Responsibility of choice

“…this is how I have made sense of my obsession with anarchism: the first target of anarchistic practice ought to be whatever it is in me that resists anarchy — what resists negotiation, the turning toward the Other as neighbor and potential collaborator. I return to Odo’s line, ‘What is an anarchist? One who, choosing, accepts the responsibility of choice,’ but I add this: The responsibility of choice arises when I acknowledge my own participation, in a thousand different ways, in the imposition of order on others.”

Alan Jacobs, referring to a character in Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Dispossesed’, in an article discussing anarchy, Le Guin, and ‘The Dawn of Everything’: when I read it, I had one of those flashes you get when someone hands you the words you need for something you’ve noticed but can’t describe. The insistence of our school on our procuring a doctor’s note for a sick child (rather than trusting our judgement as parents), or the need for our administrators at work to produce their own data describing our students’ progress and attitudes (rather than hearing from us as teachers), are each denials of our capacity to accept, or not, this responsibility of making a choice. In his essay, Jacobs borrows ‘the State’ from Nietzsche, to describe the order that takes away this capacity: it puts me in mind of the way professionals are asked to make use of expert recommender systems (as I think I remember Tara Fenwick describing in the case of medical doctors), or the appetite for ‘objective’ evaluations of the worth of social goods like learning, or cultural heritage; or the utilitarian logic that runs throughout all public policy. Authority and legitimacy should always be removed to lie outside the individual. It’s not (just) about limiting particular choices: it’s about dismantling the capacity to make choices, to evaluate a risk, or know what should be done or what is good, and to take responsibility for that judgment. Is this anything? I don’t know: this is a scrapbook.