DIRTY WORDS

Anarchism, feminism, Islam…Leda Rafanelli’s work is full of dirty words.

If you’re taking the time to look through this website, chances are you’re not of the persuasion that anarchism, feminism, or Islam are terrible ideas. You might even place yourself in one or more of those camps yourself.

These three concepts, however, have different definitions depending on who you’re talking to. Sometimes people don’t even have a clear definition, but are still ready to judge, or stigmatize, or align with these ideologies.

Leda Rafanelli wrote to encourage her readers to examine their views on spirituality, sexuality, and freedom and to redefine these concepts for themselves. Yet if we’re going to share a society, we need some consensus on the definitions and limits for these ideas. Otherwise how can we live together peacefully?

These questions are not easy to answer, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue asking them and widening our perspective on the issues. The anomaladies page provides inspiration for expanding our definitions of feminism, femininity, and other female subjects, as do Leda’s words.

However, public presentations on Leda Rafanelli’s life and work have almost always entailed a discussion of one of the more sensational aspects of Leda Rafanelli’s identity – anarchism – and what it is and is not. There are plenty of great resources available for learning more about anarchism, but to help put Leda Rafanelli’s ideas into perspective, here are three things audiences are often surprised to learn about anarchism.

1. The term anarchy does not mean chaos

The Merriam Webster dictionary provides several definitions of anarchy:

a. absence of government; b. a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority <the city’s descent into anarchy>; c. a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government

Definitions b) and c) are subjective, we won’t get in to them. Definition a) is closest to the term’s Greek root: an– [negation] + archos [ruler].

The term anarchy means “no rulers”. Whether or not a lack of rulers leads to a lack of organization has nothing to do with anarchy. The point of anarchy is not to create disorder nor utopia, it is to move beyond the concept of rulers.

2. Leda Rafanelli is just one of many religious anarchists

To name a few more:

The social activism of Dorothy Day, a prominent member of the 20th century Catholic Worker movement, was guided by her Christian faith. Pope Francis, inspired by Ms. Day’s legacy of fighting inequality and providing for the poor, recently referred to her as one of the greatest Americans.

Dorothy Day was also an anarchist. In her own words:

“We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists “of conspiring to teach to do,” but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York.”

Leo Tolstoy, reputed to be an inspiration for both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was also a Christian anarchist, and a resolutely pacifist one at that. As he explained it:

“To use violence is impossible; it would only cause reaction. To join the ranks of the Government is also impossible — one would only become its instrument. One course therefore remains — to fight the Government by means of thought, speech, actions, life, neither yielding to Government nor joining its ranks and thereby increasing its power. This alone is needed, will certainly be successful. And this is the will of God, the teaching of Christ. There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one: the regeneration of the inner man.”

The slogan “No Gods, No Masters” is often associated with anarchism (as well as the labor movement). But a slogan is a slogan, it does not define a broad term that covers many varieties of autonomous thought and action. Many anarchists are not religious, but religious and anarchist identities are not mutually exclusive.

3. Nonviolence and anarchism are compatible

Over the past 200 years, anarchists have been featured in the media as violent terrorists. And although some anarchists have perpetrated attacks on people and property, anarchism does not imply violence.

In a 2010 article, Randall Amster does a great job of discussing how non-violence and anarchism can actually complement one another. From the King Center’s Six Principles Of Nonviolence and Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change, to Gandhi’s support of self-governing communities, nonviolence has a lot in common with the anti-authoritarian, anti-militaristic, pro-egalitarian, grassroots, mutual aid-based approaches taken by most anarchists.

The terms (non)violence and (an)archism negate violence and authority, as evidenced by their negative prefixes. Both movements had to further evolve before taking positive stands for creative objectives, and that evolution has taken myriad paths for both nonviolence and anarchism.

If you’re interested in reading more about how anarchism and nonviolence have fit together historically, look up “anarcho-pacifism” or “anarchist antimilitarism”.

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