Anarchy is an ideology that appeals to many individuals with libertarian views.
According to Dictionary.com, the term means “a state of society without government or law“. The individual is therefore under no influence from so-called authority figures or centralized systems such as banks.
In anarchy, no one is in charge and there are no rules to follow.
Now, in terms of liberties, it may all sound pretty neat but when it comes to the practicality of the ideology, things become shakier and shakier.
You see, so far there are no real-life examples of communities that fully implemented anarchist principles and lived to tell their tale of success.
It all stays at utopia levels, where everything seems great in principle but there simply is no way to live a good life by following those guidelines.
And yet, the challenge of proving everyone wrong has been accepted by several individuals who proudly call themselves anarchists, even before getting to walk the talk, and decided to make it all a reality for themselves and their loved ones.
The journey of one such group of people is documented in a new HBO Original series called “The Anarchists“.
Since anarchy as an ideology shares many traits with ideologies that I live by and advocate for – I am, if I must call myself anything in this context, a libertarian – I was curious enough to see what can be achieved, if anything, in real life, by applying the principles of such a controversial system of beliefs.
|Note: This analysis is not meant as a personal attack on the individuals whose content or craft makes the subject of the series. By no means do I intend to trigger through my content any type of aggressive (re)actions toward them, their collaborators, or supporters. We are all entitled to our own beliefs, however foolish they may be considered by others, and we are also entitled to practice them, the only limit being, in my opinion, causing any type of harm to another being or to our common environment. I believe all of our activities could, in theory, be deconstructed and less-than-perfect characteristics may be revealed in the process, so nitpicking is not my aim. Some of these people and organizations may have good intentions, but may also deliver messages and provide services that can do more harm than good to individuals or social environments. This is what I want to reveal.|
• SPOILERS AHEAD •
About “The Anarchists” (2022)
“The Anarchists” is an HBO Original six-part documentary that tells the story of a community of anarchists, mostly United States expats, that decided to live their lives and change the world through their views from their Acapulco, Mexico headquarters. The central event that brings these anarchists together and serves as a continuity thread in the documentary is called “Anarchapulco”, an annual conference started in 2015 by Jeff Berwick, a Canadian entrepreneur.
About the Analysis
If you’ve been reading other articles in my “SKEPTIC’s REVIEW” series, you know by now that my usual starting point is my skepticism regarding the phenomenon I am about to analyze.
This is only partially true when it comes to anarchy since my starting point is that of curiosity toward a political perspective that I am interested in, which shares many similarities with my own beliefs and views about the world and human societies.
The skepticism kicks in though when I think about the possibility of this ideology becoming a reality.
It seems to me that anarchy rather appeals to individuals who believe in personal freedom but not so much in the personal responsibility attached to it.
I also think this political view goes with unorganized mental structures and puerile, or even unstable emotional contexts.
This being said, I was and still am curious about the various attempts to implement anarchy in some way or another in a society.
So I watched the thing.
I considered the whole “community of anarchists in Acapulco” thing a social experiment.
As a social experiment, “The Anarchists” failed miserably and I will explain why even though I am sure that most of the people who watched the documentary saw the same thing pretty clearly for themselves, and do not need an interpretation of the facts they’ve witnessed on their screens.
The anarchists’ international conference, started by Jeff Berwick.
How incredibly stupid it seems to me to have anything related to a concept such as anarchy take an organized, almost corporate form.
Yes, people who share views should meet and discuss them. Yes, it helps to have a platform that allows links to happen and wheels to turn. That’s freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of peaceful assembly. All good up to this point.
But a conference? With speakers and parties? And with a crypto twist to it all because why not?
It all makes me think of the freedom some individuals take to at least attempt and scam others by using some emotional bait to exploit human vulnerabilities.
Convention for anarchists. Once one decides to organize such an event, they start a hierarchical structure, whether they like it or not, and no matter how hard they yell that there’s no one actually in charge, or try to prove how “anarcho-” everything is simply because no one gave a damn on organizing things properly.
