Enabling Anarchy

March 25, 2007

Cross Posted at the Carnival of Anarchy:

In my relatively short time as an anarchist, one of the biggest areas of resistance form the idea of a decentralized, voluntary society has been the seeming inability of such a society to deliver basic services like power and communications. Many people believe that only a central authority can deliver these.

But the same technological advances that have been previously used – via Fordism and Taylorism  – to make us dependent on such central authority can be used to free us. There exists today technology and technological solutions that can enable decentralized, independent services to free us from central control and to begin enabling anarchy as a true, acceptable alternative for the common person.

The first such example is now nearly three years out of date. Andrew Grieg, a Toronto Open Source consultant with Starnix, has outfitted his home to be the model of a decentralized communications and entertainment service for his community, something previously thought to be the exclusive pervue of large telecoms and cable companies:

“Andrew uses his WiFi network for Internet, television, and telephone. He cancelled his telephone line and cable TV service. Then his neighbors dropped-by, saw what Andrew had done, and they cancelled their telephone and cable TV services, too, many of them without having a wired broadband connection of their own. They get their service from Andrew, who added an inline amplifier and put a better antenna in his attic. Now most of Andrew’s neighborhood is watching digital TV with full PVR capability, making unmetered VoIP telephone calls, and downloading data at prodigious rates thanks to shared bandwidth.”

Andrew does this perfectly legally by buying his shows via the C-channel, just a hotels and cable companies do, for pennies per show, per subscriber. He able to get the high quality VOIP phone service, PVR service and network connectivity to his community using fully, freely available open source products like MythTV, Asterisk PBX, Wifi, and Linux. He freely subscribes to other services like the C-Band, Vonage and other cellular systems. Each of these can be swapped out and interchanged if and when the technology changes and improves. If this were to happen today as opposed to 3 years ago, one might choose Skype over Vonage or FreeBSD over Linux. The components can be replaced with something better, fostering competition and giving maximum flexibility.

So not only has Andrew’s set up duplicated the services offered by the big cable  and telecom companies, he has improved them. His service offers on demand TV(of any show ever made at any time, with the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward) as well as live feeds, always on phone service and the ability to have access to your computing and entertainment resources via a small hand-held device. That kind of service is not available from any current service provider, even 2.5 years after Andrew created them himself and serviced his neighbourhood.

This solution is usable in both an urban and rural setting, providing the kind of communications services to rural Canada right now, that they can only dream of getting from the telcos and cable companies.

And the user is in control, voluntarily cooperating with their provider, getting what they want and not what the don’t.

But what about the power for all of this? Surely Ontario Hydro is still needed?

No.

As the Make Magazine link shows, it is entirely possible to use a combination of decentralized power sources – wind, solar, local hydro – to provide off the grid power solutions to your home and your neighbourhood (although not in any of the links, the author of the first article from Make 05 reports that he powers his entire home with the wind turbine described and a 1000 watt solar array). Home heating can be provided nearly anywhere using geothermal technology.

So clearly, much of our needs in power, heat, communications and entertainment can be provided by individuals themselves, in a decentralized fashion because of advances in technology, especially in open source software.

And that is the first step. Once people are able to get much of their immediate infrastructure needs without the state or their cartel corporate monopoly accomplices, they will realize they need them for little else. They will become anarchist in an anti-climatic, matter-of-fact way and the revolution will not come with a bang of guns and change, but the whimper of a dying state that has been found to be useless.

And rather than some Utopian future vision, this is something that can be done, now today, in order to create the new world in the shell of the old.

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4 Responses to “Enabling Anarchy”


  1. I enjoyed reading your anarchist blog, particularly the article about welfare. I myself was on welfare for many years in Toronto, but I found myself in the same trap as you described. I was too unmotivated to work because the government would deduct my earnings, making me a veritable slave, and I was too isolated from society to believe I was worth more than shit
    anyway.

    I’d be interested in adding your perspectives to the site. And remember, your anarchist libertarianism does not mean that you and I are not aligned with certain views. I wanted to call on people who are drawn to progressive leftist values, but who are also free thinkers. For instance, many progressives do not like my views on immigration. That’s okay. We can’t all agree on everything. And that’s not what PD is about anyway. Popular Doctrine was created for the purpose of eliciting a wide range of views and opinions in a civil and respectful manner.

    We can’t make any social progress if all we do is chatter in the echo chambers of the “Blogging Tories” or the “Progressive Bloggers”. I created Popular Doctrine with the hopes that commonality can be found through civil debate and intelligent discussion. And that’s all I hope to achieve.


  2. I would have liked to have found this site 2 months ago!


  3. […] grid per se, but rather to DUPLICATE the grid at a local level and appropriate it for ourselves. theConverted tells us about a good example of this: As the Make Magazine link shows, it is entirely possible to use a combination of decentralized […]


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