From Iceland — Denial and Ignorance

Denial and Ignorance

Published April 3, 2009

Denial and Ignorance
Not long ago, the word anarchism was almost meaningless in Icelandic. It hardly existed. But now it seems that it has received a seat in the language and better yet—it is getting more and wider understanding. The reason must be the growing movement of anarchists and their visibility during protests and actions concerning the economic collapse.
Many people’s first reactions to new words and ideas are ignorance and denial, especially when the ideas challenge and defy the society’s standards and traditions—when the “truth” is doubted. Anarchists state and argue that something is wrong with the current social structure. This causes disturbance that constantly expands when people realise that the anarchists are right… it is inconvenient having to change the “truth”. One way to ignore this disturbance, not updating one’s mind and adapting to new and changed ideas, is to pretend that these ideas don’t exist. Another way is to run them down, remove all ideals and ideologies.
The February issue of Grapevine included an interview with police officers who took part in the police actions during the January revolt. Talking about the more radical part of the protesters, a police officer titled ‘Senior Policeman’ says: “It all starts with a group that connects itself with anarchism, although I don’t believe there is much behind that.” He continues and says that by looking at the group of anarchists he can’t imagine that they are badly situated financially and adds that he would have liked to see more people in his age at the protests, indebted people who have families to support.
Wait a moment; there is something wrong here: (1.) How can he, by looking over a crowd, see if people have financial problems or not? (2.) How does he know that anarchists don’t have families to support? (3.) Not being indebted is a sign of rationalism and lack of participation in the consumerism that characterised a majority of the Icelandic nation during last years and which sucked out critical thinking and people’s desire of autonomy. (4.) Not being indebted doesn’t take away one’s freedom to resists against a corrupt and incompetent government (not meaning people’s constitutional “right” to protest but every living being’s unwritten right to defend itself). (5.) Not nearly everybody is protesting against the crisis and asking for new period of prosperity. No! Some people always saw (and still see) through the so-called prosperity and still see the class divisions, injustice and corruption that the prosperity period created and sustained. These people protest and fight against capitalism, not the crisis!
The police officer’s words mark the narrow mindsets and lack of ideals that last years’ social situation lead to. The sentence here above –  “although I don’t believe there is much behind that” – is a schoolbook example of denial and ignorance.
But these words are not only the police officers’. Anarchism is constantly dismissed like this—ignored before properly considered. That’s a childish behaviour that shows the lack of will to learn and get to know things’ from a variety of perspectives; a lack of will to always have an open mind, challenge the “truth” and consider nothing as holy; a lack of will to improve the society. It shows the success of authorities’ silencing campaigns; how well they have managed to create a society of ideological stagnation, with the help of corporations, PR managers and advertisement offices.
We could turn this around and state that in the society there is “a group that connects itself with capitalism, but there is not much behind that!” But this statement is wrong. Capitalism builds on the idea that an individual’s freedom is to do business, buy and sell without authorities’ interventions. It is based on greed, acceptance of class divisions, injustice, individuals’ different values inside the society and the unequal distribution of resources. It builds on oppression, exploitation, deprivation of freedom (yes, people’s freedom is constantly deprived in the name of other’s business freedom) violence and imprisonment.
Therefore it is impossible to deal with capitalism in this manner, as well as anarchism. No ideology, philosophy and form of organisation can be dealt with in this manner. But since anarchist ideas are new for many people and these ideas challenge the society’s fundamental values, people repeatedly try to ignore them, hoping they will get lost and forgotten forever.
In the end, it wouldn’t matter at all if ‘Senior Policeman’ would study anarchism and agree with some of its ideas. His statement would stay unchanged because it’s a part of his job to state this to protect authorities and break down everything that threatens their position. A police officer would never accept the legitimacy of anarchist ideas. However, that does not change the fact that his words and the way he dismisses challenging ideas is exactly how authorities want the whole society to behave. That is something that we anarchists fight against!

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