I absolutely LOVE IT when I make the argument for anarchy and anarchism, and someone mentions Mad Max in reply. Because without knowing it they just proved that anarchy is necessary. The Road Warrior is probably the most misunderstood movie in the history of cinema, because there’s nothing anarchic about it. Those gangs–they are states, governments, nations. Call one of those gangs “North Korea,” another “America,” and another “Russia,” and you have a setting that is identical to modern Earth. We can even set it up so that the American gang chooses its leader by voting instead of brute force (brute force, of course, is the way that the earliest governments were formed), but it doesn’t change anything–it’s still a gang. The Road Warrior is a beautifully subtle argument against the state. It just goes way over the average person’s head because they don’t understand what they’re seeing–they lack the information needed to put it in the proper context.
Before I proceed, I have to explain what I mean by “state.” To be clear, I mean by “state” what you probably mean by “government.” In fact, most people use them as synonyms, but they’re not. The state is a type of government; it is not the only type (and certainly not the best type). It’s a type that we’ve always considered necessary, but we make that argument out of ignorance, and I’m not going to dive into that today. I don’t think. I might end up doing that accidentally, but whatever. The point is: when I say “the state,” I mean “the form of government that has a monopoly on the use of force, violence, and coercion.” Regardless of whether people like that definition, it remains the correct definition.
If we go way back in time, we’ll find a few powerful people in each tribe, village, or whatever who decided that they should work together to take over other tribes, that they should use brute force to rally other villagers to their cause, and then expand their borders to include other villages. This is how the earliest states were formed: the Aztecs began as a single village somewhere, and they conquered another, and then another, and then another, and ultimately there was the Aztec nation. The Bible, unreliable though it is as a source of historical record, paints the history of the Jews in the same light: from one group, they conquered until there was the nation of Israel. That’s not a remark against Aztecs and Jews, though, because that’s ultimately how every nation came about. Even those like the United States are merely descendants of those early proto-nations.
So when we look at a gang of people in The Road Warrior who are doing exactly this, we can immediately see the correct parallel: the gangs represent the nations of the world. The gangs are smaller, and they are still in the early stages where their leaders are generally determined by brute force and barbarism, but it doesn’t matter. We can call one of those gangs “America” and allow that it elects its leader by popular vote, and it changes nothing–it’s still a gang fighting against other gangs.
I thought that this blog post would be considerably longer, but it’s actually pretty simple, isn’t it? People just miss the point, because there are two elements at play here. First, there is the existence of these gangs/nations in the absence of an “Absolute Power” that would crush these gangs and nations. But, as I’ve pointed out, what is this Absolute Power but a larger gang? If we envision each of the gangs in The Road Warrior to be a nation, going as far as to name one “America,” one “Russia,” and one “United Kingdom,” then the parallel becomes inescapable; other than size and scope, there is not mechanism by which we can distinguish gangs from nations.
As I’ve pointed out, the internal workings of the gang and how they determine their motives has very little impact on their behavior. The American gang, though it elects its leaders democratically, is still at war with other gangs. After considerable amounts of devastating war leave innocent people decimated, the gangs might come together and set up some rules for their battles, and they might call them the Geneva Conventions, agreeing that, though they will continue to fight, the innocent people who the gangs are supposed to be protecting (represented in The Road Warrior by children and women, though not all members of the innocent are women and children–it’s simply metaphorical) need to actually… be protected.
It’s all the same. Everywhere we look in The Road Warrior, we find undeniable similarities to Earth and to our own states and nations. So what, the American Gang passes a law that allows transgender people to use the restroom of their choice? Does that really make them better than the Syria gang that openly beheads transgender people? Keep in mind that the American Gang’s leadership still enforces its rulings at the barrel of a gun. High-minded though their ideals may be, the imposition of those ideals is achieved via brute force, violence, and barbarism. It is still, at the end of the day, the behavior of a gang.