You sold tickets, buddy. You’re in charge, even if you don’t like it. It goes with the fact that you and the other “non-organizers” pocketed the money, or at least managed them in the way you, the small circle of anarcho-elites, decided to.
So, anarchists with a love for money and power. That’s what I gathered from the whole event and “Acapulco as a hub for anarchists” thing.
Follow the crypto, and you find the beneficiaries of the convention.
What’s the difference between “Anarchapulco” and mega-churches or so-called religious or charity organizations that claim to work for the benefit of this or that group but only use an ideology as emotional bait to make individuals pay for their crap or donate money to the leaders of these orgs?
Everything around this particular community of so-called anarchists seems to revolve around cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin especially.
Nothing bad with that, in the sense that OK, I get it, you want nothing to do with a central banking system, so cryptos seem to be the answer if you’re willing to take the huge risk of putting your real money into something with no inherent value.
Cryptos are like art – they’re worth what a group is willing to pay for them at a certain point in time.
It’s an environment that allows scams to thrive and the organizers of Anarchapulco were big advocates of all-things Bitcoin, with the main sponsor of the event being directly linked to the crypto world.
Why mix the two, the ideology and the crypto advocacy, in the same event?
So much that you have a crypto-dedicated day in it.
My guess is that it was all about the money or mainly about the money from the beginning, for the main players of this so-called community.
Many individuals in that group thrived on Bitcoin’s historical peaks but also lost a lot when crashes happened.
Sure, each individual is responsible for their own investments, but the problem here is that these anarchists made Bitcoin seem like the official currency of the group. It creates authority bias and peer pressure.
A rather shady thing linked to individuals who initially claimed that the only thing they want is to live peacefully in Mexico.
Anarchy seems rather individualistic. Collaboration doesn’t really seem to appeal to most of the people interviewed for the documentary.
This element caused trouble quite a few times for the mixed-bag-of-interests community.
One of the biggest issues was linked to Anarchapulco, of course. What else?
You see, Berwick started the convention but had no interest in properly running it. In fact, he admits to being drunk several times at his own event, or even absent on certain days.
Seizing the opportunity to make a name for themselves and not let money go to waste, two key characters enter the scene – Nathan Freeman and his wife, Lisa – and offer to manage the event. This worked for a while, but then Berwick changed teams again, cutting the Freemans from the whole scheme, an event that is presented in the documentary as the primary cause of Nathan Freeman’s depression and alcoholism.
So, the core event had internal fights and issues.
But there was also “Anarchaforko”, a conference parallel to “Anarchapulco”, organized by John Galton and Lily Forester – not their real names – a couple who was not happy with the way the main conference was unfolding. They too spotted the problem with the organized part of a conference meant for anarchists.
This parallel event was, on the surface, accepted by the organizers of the main one but at the core, was not seen in a good light by many in the community.
On top of the two competing events, parties, drugs, cheating scandals, and many other things shook the apparent peaceful living of the anarchists.
Those bits made it all look like a bad episode of some celebrity reality TV show.
“The Anarchists” presents two personal tragedies, the deaths of John Galton and Nathan Freeman, as two critical events that shook the community.
Now, while I can empathize with the emotional aspects of these contexts, they were not directly linked to anarchy.
John Galton was a fugitive and drug dealer who was allegedly shot by members of a drug cartel from the area.
Nathan Freeman was abusing alcohol and dying was a direct consequence of that behavior.
The way these two events do eventually relate to anarchy is much darker though.
Lily Forester, Galton’s girlfriend, did not call the police when her boyfriend and their friend, Jason Henza, were shot by the alleged cartel members. This, for two reasons. One, Forester did not want to get deported to the United States where she could face a long jail term. The second reason is that anarchists do not ask the state for help. Police means the state.
A similar reason is linked to Nathan Freeman’s death. He refused to go to the hospital to get potentially life-saving treatment. Money was an issue at first but even when the family had the money, he still refused to go. Maybe he wanted the family to have some financial security when he’s gone, but still, the attitude toward hospitals was a constant for the Freemans. Lisa gave birth at home and the child was never taken to the hospital for checkups.
These personal tragedies could have been prevented by the very victims. Their views on life stopped them from taking action in that direction.
