Anonymous™️ | anonymity
According to the ancient Greek custom of hospitality (called xenia, or “ξενία”), one is expected to entertain the needs of a stranger first before you learn their name.
Ergo: the guest is anonymous, and the host honors this boundary UNTIL the guest feels ready to share their identity.
Indeed, it’s within this precise context that the first example of the word “anonymous” (ανώνυμος) appears in written literature; in Homer’s Odyssey, (Book 8, line 552).
In the story, Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians, has given Odysseus wonderful hospitality, ‘xenia’, in his palace.
As Odysseus was cared for, the king noticed how he burst into tears when a singer sang a song about the Trojan War, and gently asked his name.
There’s a lot of appropriate context to this exchange, worthy of examination, and on a lot of levels.
Note in particular how the king honored Odysseus’ entitled right to his anonymity until he felt that his guest’s needs were properly addressed.
Within 12-step recovery the concept of anonymity is powerful because it places the needs of the collective above that of the individual.
Some claim the “12 steps” are divinely inspired. Meh. I don’t know about that; you want to see something REALLY impressive, look past the steps to the “Twelve Traditions.”
The “Twelve Traditions” serve as the framework by which the internal operations of all 12-step programs operate, and they were introduced in 1950, after 15 years of viral growth as the collective learned how to deal with a famously self-centered and egotistical co-founder (Bill W).
And dang it, it worked: 12-step recovery programs remain one of my favorite examples of a functional, decentralized self-governing culture.
Sure, there’s professional recovery centers, but that’s not the same thing. Making use of the Twelve Traditions, a sole person has the ability to serve as an ember as they ignite an entirely new group.
There’s no need for leaders, money, or a building.
And so: if an activist wanted to make use of these traditions within other collectives, one might consider the following applicable excerpts from the Twelve Traditions, modified here to make them a little agnostic from recovery:
- Our common welfare should come first; our success depends upon unity
- Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups the collective as a whole
- Each group has but one primary purpose (and each group defines it)
- A group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the collective name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions
- We should remain forever nonprofessional
- We ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films
- Anonymity is the foundation of our traditions, reminding us to place principles before personalities
And so you can see that any attempt to brand anonymity is doomed to fail.
It’s not personal; it’s an oil and water proposition.