(The following essay serves as a primer on the emerging field of Holistic Activism. More specifically, the essay introduces the concepts behind Holistic Anarchism.)
The term holistic is related to the theory known as Holism. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Holism is:
1: a theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes (as of living organisms) that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles
2: a study or method of treatment that is concerned with wholes or with complete systems :a holistic study or method of treatment
Holistic can be defined as “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.” For example, holistic medicine typically treats the entire body and mind in an attempt to address the root of an illness as opposed to only focusing on treating symptoms. The field of Holistic ecology examines humanity and the environment as a single system. When examining whole systems rather than the individual pieces of a particular problem, you are likely to come away with a completely different perspective and thus, a different solution than you would find when studying the individual components.
The process of becoming an activist typically begins when an individual is made aware of an injustice that strikes them to the core and moves them to act in some fashion. Once a problem has been identified, some individuals will expend further energy to identify the people and institutions they hold responsible. The individual’s knowledge is expanded in a particular area, they experience discomfort from their new found awareness, and finally, they decide to find a meaningful way to address the issue. This may take the form of holding signs in the street, writing letters, organizing email and phone blast campaigns, pursuing blogging and journalism, confronting those responsible for the problems, or taking more extreme forms of confronting power.
When applying the holistic perspective to activism, the goal is to move beyond simply identifying the problems we see in the world into a mode of action oriented around understanding how our individual actions and habits are contributing to the crises we see. It is a fairly simple task to point fingers at the atrocious and immoral actions unfolding around the world. A more rewarding perspective is gained by examining our own individual actions. By holding ourselves accountable and asking, “How am I contributing to X?” we can make strides in aligning our thoughts and words with our actions.
In order to do this, one must consciously choose to go beyond the surface-level interpretations of political crimes, environmental destruction, rampant surveillance, the loss of civil liberties, mass extinctions, and a host of other activist concerns. A Holistic Activist identifies the injustice and begins to look for clues — much like a crime scene investigator — that contribute to a fuller understanding of the crime at hand. The Holistic Activist pays particular attention to any evidence that leads back to their own behaviors and habits. Rather than ending the effort to bring justice and morality to the world once the problem has been identified, the Holistic Activist does not stop until they can clearly see their own role in creating or contributing to the issue. Let’s take a look at two particular activist movements and examine them through the Holistic Activist lens.
End The Fed & March Against Monsanto
According to official doctrine, the Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the U.S. tasked with regulating monetary policy. In reality, “the Fed” is responsible for the constant devaluing of the U.S. dollar (or the Federal Reserve note, as it is officially known) via inflationary practices the institution sets. In the last decade, millions of people have awoken to the true nature of the central banking system and begun actively opposing it. Beginning in 2008, activists around the U.S organized annual “End The Fed” rallies aimed at raising awareness regarding the economic theft and debt created by the Fed.
Activists gathered at all twelve Federal Reserve branches and sub-branches hosting speeches, rallies, marches, and selling End The Fed propaganda. The organizers spent time, energy, and money to pay speakers to attend, pay for city permits, rent stages and booths, and promote these events. The activists identified the problem — economic theft and debt — and the institution responsible for the problems, the Federal Reserve. Did they stop to take a deeper look — a holistic look — at the situation? Overall, it would seem they did not. The organizers and activists spent months planning these events and hours hosting them. It’s safe to assume their goal was to raise awareness about the problems with the Fed and discourage support of the institution. However, when the organizers paid their speakers for their time or when the vendors sold their “End The Fed” t-shirts, they more than likely exchanged Federal Reserve notes.
This is where the inconsistency in thoughts, words, and actions can be seen most clearly. From a Holistic Activist perspective, one does not achieve change or solve a problem by participating in the problem. If you want to “End the Fed,” you are not likely to accomplish such a task by continuing your involvement with, use of, and tacit support for the Federal Reserve system. Quite simply, the Fed will not disappear if the people continue to play the game. A Holistic Activist would recognize their contribution to the Federal Reserve System and seek alternative means of exchange whenever possible.
Similarly, many of those participating in the Global March Against Monsanto experienced a disconnect between stated goals and actions. On May 25, 2013, over 300 cities around the world marched and rallied as part of the March Against Monsanto campaign. The name indicated a focus on biotechnology giant Monsanto, but the movement was a broad coalition of organic advocates, food liberty activists, and environmentalists. The participants in the March Against Monsanto included those who opposed the revolving door between the U.S. government and Monsanto, others who were generally against food made with genetically engineered ingredients, activists concerned about the abundant use of pesticides, and those concerned about the environment at large.
