14 June 2020

Lessons From Antifastan: Celebrating The Mayflower Compact

The evolution of the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone", which has sprung up more or less spontaneously around the East Precinct building of the Seattle Police Department, is arguably many things.

With their declaration of autonomy, the zone is almost certainly an insurrection against the laws of the United States. Their clear affiliations with the "Antifa" movement (itself a domestic terrorist group) and "Black Lives Matter" (arguably also a domestic terrorist group) further enhances this depiction, leading to the somewhat unkind but not entirely inaccurate depiction of the zone as "Antifastan".

Having moved into an area effectively abandoned by the Seattle Police Department, some also want to compare the zone to the Paris Commune of 1871, and other radical communities throughout history. Without passing judgment on the merits of the zone itself, a consideration of how the zone has evolved during its as-yet brief existence offers an opportunity to reconsider--and renew appreciation for--early America's own experiments in building new societies and creating new government. In particular, events in Antifastan highlight the unique success and wisdom of the Mayflower Compact, perhaps the earliest charter of self-government in North America.

The Zone Begins--And Quickly Runs Out Of Supplies

To the delight of conservatives across the board, within a day of Antifastan's creation, the people within the zone began tweeting out requests for supplies and food, indicating people within the zone were not nearly as prepared to shed the benefits of affiliation with American society as they first imagined.
The Twitter user’s account is “locked” so I have no way to verify this tweet. 
However,  Twitter user who goes by the name “Laura Couc” supposedly tweeted out a desperate plea for food – and it’s only been one day since the new government started! 
In the supposed tweet, “Laura” explains that the group invited some homeless people into the “camp,” and they ended up eating all their food. 
Now, the group appears to be starving and begging outside supporters to bring vegan supplies, oats, fruit, and soy products so they can eat??
Note: many of the citations here are of tweets and other anecdotal sources, or are predicated on such sources. Factual accuracy may be suspect and extravagant claims should be taken with multiple grains of salt. 

Around the same time, an image purportedly from the zone went viral, indicating the various supply requirements people within the zone had.

Here Comes The Police...Sort Of

By the end of the second day of Antifastan's existence, the zone had already developed its own police force--after a fashion.
CHAZ has its first self declared dictator/warlord. Seattle based rapper Raz Simone evidently deputized himself and his crew, and they are patrolling the streets, regulating any unauthorized activity in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
Raz Simone was not appointed by any committee or gathering of people within the zone. The best available evidences are that he and his associates armed themselves and unilaterally asserted themselves as "the police".

It would be a mistake to presume that Simone and his associates are diligent stewards of the law--or that there are actual laws enacted for them to enforce. Quite the contrary, a growing number of reports indicate that Simone and others are demanding what amounts to "protection" money from businesses within the zone--none of whom sought the zone's creation in the first place. 
As if antifa’s takeover of the Seattle East Police Precinct and the surrounding areas wasn’t frightening – and galling – enough, now it’s being reported that the violent leftist enterprise has set up a Chicago-mob-style shakedown or extortion racket. Protection rackets can’t be far behind.
Moreover, Simone's efficacy in the protector role has been problematic at best. Even as Simone has been extorting money from local businesses, there are reports of random thefts of personal property within the zone. This is no small irony, since the zone's rejection of capitalism theoretically means doing away with private property. Some within the zone have even attempted to defend the thefts as "redistribution" and the elimination of "privilege".

Clearly, the commitment of the people of Antifastan to communitarian ideals is not quite complete.

The Mayflower Compact: A Better Approach

There is no small irony to the issues of law and justice that have arisen within Antifastan. The United States itself arose from communities that English and later European migrants quite literally built out of the largely untamed North American continent. Colonies like Jamestown and Plymouth quite literally were built where there was no previous community infrastructure or even society organized along English and European principles, and the Native American societies were at best diffident to the presence of the European interlopers.

Just a brief review of American history would suffice to show the people of Antifastan what does and does not work when crafting a completely new community. They have had a perfect opportunity to take the best of prior bouts of idealism from American history, and they have squandered it.

In the case of the Plymouth Colony, the Pilgrim's situation was compounded by the fact that they made landfall considerably farther north than expected, well outside the boundaries of the Virginia Colony, with which they had arranged to carve out a settlement. This created for the Plymouth Pilgrims the unexpected problem of anarchy--they were literally outside of any known political order or system.
But when the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts instead of Virginia, discord began before the colonists even left the ship. The strangers argued the Virginia Company contract was void. They felt since the Mayflower had landed outside of Virginia Company territory, they were no longer bound to the company’s charter. 
The defiant strangers refused to recognize any rules since there was no official government over them. Pilgrim leader William Bradford later wrote, “several strangers made discontented and mutinous speeches.” 
The Pilgrims knew if something wasn’t done quickly it could be every man, woman and family for themselves.
Much like the people within Antifastan, the Pilgrims encountered the very real challenges of how to function as a community when all semblance of law and political authority has been vacated. Unlike the people within Antifastan, the Pilgrims were facing a true existential crisis.

