Existentialism Philosophy

Albert Camus, Anarchism and the Individual

Few concepts are more misunderstood than anarchism. Much of the efforts of civilization have been devoted to define anarchy as chaos, disorder and turmoil. For the powers that govern, the threat of mob rule is the decisive risk to their privileged status. But is this the correct conclusion to describe the essence of anarchy? That nebulous abstraction known as society, exists as an artificial fabrication, designed to synthesize individuals into a unified structure. Even the most avid proponent of law and order must concede that the organization of institutions is based upon singular components. The entire purpose of society demands restrictions upon the unbridled freedom of individuals.

Thus, posing the question: Is society necessary, becomes a revolutionary act.

Placing limits on freedom can be self imposed or coerced from external influences. Presenting arguments that self interest is enhanced, when destructive behavior is willingly tempered respects the natural rights that each person possesses. However, when constraints are imposed using the rational - for the betterment of the “common good” - it usually means that the ruling factions seek to protect their position.

Albert Camus is often portrayed as a depressing figure, offering little hope or optimism. While “The Stranger” may not make the short list for a wedding party, the union that men and women enter with their fellow neighbors, seldom approaches a meaningful and permanent relationship.

The short story, “The Guest” is “a troubling story of Algerian culture and free will. "The Guest" works on many levels, from the question of Arab relations to what choices a person must make alone. Camus does not offer solutions; he does not even offer clear questions. The reader of "The Guest" is left to his or her own questions and answers.” This assessment of vague, indecisive and perceived incoherent orientation doesn’t produce a resolution to our personal condition. For this reason, Camus and most Existentialists are branded as irrelevant. Yet, those who achieve an earnest introspection conclude that the order that society claims is so important does not really exist.

A critique of this work, by U. Buster offers this appraisal: “Anarchy is personal; it is not a collective possibility. It rests upon the idea of a person acting within a sphere where his existence is not intrusive upon the existence of another human being unless invited to be so. Should a person find that he has uninvitedly trespassed upon the serenity of another, Individual Anarchy points that man toward accepting the responsibility for his own actions while not condemning the failure of others to own up to the things they may have done wrong.”

The theme of non requested anguish creates the anxiety of choice. Conform, obey and do your duty as a citizen, or deal with the unpleasant judgment of what might be an opposite but correct decision? “The ambiguity of Camus' The Guest is intentional; sharing Daru's (main character - native French-Alergian) point of view, we share also his frustration at having to deal with the perplexing situation that is thrust upon him. If he could truly know his Arab guest, know his guilt or innocence, he could make without difficulty the choice to free him or lead him to jail. But no one ever truly knows another, and yet we must all choose again and again.”

Some may misinterprete that morality is relative if one should not judge another. Quite the contrary, the seeming absurdity of a conflict stems from the rejection of ethics that guide each person to behavior in a moral manner, based upon a willful choice. Standards provided by society, enforced by government and sanctified by the STATE are not equivalent to morality. Virtue and righteousness may well clash with the order within a community. Would this form of anarchy be justified?

Camus is known as a novelist and playwright more than a philosopher. The theater often impacts the public with a message that profound thinkers rarely approach in their formal tracts. Rebellion is a reoccurring necessity for Camus. If the state of individual anarchy is the inherent plight of our common nature and choice is the inevitable dilemma we face, why is the rebel condemned as an outlaw when the crimes of the State are the inexorable imperative?

Is harmonious subjucation the basis of a good citizen or does the individual retain the responsibility to act morally in the face of pernicious laws? Camus was moved by the enormity of the civil structure. His distress was not self induced, but was directed towards the utter failure of our self imposed prison, where we do time, within a penal colony of a congenial ‘PC’ culture. What is normal behavior to the mass majority may well be insane and destructive punishment of the innocent.

Anarchism does not require armed revolt, but it does demand active moral confrontation. Insurrection will usually fail and the prospects for any replacement regime are likely to be based upon the same false tenets. Camus confronts the stark reality that the individual, while preeminent in value and worth, is treated as chattel of the State. The reason that the populace allows this tragic injustice lies in their unwillingness to deal with the harsh fact that the most depraved among us strive to make regulations for the rest. The codes of society are generally adopted without scrutiny. When Camus states: “Integrity has no need of rules”, we are given an insight that few can digest. Their own lack of honesty, principle and integrity allows them to accept the madness that dominates society.

Camus presents a challenge for those willing to take the high road to personal fulfillment. In order to respect your own individuality, your willingness to make a concerted effort to appreciate the value of anarchy is essential. Freedom is inescapable, even for the captive. The guests you invite into your world earned their way to an invite. Those who place demands and requirements under the threat of coercion violate the natural order. Their substitute dictum cannot approach the supreme law. Evict the intruder, safeguard your home.

SARTRE - October 22, 2003

posted by SARTRE at 10/22/2003 |

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