Unfortunately, many of the city actions were explicitly focused on gathering large numbers in the streets and not enough energy was put towards education and solutions. In addition to organizing in the streets to raise awareness, a Holistic Activist would also make an effort to stand for something. In this example, that would mean organizing community gardening skillshares where the marchers learn how to grow their own pesticide-free, non-gmo crops or begin volunteering at a local urban farm. This creates consistency between one’s desired goals (raising awareness about the problems with Monsanto) and one’s habits and actions.
Another opportunity to think holistically in this example deals with one’s diet. If you were marching against Monsanto because of a desire to weaken the biotech industry, pesticide manufacturers, and/or the corporatist government, it would only make sense to limit your use of the products from these industries. This means not purchasing genetically modified products, including from grocery stores or restaurants. This could also mean only buying organic products. In addition, a Holistic Activist might begin reducing their reliance on traditional grocery stores by purchasing produce directly from farmers and gardeners at local markets. This action could be taken not only to avoid the Monsanto complex, but to lessen dependence on the unsustainable food distribution system.
This is what it means to think about activism holistically. If we each begin to take an honest self assessment and take a deep look at our own actions, we will begin to see the ways our actions are subtly allowing various injustices to continue in the world. Quite simply, when we do not account for our own inconsistencies, we work against our efforts to create a more free, ethical, and just world. This is why Holistic Activism is essential to moving into the next phase of human development and evolution. Our wisdom grows through self-reflection. As empowered individuals and as a collective, we hold the power to free humanity from generations of bondage.
Anarchism is a political and social philosophy that rejects rulers and government on moral, economic, social, and/or religious grounds. It is a rich philosophy with a spectrum of schools of thought that often conflict with one another. However, anarchists generally believe that all human relationships should be free of coercion, force, and violence. Anarchists know that each human being is best equipped to rule their lives and order their affairs. Anarchists understand that communities can rely on their neighbors more often than they can rely on the government.
The Holistic perspective extends to the realm of anarchism once one acknowledges that the end of statism and authoritarianism will not come by examination of political and economic theory alone. Anarchists have a tendency to focus all of their energy on attempting to convert people via debates about the logic behind anarchism, the benefits of their particular ideal economic system, and/or the moral reasons to wave the Anarchist flag.
Sterlin Luxan, journalist and student of psychology, is another anarchist encouraging a shift beyond the current anarchist focus on debates. “Current conceptions of anarchism have been hyper focused on the LEM Axis. That is, they are geared toward solving Logical, Economic, and Moral problems of society and government,” Luxan writes.
To move beyond this hyperfocus on the LEM Axis, we must engage in a holistic analysis of our struggle for freedom. By examining our own personal actions and behaviors, we can begin the process of decentralizing, unplugging, and vacating the systems that are not consistent with our values and principles as anarchists. How we each do this as individuals and as communities will depend upon our ability to honestly assess our lives as we search for the root causes of our inconsistencies. The individual can begin acknowledging the areas where changes are needed by taking the Holistic Self Assessment, a guidebook for personal development and healing. This assessment is currently being developed between myself, John Vibes, and Sterlin Luxan and should be released by January 2018.
From the HolAn perspective, this process involves looking at six areas of your life: Economy, Education, Food, Energy, Communication, and Relationships. In the image below, each of the separate pieces represents one of these areas of your life and the two sections inside the “A” could be thought of as your internal world. Once you begin this process, you may discover other areas of your life that are inconsistent. Take on one area and one inconsistency at a time. Be patient with yourself. Actually attempting to “be the change you wish to see” is not easy work. It requires discipline and dedication. If your goal as an anarchist is to see the end of the state or the authoritarian mindset, you must take action that is consistent with these stated goals. Spend time looking at these six areas (and especially your internal world) to see where your actions are supporting statism or authoritarianism and how you might be able to remove yourself from these situations.
