“Conscience is the voice of the soul” – Polish proverb
The coop principles that probationers most often struggle with (in a practical sense) are conscientiousness, and by extension collective responsibility. This is altogether understandable, given capitalist society intentionally conditions its populous against the former, in order to eliminate the threat posed to it by the latter.
All too often people wonder why it failed to occur to them to act in a manner that seems so obviously just in hindsight? The issue is this: if people were to become more conscientious, then they’d begin to question the world around them (and their place in it). Should that approach become more widespread, then the outcome would be a rapid and positive social change… something that runs contrary to the best interests of those who benefit from the prevailing economic system.
Hence there’s actually a deeper psychological connection between ignoring apparently trivial stuff like dropping litter, and tolerating much deeper social and personal ills. The few issues that people do express a conscience about, are *cough* coincidentally things that those in positions of power have taken it upon themselves to impress upon us. If something gets your hackles up, then it’s worth analysing why. People can become deeply impassioned about certain issues, due to influences that they may not be entirely cognisant of. There’s typically an underlying third party agenda at work in these instances, and becoming more aware of these machinations promotes an increasingly skeptical outlook.
If there were no authorities to impose morality, dictate right from wrong, or tell us what to be angry/alarmed about, then would society inexorably spiral into savagery? Was savagery ever even a ‘thing’ in the first place? Unlike Social Darwinism, the theory of Mutual Aid has been empirically tested on numerous occasions, demonstrating that all creatures, from insects up to people, possess an internal system directed towards social cohesion, and that this has played a critically important role in evolution. It’s also explains why our household pets are apparently capable of expressing both guilt and remorse.
Artificial morality imposed by authority, functions to short circuit conscientiousness, in order to prevent people from asking inconvenient questions. For this reason anarchism doesn’t just oppose the state and capitalism, it also vehemently opposes organised religion too, historically the worst culprit of all when it comes to social control. A more alarming development is the recent perversion of both justice and science to this end, as witnessed by an irrational backlash against those who have the audacity to demand proof. Anyone speaking out against this trend is quickly ridiculed or vilified, regardless of their credentials.
The authoritarian goal, is to supplant the innate conscience with obedience to rule, this being imparted under the guise of ‘education’. This sense of obligation instilled through our schools, promotes the construction of a false conscience, which serves to keep each of us in line. The resulting conflict between the innate conscience and this imposed morality, quickly gives rise to irrational feelings of guilt, moral dilemma, lack of fulfilment, existential crises, and may ultimately manifest as a loss of purpose, and the associated feelings of hopelessness, despair, depression, and desperation.
By way of contrast, the Waldorf system of education encourages students to form a deeper, more independently minded connection to the world around them. This has its philosophical basis in the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, who expressed strong anarchist sympathies, and was also a proponent of mysticism, which is the practice of entering into a deeper internal dialogue.
The phenomenon commonly referred to as “the conscience” also goes by several other names:
- Biologists describe it as mutual aid.
- Psychologists termed it the superego.
- Seekers relate to it as their inner voice.
- Mystics experience it as their higher self.
- Clerics claim it to be the moral compass.
- Philosophers, such as Thomas Aquinas, view it as the basis for natural law.
Hopefully it’s now apparent that all this comes full circle, that the conscience is the internal manifestation of Mutual Aid. Anarchists therefore perceive the conscience as the instinct that directs us toward social cohesion.
While this might all seem rather deep, the concept can more intuitively be expressed as “let your conscience be your guide”. This is depicted in the allegorical tale of Pinocchio, where a wooden puppet (!) behaves somewhat sociopathically, with pathological lying constituting its prime modus operandi, until engaging with a conscience and magically being made into a ‘real boy’. The thrust of the Pinocchio story, is that engaging with one’s conscience is the mechanism for determining and fulfilling life’s purpose.
Interestingly, the psychological definition of a sociopath is that of a person lacking all conscience. One of the main symptoms of sociopathy is an absence of purpose, and an absolute disregard (or even scorn) for social cohesion.
The thing about entering into a dialogue with the conscience, is that the inner voice is not just a moral compass, but also a guiding light that exposes the world around us, and even illuminates all those awkward home truths about ourselves (and the state of our lives)… stuff we’d rather avoid facing up to. When the conscience has been bypassed for a number of years/decades, then these things start to really fester, making embarking on this journey ever more arduous.
Capitalism requires a docile and compliant workforce, hence it promotes consumerism, fostering a materialist worldview, dismissing anything beyond that as counter productive “naval gazing”. We are told what to think, instead of being encouraged to think for ourselves, causing the conscience to be bypassed… only to occasionally flicker into life when we accidentally forget to feed to dog. In order to successfully undermine the system, we must first awaken the inner voice, which advocates for social cohesion. Only then do we stand any chance of dismantling capitalism in favour of cooperation.