I’ve thought about writing my own novel that attempts to use gangs in such a setting as metaphors for nations, but I’ll probably never do it, because there’s no point. I couldn’t possibly do a better job with the parallels and metaphors than whoever wrote The Road Warrior, and no one caught the message of The Road Warrior. It went way over everyone’s heads, so perhaps it was too subtle? People now point to it as an argument against anarchy, when it’s not and never has been. It is a clear and concise indictment of states.
To return to a previous point, “on the world stage,” yes, there is no central, Absolute Power. That becomes an argument for a one world government that is authoritarian in nature, something by which even the masses are repulsed, as well they should be. This goes back to what I’ve said about economics and the world stage; on the world stage, the unbridled free market clearly is lord of all. Whatever their internal economic structures may be, on the world stage China is a corporation competing with the United States who is competing with Russia who is competing with the United Kingdom, and, at the end of the day, free market principles oversee the entire process. Similarly, on the world stage the absence of an Absolute Power with ultimate authority over the various gangs means that anarchic ideas oversee the entire process. In the long term, that’s certainly true, but the gangs do interfere with the anarchic processes, and they do this with brute force, just as the gangs interfere with the free market principles that govern international competition: the United States might invade Iraq and force that gang to accept its currency, despite the fact that free market principles are attempting to crush the USD.
When people cite The Road Warrior as a symbol of anarchy because there is no Absolute Power or Ultimate Authority, they are making the argument that the United Nations should have Ultimate Authority on Earth, and that’s a position that nearly everyone rejects–and rightfully so, since we must not allow ourselves to be ruled by the people of Venezuela or Russia or anywhere; the people of America must rule the people of America. It’s the principle of self-governance, and an Ultimate Authority directly crushes self-governance, since “we” will obviously not comprise 100% of the Ultimate Authority.
Unfortunately, I accept that there will come a time when the United Nations is the Ultimate Authority over the planet, and I don’t think we’ll be able to escape from that future. We need only look to the history of the United States. In its beginning, and for the first century and a half of its existence, the United States was far more like the European Union than it is the homogenized, centralized nation we see today. Just look at the key part of the name: United states. Each “state” was its own nation, and the states banded together through agreement to form a more powerful collective, but the Tenth Amendment was written into the Bill of Rights (which almost no one was willing to sign until it was expressly agreed that the Bill of Rights would immediately be ratified–the Constitution itself was not ratified until it was agreed that the Bill of Rights would also be ratified immediately) specifically to ensure the right of individual states to govern themselves and not be dictated to by the Federal Government.
But look at the United States today. We’ve gotten so confused about what “state” means that we invented the term “nation-state” just so that we could let ourselves forget that these 50 states in North America are nation-states. All of our states are individual republics with their own laws and own ideals. Mississippi, California, Ohio, New York, and all the others stand as sovereign nations alongside nations like China and Germany. We’ve forgotten that, however, and have granted the Federal Government Ultimate Authority. Instead of the people of Mississippi having Ultimate Authority over the people of Mississippi, the people of the other 49 states, through the mechanism of the Federal Government and its many machinations to usurp power, have Ultimate Authority over the people of Mississippi.
While this is Constitutionally allowable (note: I’m not a Constitutionalist, and, if given the opportunity, I would rewrite the Constitution and attempt to get the new one ratified by the people), it must be necessitated as a way of protecting people’s rights. The forced allowance of gay marriage in all 50 states is a perfect example of how the Federal Government will use the will of the 49 states to overrule the will of the 1 state; in this example, Mississippi is not allowed to govern itself, and the states who are for gay marriage instead have governed the state of Mississippi, doing so under the guise of protecting rights. As I have pointed out repeatedly, however, this only violated people’s rights; it did not protect the rights of anyone.
Those who look at the setting of The Road Warrior and see something that is fundamentally different to modern Earth lack the information to put the film into the proper context, because its setting is virtually identical to modern Earth. The gangs are clear parallels to nations, and calling that “anarchy” is woefully misguided and ignorant–it is not anarchy. It is the chaos caused by numerous gangs fighting against one another.
Hello! Wanted to take a moment to share my most recent podcasts with you, because you might find them interesting:
Music: “Teddy Bears and Such” (a tribute to JFK)
Music: “The Honeymoon” (Creepy ProgRock song)