This morning, as I was sitting in a Deli on 7th Avenue having breakfast and a coffee, I was also reading the excellent Anarchism by George Woodcock. What appeals about the ideas in the book is the potential they open up for people to take more responsibility for themselves and their actions while being less inclined to defer to authority. However anarchism has also encompassed some unpalatable extremes and the subject of this morning’s chapter was Max Stirner, 19th century author of The Ego and His Own, which contains deeply challenging ideas and advocates an each man for himself approach to life.
Having finished brunch I then walked south down Broadway and through Times Square which was absolutely jam packed with people. They were like herds of animals, all milling around, drawn by the energy of the place but not appearing to be doing anything in particular.
Then moments later I came across what turns out to be a Veterans’ Day Parade marching up 5th Avenue. A rag tag of military personnel of various ages and flavours, backed up by some very loud marching bands, and interspersed with a few armoured vehicles. I found myself marvelling at the pride with which this odd mix of thousands of people mindlessly marched a long the road in serried ranks. Wave after wave of attempted uniformity.
So in the short space of the morning I went from extreme individualism, to a thronging herd, to a group apparently drawn to order and group-think. Three New York streets, three world views, three groups of people behaving very differently. I found myself, yet again, thinking that as so often the answer is “the middle road”. Literally.