For example, when it comes to the economy, you may have a distaste for supporting and patronizing the Wall Street banks that caused the 2008 financial crisis, as well as numerous other crises in the last century. The Federal Reserve is responsible for the decreasing value of the U.S. dollar via inflation. It might make your stomach turn every time you conduct a transaction using a federal reserve note. As a HolAn, you decide to quit using the banks and switch to a credit union or hide your money in a safe or under the mattress. Even further, you decide to get involved with the silver trade, a local barter network, and cryptocurrency. Each of these give you the option to do business without supporting the State’s central banking system. When it comes to the economy, the focus on identifying consistencies and making appropriate changes naturally lends itself to the strategy of counter-economics. We have explored CE in detail elsewhere, but what it comes down to is choosing to do as much of your business as possible outside of the mainstream economy. This allows the individual to forgo contributing to the taxation system and funding the State.
When dealing with education, it is important to recognize that we live in an increasingly decentralized age where big universities and the intellectual class are not the only source of knowledge. One need not drown in thousands of dollars in debt for an education. How can we think holistically about the source and type of education we receive?
With food, a HolAn perspective would examine the source of one’s food, the cost to produce the food, the type of food, and what industries one’s diet is supporting. Energy involves examining the source of our power. Are you (as most Americans) dependent on electric companies and the city government for electricity? What steps can you take to decentralize from this system?
Communication involves challenging the devices and companies we support in our desire for digital communication. Do the social media platforms you support pass their customers’ metadata on to spy agencies? Do the cell phone companies include backdoors for covert surveillance? Activists and anarchists need to reconsider centralizing all of our communication onto platforms with close relationships to the State (Zuckerberg, we’re looking at you). We can make efforts to support and make use of encrypted platforms and generally practice a culture of security.
Finally, the HolAn platform involves understanding our words, thoughts, and actions in our personal relationships. For many anarchists, this area may seem trivial, but the reality is that each of as individuals are in the process of becoming the best versions of ourselves. We are each at different points, and though some might not yet realize it, we are here to become empowered. To do this we must work to eliminate authoritarian and statist behaviors in our professional relationships, our romantic relationships, our relationships with our parents or our children, and with our own heart and mind. If we want to rid the world of authoritarian behavior and blind submission to authority, we must work on our individual doubts, fears, and insecurities. We must also lift our brothers and sisters up by helping them recognize their own power and potential. This particular focus on relationships is the nexus of Holistic and Relational Anarchism. In part 2 of this essay we will explore this intersection.
The foundation of HolAn is the recognition that understanding the ins and outs of the political system or mastering economic theory alone will not lead to a more free world. We must also address our internal dialogue with ourselves, our physical actions, and the habits we carry throughout our life. By devoting equal attention to these areas as we do with the LEM Axis, we are taking a balanced, holistic approach to decentralizing our lives and becoming the sovereign beings we are meant to be.
Where does Holistic Anarchism fit within the pre-existing anarchist schools?
Most current schools of anarchism define themselves based on the type of economic arrangement they wish to see in their envisioned future anarchist society. Since Holistic Anarchists consciously choose not to lead with the LEM Axis, our school cannot be named based on economics. This does not mean we eschew economic study altogether. Rather, we choose to allow each individual to draw their own conclusions based on their own holistic analysis. Our preference is for counter-economics, but we recognize that other Holistic Anarchists may decide abandoning money altogether is the solution. To each their own. That is the beauty of this practice. With our focus on individual action, we fall under the umbrella of Individualist Anarchism. However, we do not ignore the need for community. We simply acknowledge that “the collective” whole is best served by allowing individuals to voluntarily and spontaneously organize as they please. Holistic Anarchism also abandons all initiatory violence in pursuit of a more free world. We believe in the right to defend one’s own person or property, but we do not advocate for insurrection or senseless violence. To initiate violence, even against an oppressor, is to become the monsters we seek to bring to justice.
If we actually hope to achieve our goals as activists and/or anarchists, we must take actionable steps in our lives. We cannot focus exclusively on social media activism or wait for some “leader” to come along and save the day. Every one of us must take responsibility for our thoughts, words, and actions. We must take responsibility for our own healing. We don’t have to do it alone. By focusing on examining every area of our lives and rectifying our inconsistencies, we can push towards consistent application of anarchist theory and practice. We can build compassionate and empathetic communities filled with individuals who see their own value and worth and are not susceptible to State propaganda or the barks of some authoritarian wannabe. It starts with the way we communicate with ourselves and those closest to us. It grows through the promotion of the Holistic Self Assessment. Once the Holistic Anarchist evolution touches every corner of our world, self-governance, self-reflection, and introspection will be woven into the fabric of our lives.