In theory, anarchy would be complete freedom from political, governmental, or authoritative intervention, resulting in the maximum liberty and rights for individuals. Many people like this ideal because it comes with a certain amount of lawlessness and disorganization that they find appealing. The most common symbol for anarchy is usually referred to as “Circle-A.” It can more casually be typed as @ or (A). These symbols all represent an A for 'anarchy' surrounded by an O for 'order,' conveying the message or motto that “Anarchy is Order.”
This symbol was first used in Spain in the late 1800s and was adopted by the Anarchy movement in France in the 1960s, spreading quickly around the world. Anarchy as a political movement experienced a relatively brief period of popularity that has since waned in prevalence. However, anarchy remains a widespread personal philosophical ideal, particularly because the idea of absolute freedom and independence appeals to a large number of people. (A) is not the only symbol for anarchy, nor is it the oldest, and several others have begun to gain favor.
Perhaps the oldest symbol for these beliefs, the Jolly Roger, the Black Flag or pirate flag, has been associated with anarchy since the mid-1800s. Pirates lived life outside the realm of normal, acceptable culture. Pirates did what they wanted and took what they pleased. As such, their symbols became associated with lawlessness and rebellion. The Jolly Roger is a general name for a variety of pirate flag designs, but the most well-known version is a white skull and crossbones on a black, rectangular flag.
Because a white flag is the universal sign for surrender, the black flag is clearly a symbol of defiance and a refusal to assimilate or be oppressed. Furthermore, pirates sailed under a black flag rather than the flag of a country like other ships and crews. They sailed and lived completely separate from government protection and rule. Pirates, with the use of a Jolly Roger, showed that they were not ruled by a government. Some pirates chose different colors, like red, but these variations were not as recognizable as the black.
More rarely, a black rose is used to symbolize the movement and belief system. Black is largely associated with anarchism in general, but the black rose was chosen as the symbol, and name, for a popular anarchist journal, lecture series, and stores. A black fist and black cross are also connected with anarchy.
People who embrace this pirate ideology are the most likely to identify with the anarchist beliefs as they stand today. Refusal to abide by copyright laws, such as illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted materials like movies or music, is known a piracy and pirating. These internet rebels, who have been dubbed “techno-anarchists,” embrace their free lifestyle, independent beliefs, and refusal to adhere to laws which they view as arbitrary or unfair. It is not only media pirates who embrace the pirate philosophy but also those who reject the normal way of life for most people in Western culture. Some people who refuse to be involved in corporate America, hold typical jobs, and confine themselves to a nuclear family often refer to themselves as pirates and embrace pirate attitudes.
Today, anarchy is less about achieving the broad realization of governmental and political chaos, and more about embracing one's own freedom and independence. It is less about getting rid of all laws, and more about defying those laws which seem pointless, unfair, or misguided. Refusing to comply with normal conventions, whether legal or illegal, are paramount. It is less important in this modern incarnation to outwardly thwart the government and more important to be who you are and live how you want.
Being true to yourself, in the face of adversity from the government and society, and doing what you perceive to be correct are the aims of the new movement. Tattooing is perhaps the ideal medium for displaying this belief. Tattoos are still outside of the cultural standard for most people and is usually associated with a certain rebelliousness and individuality. Tattoos are traditionally associated with those who exist in the fringes of society, or with those who shun societal conventions entirely.