Recently I had a discussion about anarchism which brought up some questions that I was not immediately able to answer. The main question being, in an Anarchist society, what would happen to those with disabilities? What would happen to social services, health services, and mental health services? It took some reflection on my part, and then some research.
My first reaction is that people are inherently good, and there are so many people in the world (myself included) whose drive is to help people. This would not disappear. So many of the services to people with disabilities and mental health needs are non-profit. While they still have paid workers, many have several volunteers. I can think of several examples here in Eugene, Oregon: OSLP (where I work), Looking Glass, White Bird Clinic, Mind Freedom and SAFE, inc. (run by people who have mental illnesses for people who have mental illnesses), and those are just a few. I suppose it would look a little different in an anarchist society, but I do not believe that these services would disappear.
Another very important point: Anarchy is based on community and cooperation! Many anarchists envision a socialized system of health care in an anarchist society. This is an important aspect of Social Anarchism. There would be public services, and this would vary from one community to another based on the needs and desires of those communities. Here is a great article on this topic--the last section focuses on what future anarchist health care might look like: An Anarchist Vision of Universal Health Care: Mutual Aid Through Self-Managed Health Cooperatives.
It is often beneficial to look at the past to see how these ideas work in action. During the Spanish Civil War, there was a collective anarchist movement providing free health care to people. Doctors from rural areas joined village collectives. They built hospitals. Take away the government, and all you're really taking away from health care is politics, restrictions, and inequality. People naturally take care of people. Some recent examples of anarchist health care in the United States are: the Anarchist Black Cross, which provides first aid, health care, and trainings to protestors (see "How to Deal with Pepper Spray at Protests," Peacework March 2008). There are Black Cross Support Groups around the country. There is also the Common Ground Collective, which began in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (see "Military in New Orleans Requests Help from Anarchist Relief Project," Peacework, October 2005). And from 1969 to 1973, there was the Jane Collective, which provided safe abortions to women during the years that abortions illegal.
There is also the view that our society is the cause of much of mental health problems we have today. I believe there is some truth in that. Our society is fast-paced, and not catered at all to the uniqueness of individuals. The media constantly makes us feel bad about ourselves, and the government instills fear in us. Still, a revolutionary society will not make mental illnesses or developmental disabilities disappear. What we need as a society is more acceptance. We need to embrace people who have mental illenesses/disabilities/autism/personality disorders, etc., into our communities. This not only needs to happen in our present society (check out the "Look Me In The Eye Campaign" in Eugene and Springfield, OR), but also within the anarchist community (this article pleeing for acceptance within the anarchist community rang true for me based on past experiences: "Making Room for Difference: An Anarchist Response to Disability").
"Everything you ever wanted to know about anarchism but were afraid to ask."