What is Autonomy?
Autonomy is the freedom to make your own choices without the inteference or authority of others. It is having the agency to move and act freely, to make decisions for yourself, and to enact those decisions without requiring the permission or approval of a higher power.
This is not to be confused with selfishness. It is entirely possible to act autonomously while still maintaining a sense of cooperation and care for others. Only, as an autonomous individual you can choose when and how to do so.
For example, it is the difference between the law telling you that it is illegal to vandalise another person's home because it is a 'crime', versus you choosing not to vandalise their home because you care about the person, and you care about the well-being of the community, and you care about not infringing on that person's autonomy.
There are a number of societal restrictions on autonomy thaat you most likely live with every day, or are at least consciously aware of:
- A child who lives with their parents may be restricted by parental authority. They may not have the autonomy to decide when they leave the house, what time they return, what food they eat, and so on.
- A child at school might have their autonomy restricted by being constrained to a classroom for a set number of hours in the day, with no choice about when they leave, or if they even want to be there. Their choice of clothes might be restricted by uniform rules, and they may even need to ask permission to use the bathroom.
- A person at work might have their autonomy restricted by having a boss who decides the scheduling of their day, what work they are to perform, what hours they are restricted to, and what they can and can't do at any given moment without permission.
- A person who is in a mental hospital might have their autonomy restricted by a doctor who decides when and how they are allowed to engage with society, if they should be restrained or isolated in a seclusion room, if they should have medication administered without their consent, or if they need to be watched 24/7 by guards.
This list of examples expands out from the home to every facet of life under government: Parenting, Patriarchy, Landlordism, Schools, Wealth Inequality, Prisons, Bordered Property, Work, Religion, Law, Police, and more. These all--in some way--restrict the autonomy of the individual by giving control over them to a higher power.
Why is Autonomy important to Anarchy?
Autonomy is not something that can be prescribed to you. It is something that needs to be built. It is a constant conversation between you and the world and people that surround you. Treating autonomy as an absolute rule only acts to negate the very idea of autonomy. When it becomes an absolute rule, we are no longer autonomous because we are bound by the rule of autonomy. Instead, it is a dialogue that we have with each other whereby we respect each other's agency as long as our own agency is respected by others.
To put it simply, we treat others in the way that we would like to be treated; as equals.
[To be expanded?]