Ascent to Anarchism

One man’s story about his loss of love of the government.

I am an anarchist.

That’s the first time I’m saying that in public, but this is where I have found myself. I’m not a gun slinging, bible thumping, red neck from the hills.  I don’t hate people in government, I don’t go around destroying property wearing a Karl Marx t-shirt and beret. I am just a person who thinks that we would be in a better place if we let people be assholes if they want to be as long as they are not hurting, robbing or committing fraud against other people. And if they are hurting someone, I’m a person who thinks people should be empowered to resolve it on their own, or with the help that they choose, though arbitration, competition, advertising, and yes, force if required. I’m a person who thinks letting one group monopolize the doling out of “justice” is fundamentally wrong. I’m a person who thinks that people are more empowered to enact change by not giving companies their money when they behave badly if and only if, government doesn’t stand between them, tending to protect the large corporation. 

But I’m not trying to preach, I want to talk about how I transitioned from a strong liberal, someone who always thought he had science, tolerance, and pragmatism backing up my arguments and ideas to someone who thinks we really shouldn't willingly submit to having rulers.  There were a confluence of many events that brought me to this worldview. This story is about only one of them.

A few years ago at work, we hired a new technician. Vinny was amiable and thoughtful with quite a bit of a paunch. He never claimed to know more than anyone but if someone asked him for something or some information he would be right there helping out. I’ve seen this large, roly poly man squeeze himself into places I couldn’t get into just to tighten a nut. We would have to drive to locations out of state to work on machines. We would be in the car together, at bars and what not, so of course we would talk. He was a religious man, believed everyone needed to believe in something (to which I would respond that I believe in people and humanity). He was a good guy to have between some of the hard heads at my work place, mine included.

After Vinny had worked there for a year or so, I came in to work and my boss sat me down.

“Vinny, isn’t coming to work today”, he said

It wasn’t weird to be told someone someone would be absent. It was weird to be asked to sit down in his office.

“Vinny was arrested”

Now, Vinny liked his scotch, I assumed he had one too many and got picked up and put in the drunk tank.

“Vinny was arrested for raping his stepdaughter”

There have only been a few times in my life where a word or a sentence can bring the world crashing around me. I sat dazed as the universe got sucked into a small bright light in front of me and then, as the moment passed, expanded right back out again.

I said to my boss, “Impossible”

But in time, too short of a time, in my mind it became possible. 

How long had I really known Vinny? Not that long. 

How well did I know him? It wasn’t like we shared deep dark secrets with each other. I had never been to his house.

This is the war that went on in my brain over the next couple of days. Soon, I had brought myself to the place, that even if he didn’t do that, he must have done something. And now I was angry.

How could I misjudge someone so badly? What was wrong with me? Questions like these seared my brain every single day. I lost faith in my ability to judge people. But I’m a skeptic. I’m someone who checks facts. So, I thought to myself, maybe I should go see Vinny in jail.

I did. I’ve never been to jail before. The jail was pretty much what I expected. After security, and a long line, I sat at a stool at a long table along with everyone else as they let in the prisoners. Vinny saw me waiting for him. I never asked him what he thought when he saw me, I would like to know.

“What are you doing in here?”, I asked. I was trying to ask who he pissed off, or what else he did to deserve this. I found myself unable to be mad at the man who I could see was mentally trying desperately to make the best of things..

“I don’t know, I really don’t”, he said.

“Come on..”

“Robert, my step daughter has accused me of something I didn’t do. The school got involved, next thing I know I’m in here.”

We went on back and forth for a while. I asked him about DNA. I asked him about witnesses. I asked him about video. He told me there was nothing. I couldn’t believe this. He was claiming that there was nothing that should be keeping him there, nothing that should have given him a guilty verdict, mostly because he didn’t touch his daughter in the way he was accused of.

I was literally in disbelief. I could not fathom that authorities could be called, that he could be hauled off to jail, that he could remain imprisoned without evidence. I told him that, and he simply pleaded with me to read the transcript.

So I did. It was 1000 pages long, half of it was vetting jurors. I have not been in any trials and I don’t know any lawyers, so I didn’t really know what to expect or know what to look for with regard to strategy. But there it was in black and white. The jurors who said they could not convict based solely on eyewitness testimony were let go. The ones who remained said they could convict if they trusted the eyewitness.

Rape kits were done, they showed no evidence of rape. The prosecution asked if they were 100% accurate.

No DNA from Vinny was found anywhere, on towels, in underwear, nowhere. The prosecution asked if DNA tests were 100% accurate.

The sole eyewitness was the victim herself, a 15 year old girl who wanted to go live with her father. She was told no, and soon after Vinny was in trouble. The prosecution presented this as a non-event.

There were no other eyewitnesses. The brothers were in the house at the time of the event, so was the mother. The daughter claimed she knew when he was going to come in her room but didn’t think to take hidden video on her phone.

When I tell you there was no evidence, I mean it. The entire trial was innuendo and conjecture. If you told me at the time that this case was so flimsy, I wouldn’t believe you.

But the prosecution attorney was smart. She wrapped up her closing statement by exclaiming how this innocent, little, 15 year old girl was trustworthy and you, jurors, said you could convict if you trusted the witness.

Vinny is still sitting in jail today.

Neil DeGrass Tyson, a famous astrophysicist, was called to jury duty recently. He was asked the same question, could he give a guilty verdict based on eyewitness testimony. He said he couldn’t and he was sent home. He knows that eyewitnesses aren’t the best evidence, they are the worst. Add in that the only eyewitness was the victim herself, and there is a gigantic problem.

This sort of crime does happen. It’s a horrible and unforgivable crime, without any defense at all. But there is something very wrong when we are sending people away based on just the testimony of one person. There is something very wrong when children and teenagers have the power to put their own parents in jail just by making a phone call and making up a story.

We, as human beings, can do way better than this. If a different way is interesting to you, if you are willing listen to ideas that are completely sideways from what you are used to, I suggest you can start by looking into “voluntaryism”, “agorism” and the "non-aggression principle” and see where it leads you. It was a two year journey for me. The story above was one of a confluence of events that turned me. We have tools to cast off rulers and coercive government. It’s scary, but we should try to use them.

© Robert Hirsch 2016