildoers, though such means were diametrically opposed to any vestige of love… And such a teaching, despite its inner contradiction, was so firmly established that the very people who recognize love as a virtue accept as lawful at the same time an order of life based on violence and allowing men not merely to torture but even to kill one another.

He applies this to religious thinking, but it equally applies to our modern democracies. On the one hand, we hear preaching that the State is necessary to enforce moral behaviour, and on the other hand we hear countless rationalizations for “imprisonment, executions, and war.” What Tolstoy is saying is that you cannot accept love as virtuous but support institutions and systems that are its opposite- practicing, as he puts it, “the restraining of evil by violence.” In short, coercion, forcible domination, or in a word, control. The opposite of love is control.

This may seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t the opposite of love, hate? Not at all: in fact, love and hate both imply a number of premises. The more premises you share, the less opposite you are. Think about it this way. What is the opposite of a Republican? Not a Democrat, since they both share most of their premises. They both believe in government, in democracy, and in the rule of law. They both believe in the same game. The opposite is someone who does not believe in the game, but rather fights against it: someone who shares the least premises, and the most opposite premises. This, of course, means an Anarchist.

Are fans of the Montreal Canadiens and fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs opposite? No, they both believe in the game, they both revere its former and current stars, and they believe in cooperation within the rules of the game. The opposite of any hockey fan is someone who actively opposes the sport of hockey, who attacks those common principles and values.

Likewise, both love and hate are emotions we feel towards people we look at from the outside. The “game” here is human relations: whether we love or hate people, we see them as independent entities with their own values and will, and we judge those values and will. The only way to oppose the game is to destroy the concept of human relations with the use of force and intimidation, and treat others as extensions of ourselves: in short, control.

All our popular political ideologies are based on control, of which “might makes right” is merely a pragmatic rationalization. Whether it is democracy, oligarchism, capitalism, socialism, fascism, or communism, all of these ideologies are based on the implicit premise that one should seek to control one’s fellow man in order to bring about a given outcome, that there exists a primacy of outcomes over free will. Most people don’t even think about free will at all, preferring to simply see others as extensions of themselves.

This is of course sociopathic, sociopathy being diagnosed by the APA as “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others,” this definition fitting statism very well, especially if you go into details (and as the movie The Corporation pointedly highlights, also fits capitalism quite well). Well, at any rate, since everyone thinks in terms of control, we don’t recognize the sociopathy for what it is, all we see is people playing the political game that everyone else is playing.

And in this discussion I include all the socio-Anarchists who believe in establishing their own democratic political order. They may call themselves leftists, but in this case Gary Lloyd’s maxim applies equally well: “When the government’s boot is on your throat, whether it is a left boot or a right boot is of no consequence.” It matters very little whether one’s society is being exploited by a capitalist-democratic system or a socialist-democratic system.

Insofar as we are Anarchists, we should seek to eliminate control as a whole, not merely the State or corporations. But when ten people vote to expropriate one, without his prior consent to the system, is this not control? Benjamin Tucker proposed this litmus test to see if someone is an Anarchist:

Do you believe in any form of imposition upon the human will by force?

But you see that we can ask this even more succinctly: “Do you believe in control?” An Anarchist, therefore, according to Tucker, is someone who refuses to use control and therefore follows the law of love, and a statist is someone who seeks to control.

Continue to part 2.

4 thoughts on “The radical nature of love. (Part 1/2)

  1. nathan October 27, 2008 at 01:19

    so, whoever you are, I began reading your essay expecting yet again to be turned off by a bunch of anarchist B.S.. What I found instead is one of the most convincing, concise and intriguing philosophical political arguments I’ve encountered. I find myself hard pressed to argue with you. I’ve been thinking much along these lines myself lately: wondering how control of others can ever be loving. I’m not an anarchist but I wonder if I will be one day. It seems to me that pacifism must be at the very foundation of what you are callng anarchy. So what do u say to the Black-Box anarchists who set cop cars on fire? Why even use the word anarchy when almost nobody would associate Love with it? And where can I find the rest of this Tolstoy quote in context? And finally would u consider it contrary to Love for a person to voluntarily submit himself to a democratic governing body, of which he is a member? Anyhoo, thanks for makin me think!

  2. Francois Tremblay October 27, 2008 at 03:20

    “I’m not an anarchist but I wonder if I will be one day.”

    Could be!

    Look up “mutualism,” you might find something you like.

    “It seems to me that pacifism must be at the very foundation of what you are callng anarchy.”

    Depends how you define it. I am not a pacifist as much as I am against violence.

    “So what do u say to the Black-Box anarchists who set cop cars on fire?”

    I have nothing against setting cop cars on fire, but I’m not sure what it would accomplish…

    “Why even use the word anarchy when almost nobody would associate Love with it?”

    Well, I am an Anarchist. My ideas on love were developed after that, while thinking about what people thought love was, and how there are these two different conceptions. I wrote a previous entry on that.

    “And where can I find the rest of this Tolstoy quote in context?”

    “And finally would u consider it contrary to Love for a person to voluntarily submit himself to a democratic governing body, of which he is a member?”

    It would depend on the kind of governing body we’re talking about.

  3. […] As I discussed before, the concept of love has been maintained as important for human relations but completely detached from politics, religion and other social institutions. This leads me to believe that the dichotomy between the 4th dynamic and all below it must be vital for Anarchists to deconstruct. So you might say that, actually, the Anarchist goal should be to collapse the fourth dynamic into the third, to turn every exercise in social decision-making as an exercise in relationships. I think this is a worthy goal, anyway. […]

  4. […] based on love. The true self, seat of love. (part 1/2) (part 2/2) The radical nature of love. (Part 1/2) (Part 2/2) Love your enemies as yourself. The control mentality and the love […]

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