In addition to a brewing mutiny between the Puritan Pilgrims and the non-Puritan "strangers" on board the Mayflower, if a community could not be sustained the Pilgrims would not survive the winter--and the winter of 1620-1621 was harsh enough that more than half of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower did not survive that first winter.

For the Pilgrims, the solution was found in a simple declaration that was signed by all adult male colonists, Puritan and "stranger" alike. The declaration itself was little more than a pledge that:
  • The colonists would remain loyal subjects to King James, despite their need for self-governance.
  • The colonists would create and enact “laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices…” for the good of the colony, and abide by those laws.
  • The colonists would create one society and work together to further it.
  • The colonists would live in accordance with the Christian faith.
While the document was short and simple, it established for the people aboard the Mayflower that they were indeed one community, one society, and that they should be united in the common purpose of surviving and building that community. Some historians give the Mayflower Compact credit for preserving the community as a functioning entity during that first harsh winter.
It has been argued the Mayflower Compact’s role in cementing the colonists’ dedication to each other and their mission was critical to their endurance that first winter.
Out Of Necessity, Self Government

The Mayflower Compact is important to American history because it established the basic principles of self-government within England's North American colonies. Even as the Pilgrims pledged to remain the loyal subjects of the English monarch, they recognized the extremity of their situation, and the relative inability of the King's Law to assert itself on the North American shore. Without abandoning fealty to the English Crown, the ability to function independently was recognized and embraced by the Pilgrims.

Within that practical need for local autonomy and independence came the notion that self-government by the people was not only possible, but even desirable.
The English Magna Carta, written more than 400 years before the Mayflower Compact, established the principle of the rule of law. In England this still mostly meant the king's law. The Mayflower Compact continued the idea of law made by the people. This idea lies at the heart of democracy.
Long before Thomas Jefferson, or even John Locke, a bedrock principle of American democracy was laid down on a small leaky sailing vessel hugging the shores of Cape Cod. 

Success Was By Design

The Mayflower Compact contributed to the success of Plymouth Colony for one simple reason: it was not merely a pledge, it was also a plan. Without attempting to account for every conceivable need or issue that might arise within the new colony, the Compact established basic guidelines for how the community would be organized.

Then as now, planning and design are reliable bellwethers for the success of any undertaking. Because they landed in the wrong place, the Pilgrims were forced to abandon their initial plan of becoming a part of the Virginia Colony. Recognizing this, they quickly devised a new plan to become their own colony.

The Mayflower Compact was the plan that carried them through that first harsh winter, and then went on to steady what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony as it grew and prospered throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Compact itself had largely fallen by the wayside by the First Continental Congress, but the foundations it had laid down of democratic and representative self-government by the people became the guiding principle of the movements that culminated in the drafting of the United States Constitution in 1787.
From its crude beginning in Plymouth, self-government evolved into the town meetings of New England and larger local governments in colonial America. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, the Mayflower Compact had been nearly forgotten, but the powerful idea of self-government had not. Born out of necessity on the Mayflower, the Compact made a significant contribution to the creation of a new democratic nation.
Antifastan Has No Compact, Only Chaos

The United States is hardly a perfect society. In all the world there is no perfect society. The best we can hope for is the commitment to a "more perfect union", as stated in the Preamble to the United States Constitution.

For this reason alone we should not be too scornful of efforts like Antifastan to seek out a better way, or strive to create a more just society. Their surface idealism is a thing to be celebrated, not condemned.

Yet the creation of a more just society does not simply happen because people wish it so. As American history demonstrates time and again, and as Antifastan is demonstrating now, the goal of a more perfect union requires considerable thought and significant effort. That objective requires that we contemplate, communicate, and ultimately compromise in order to achieve the ideal balance of individual liberty with civic responsibility.

Antifastan careened off the path of good government and a more just society because the people who organized the zone failed to establish a clear compact among themselves. Instead, they have muddled along in organizational and social chaos, resulting in increased lawlessness, theft, and violence.

Ultimately Antifastan will fail. The chaos and the persistent levels of disharmony within the zone will in time overwhelm the community, and either force the regular authorities of either Seattle, Washington State, or the federal government to move in and restore order, or dissuade the people within the zone from continuing to sustain the zone.

Antifastan will fail because not only did it begin as a spontaneous effort to capitalize on the withdrawal of the Seattle Police from their East Precinct, but because it has refused to establish any sort of agreement on how the zone is to be organized. 

Community organization does not require strong central authority backed by coercive police powers. It requires only a commitment by those within the community to be organized.

The Mayflower Compact committed the Pilgrims to organizing a just Christian community. By being so committed, the Pilgrims overcame all manner of adversity to build a thriving community where literally none had existed prior.

Antifastan has all the benefits of the infrastructure and services of the surrounding Seattle area, but without the internal cohesion of a compact, they cannot escape inevitable failure brought on by chaos.

Perhaps if the Antifa rebels had spent more time celebrating American History instead of eradicating it, it might have achieved something truly remarkable. Instead, it will be merely a footnote in the political chaos that has been 2020.

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