Talking About Anarchism – A Foundation

by MW Cook

The foundation for what would eventually grow into anarchism was laid for me in grade two by a mean-tempered teacher named Miss Martin. Every Friday Miss Martin quizzed us on the times tables. It was a grueling test of a hundred questions. It was so long it made our hands ache. That was the point. Because if you ever finished the test without a single mistake, you’d be exempt from taking it for the rest of the year.  I got a perfect score on the third try.

I knew it as soon as I turned it upside-down on the desk next to me. I had been so close the week before and was completely fed up with the tedious and pointless work. I paid attention, avoided every careless slip, and nailed it. But when my peer marker handed it back, there was a tiny red X beside the fourth question.


But I was right. I knew I was right. I pointed the mistake out to my peer marker. She said my 9 looked like a 4. No problem, I thought. We’ll take the case to Miss Martin. The One Who Knows.  But Miss Martin took the Marker’s side.

I remained calm. I still knew I was right and I had lots of ways of proving it. I pointed out that 4 wasn’t even close to the right answer and no one in the whole class could have made that mistake. I showed her examples of how I wrote the number 4 compared to how I wrote 9 and clearly proved that my 4s looked nothing like 9s and my intention was obviously to put down a 9.

“This will teach you to use better handwriting,” she said, dismissing all my facts with a wave of her hand.

“But it’s a math quiz, not a writing quiz.”  It was no use. I wrote the quiz again the next week

I was disappointed. But more than that, I was shocked. Because I had proved I was right. How could she not have seen it? Did I argue my points wrong? I wrestled with it all day long and eventually this seed was planted deep inside my consciousness:

They don’t know everything.

I started to notice that no one at all seemed to really understand what was going on with life, despite all their apparent confidence. The Ones Who Had It Right looked no happier and were no kinder than The Ones Who Had It Wrong. The most common answers to the most interesting questions were supremely confident, “Because [your teacher / your parents / the elders / my version of God] said sos.”

Eventually it stopped making sense to submit my mind and lifestyle to The Ones Who Know. Because they don’t know—not any more than I do, at least. Because if they are no better than me, why would I follow their conscience, intellect or goodness instead of my own? Miss Martin’s seed grew up and a new idea hit me.

I have no need of governance.

That is anarchism. And it tastes delicious.