Planning Anarchy

When I think of planning anarchy, many things come to mind: What would a world be like without any planning regulations? What would a world be like without any private property ownership? without any government to speak of? A world without global corporations, with only global and especially local co-op-erations? A world where like the cat that walks through your yard or upon your roof—all people feel such freedom of roaming and lack-of ownership. A world were people simply exist with all existence. Perhaps one is a caretaker of some things, but nothing is owned, all things simply exist.

When we think of zoning regulations, they are a form of oppression and inequality. They are one person forcing their will for a cookie cutter world upon the people of a land. Oppression takes many forms in this life, but zoning is particularly divisive in that it is one person’s ideal of how the world should be structured, and it is forced upon the larger population without their consent—they are born into or they migrated from another land into this condition of oppression. Nor do many understand the common law to escape. And so, like all police power, the gun, the threat of the prison cell, the fear of even more limited-freedom are the oppressors here.

Everyday, an urban planner, working for a city, other agency, or for a firm goes to work to craft and enforce such inhuman regulations of life and diversity, to stamp their oppression upon the world. So many planners go into planning in the hope of being able to make a difference in the world, and when, after their schooling at last inhabit a position, find themselves experiencing cognitive dissonance. They thought that they could help make cities better for people, but end up just tell people to do things that they don’t want to.

And so everyday is another day of drudgery, another day of code enforcement, of depressingly spiraling downward, anxious for retirement, inwardly pained by the injustice they cause.

For the architect and landscape architect, they too are a part of this oppression. They institute practices and standards that although may help make designs safer and more accessible for people, still, they disconnect people from a greater rootedness. Cold, modernist, standardized, industrial designs unconsciously diminish the person as they make them feel like just part of the industrial machine, an easily replaced cog in the global machine.

And the deluge of the capitalist consumerism helps not either, for the pride and power of ownership drives this machine, exploiting some while raising up others. Everyday, people must get up to work to pay the rent or the mortgage to the “owners”, who often acquire their income without any work at all. The owner may help maintain a property or business, but the workers—as long as they are slaves to those who own, who can threaten by layoffs, eviction, and even prison for non-compliance to their wills as owners—the workers will always feel some degree of alienation, of exploitation, and as de-humanized, sub-human slaves, veritably they feel no true human equality in the capitalist ownership society. And if they cannot clearly recognize their exploitation, they are unconsciously driven mad by the dissonance they feel inside. And so they seek medications of so many sorts to ease their melancholy mind.

Prozac, Zolof, alcohol, and Mary Jane, meditation, yoga and religion, knowing or not knowing what’s wrong—they find ways to ease their constant pain. Escape to a vacation, to the mountains, into the blaring music in their car or apartment, into a TV show, a movie, a “love”, a “friendship”, a night of dancing, drugs, and alcohol. They purchase and consume. Anything to find a mental escape from their daily oppression.

As we consider the possibility of anarchy, it could take the form of a violent popular uprising, but more likely, it is taking the form of education, of the spreading of knowledge and the peaceable abandonment of the ownership system. People adopting an existence with existence. An abandonment of all guns, and prisons, and ownership. Of the repetitive stamp of carbon copied codes and designs, and the materials and tools, symbols of the global oppression. Free of the stamp of gender, of race, of cog, of owner, of citizen, like the cat in the yard, the oak tree on a hill, or the whale in the sea, existing with others, owning nothing but their own life.