CHANGING THE WORLD – THE COMMUNITY
Jeff Berwick said regarding the Acapulco community of anarchists that they were “going to change the world”. That was their mission and goal, I understand.
Yet, tell me how is the world going to be changed by individuals who barely manage to keep themselves afloat? Especially when the very things sinking them are linked to their beliefs regarding anarchy.
The community part of the anarchy experiment was a complete failure in my opinion.
Sure, some people found meaningful connections through that context but a closer look at the community will reveal just how broken and doomed everything was from the very beginning.
Narcissism, power, teenage-like rebellion, and emotional issues were in the driver’s seat of this so-called anarchist hub.
Berwick was acting like a young rapper, showing off his wealth from crypto – yet he was throwing paper money in his videos but I digress – and singing stupid little songs about Bitcoin.
The Freemans left their middle-class American life to become main figures and gatekeepers of this community of anarchists in Acapulco. They went straight for the core roles.
They also homeschooled their kids – which I actually support, if it’s education that you can provide for them in the end -, refused to document their existence – a thing that gave them almost no social rights, healthcare included -, and taught them to burn books they did not like. The parents also allowed kids to swear quite heavily, but that’s not the biggest problem here.
Galton and Forester were dealing drugs. I have nothing against them growing the stuff for themselves. The anarchists may not have rules. Drug cartels do.
Wild, destructive parties, alcohol, and drugs were a thing closely linked to the community.
Aggressive individuals and violent acts, as well.
The opening scene of the documentary shows anarchists gathered at a bonfire where they burn books they did not like. People were yelling, kids were swearing, everybody seemed hysterical and it was all just senseless, violent chaos.
I immediately thought of “Lord of the Flies” and the feeling hadn’t left the entire time I watched the documentary.
Are these the people who were going to change the world?
They act like kids on Spring break.
I thought the whole point of anarchy was to tell the states “I don’t need your government to manage me. I can handle it all by myself, thank you”.
But the thing is that then… you need to handle the things. You want to be your own master? Great! I believe in that as well, which is why I teach assertiveness and critical thinking skills.
But hey, you can’t ask for all the freedom in the world and then ignore the responsibility that comes with it.
Anarchy is not supposed to be chaos.
Lack of formal education should not mean uneducated people.
Not going to the state for things such as healthcare or law should not equal living a primitive lifestyle without them.
Jason Henza is probably one of the few participants in this documentary who figured it out. I did not take notes, so I cannot quote him directly, but I remember him commenting on the fact that humanity is not ready for anarchy yet, in the sense that at this point, without the limits of the state, we’re animals.
Now, I do not think this is valid for all people, but I agree on this being the case for many individuals who dream of themselves as factors of change, brave special individuals who are going to make the world a better place, and yet cannot figure out how to live a decent lifestyle once they’re given the opportunity to show what they’re made of and what they can do.
THE BIGGEST FLAW IN THEIR PLAN
These people were not anarchists. They were rebels and outcasts.
These individuals could not and did not design an anarchist micro-society.
They just freaking moved from countries that had rules they did not like or worked against them to a country known for its crime tolerance.
What groundbreaking thing? It’s a freaking cliché.
Wanted by the law in the US? Go to Mexico.
They moved into a new environment, they did not shape the environment they were in to prove that their ideology works and can bring about good-enough results that can be considered by any reasonable mind an alternative to the present structure of society.
It’s sad, really.
This documentary shows the world how not to build an anarchist community.
It’s a perfect “Expectation versus Reality” scenario, and Reality sucked big time.
As someone who advocates for personal freedom, I think back at some of the individuals featured in this film and think “this is why we can’t have nice things”.
It tames my enthusiasm and trust that people can handle themselves in a way that keeps them decent human beings when allowed to act at peak levels of freedom.
Come to think of it, there were red flags from the very beginning. I dislike people who burn books.
The documentary itself is good. A little too long, some things drag, but it shows an image of a world we don’t usually have access to.
Watch it when you have the time and make up your own opinion about it and the phenomenon it presents.
Maybe even let me know what you think of it, in the comment section below.