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Thread: World Without Obedience/Authority:Toward a Life of One's Own, and a Real Revolution

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    World Without Obedience/Authority:Toward a Life of One's Own, and a Real Revolution


    August 03, 2010
    On Wikileaks (IV): A World Without Obedience or Authority: Toward a Life of One's Own, and a Real Revolution
    Part I

    Part II

    Part III


    If I obey the laws of the land, I actually support its constitution ... there is no such thing as obedience in political and moral matters. -- Hannah Arendt

    Leaking is inherently an anti-authoritarian act. It is inherently an anarchist act. -- Julian Assange

    Wikileaks' Threat to "Order" and Authority

    In her essay discussed in the second part of this series, Hannah Arendt argues that what we commonly call obedience cannot, in the political context, properly be regarded as obedience at all. In fact, it is support -- for a country's constitution, its laws, and its panoply of requirements concerning how we act.

    By creating Wikileaks and utilizing it in the manner he does, Julian Assange has withdrawn that support, and he has chosen to act in the manner condemned by those who insist on obedience to authority: he acts "irresponsibly" (the term used by critics of those who disobey, as Arendt notes). When obedience means that one supports a system of brutality, oppression, cruelty and death, to act "irresponsibly" is the only way to express one's loyalty to the values of freedom, truth and the sanctity of life.

    The power of Wikileaks does not lie in the fact that it challenges a particular authority or only one system of obedience; its power arises from its rejection of authority and systems of obedience as such.

    The startling effectiveness of the challenge represented by Wikileaks can be witnessed repeatedly in the reactions of those who condemn Assange and his work with such heated vehemence. I discussed a typical reaction from the conservative side of the political spectrum in the last section of this article. As I noted there, the tone and specific terms of Tunku Varadarajan's violent condemnation reveal someone who is profoundly unnerved by Wikileaks' actions, and by the fact that Wikileaks exists at all. I also pointed out -- and this bears emphasis for purposes of the present analysis -- that what finally undoes Varadarajan utterly is that he sees no way to stop Assange and Wikileaks.

    This is further testament to Assange's brilliance -- and it is also testament to what I call "the power of 'No'": finally, the only weapon held by those who insist on obedience to authority is your own willingness to comply. If you refuse to comply, if you say "No," if you act "irresponsibly" and withdraw your support, there is nothing they can do. Those who represent and uphold authority understand this. Many other people do not. Wikileaks may help many people to see finally the enormous power they have, if only they will use it. (On this point, see this essay including the Addendum, and follow this link and this one for some extraordinary historical examples of the power of non-cooperation.)
    Those who want liberty must organize as effectively as those who want tyranny. -- Iyad el Baghdadi

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