Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Anarchic Society in Jeremiah

So, here is the first follow-up post on the HBO show: Jeremiah. I know it is a bit late, because I promised to post it at once after the first one, but I got delayed.
However, here we go. I strongly advise you to read the first part and to watch at least the first season so you can follow my explanations.

Jeremiah hasn't got an overall steady plot, but it moves in a consecutive line with some out of the way episodes in between. So let us consider the type of anarchic societies present in this show. We have a huge variety of examples, starting with the first episode and going long into the second season.
First we have Cleo and her gang ruling a town in the Western part of what was once the United States of America. She rules the town with an iron fist and values brute strength over any kind of compromise. Cleo also has a high regard of science, but only as long as it suits her and leads to more power. She is an ambitious ruler of the small town, set to conquer the surrounding villages. We have here the standard tyrannic type of anarchic society, which is most notably known in todays society.
One ruler or a gang of brutes have a harsh iron hand over the population taking whatever they need. However, there is one nice trait about Cleo, she cares in so far for her people as she doesn't enslave them nor kill them without a good reason. (Of course, this can be said about most dictators.. they have their own reasons for killing people, not all justifiable) She preserves a status quo and peace and justic in the societies. But this anarchic type is not the liberty loving one.
So, let's go a step further.

In a later episode we see that Cleo is not the only settlement around and there are more peaceful, stable and less violent ones. None is stronger than the other and so they reached an equilibium which perserves peace (balance of power!). Now, this comes closer to the anarcho-capitalist view of Anarchic societies. However, those settlements do not work together in any peaceful way, but rather hunt each other down waiting for an opportunity to claim some super-weapon that gives them the upper-hand. We still have some sort of government (may it be one man or an entire squad or group of the society),so it is despisable.

What other societies does JMS show? Well, we have a religious settlement in one of the episodes of the first season. They are peaceful and law-abiding and instead of a government, they have a circle of elders to guide them. However, those elders are only the judges of the town, so this might be a close call to an anarchic society. We will see that this is not true.
Those elders have to get their legitimate power from two souces, first the kind of election and then the legitimation of the power itself. The first one is based on age and experience, which are two good factors, although it is age and experience in the bible and not in life.
This leads to the second factor of legitimation, the manifest on which the society builds and from which it derives its ideology. In this case it is some thwarted religion that calls the commandments their law-system and thus clings on a god-fearing path. Since this eliminates the prospect of full-fledged human choice of living as in anarcho-capitalism, we have some traits that don't correspond. These are the fallacies that almost kill Jeremiah and Curdy in this episode.

However, in the second season everything changes. A foreign power threatens the decentralised West and thus forces all of them to talk with each other. We then have a new constellation that goes back to the founding days of the United States and the beginning of the founding-father's ideas.
Those tyrans of each settlement come together to talk. And for the first time they are forced to trade and see the long-term benefit of such a system. The military society of Thundermountain gets them to work together and in return offers them their vast military abilities to fight the enemy.
We now have something that comes close to an anarchic society or at least a nightwatch state.
The military of Thundermountain is funded by the different settlements and in return gives them protection. On the otherside those villages have to adopt something like the Bill of Rights and thus leaving their people to the freedom of choice.
At the end of season 2 we have the final victory of the forces of Thundermountain over the foreigners and thus the victory of a Minarchist state over nature.

So, there aren't any other dangers to anarchic societies?
Well, there are two different dangers. First, anarchic societies can fall for racism or authoritarianism and this is the most dangerous enemy for these societies.

I will show in the next essay the compatibility of racism and authoritarianism in Jeremiah and the picture it draws of authoritarian or totalitarian societies. Those kind of ideologies are to be seen everywhere in JMS work (especially in Babylon 5).
He also underlines the importance of faith in any authoritarian society in several of episodes during the second season, but that's for different post ;)


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