Why and when you should have a problem with authority

Modern Western culture is obsessed with leadership and authority. It’s shoved in your face from the time you’re born. Parents have godlike legal powers over their children, and schools have almost as much control over the movements and behavior of students as prisons have over prisoners. Going through school the brightest students are sent to leadership clubs, courses and conventions. Businesses force employees to sign contracts that bind them to submit to the authority of their employer as if their employer were their king. Inside and outside of your home, school and work place your government forces you to obey laws written at the whim of politicians and enforced by police and military personnel. Every government’s public relations departments encourage its citizens to have faith in their political leaders and to believe that questioning your leaders is a sign of lack of respect for everything your country stands for.

If you don’t fall in line and obey your leaders you’ll be told that you “have a problem with authority” as if that were a sign of weakness and immaturity on your part. That point of view overlooks the fact that, from a cosmic perspective, all people were created equal. You’re not equal once you reach 18, get married, get a degree, get commissioned or elected. Everyone is always completely equal. There’s no way to earn the right to demand unquestioning obedience and reverence from other people with less age, or social, economic or political credentials than you. You can demand unquestioning obedience from other human beings, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to. That just means you’ve chosen to treat other people like a second class citizen to you. You can come up with all sorts of reasons to justify your actions that sound good on paper, but in the end you’re justifying the unethical subjugation of your equals.

Granted, parents have a responsibility to raise their children to their full potential, and this requires discipline. School teachers have to maintain good order in classrooms in order to facilitate learning. Police have to maintain order on the streets, and politicians have to set boundaries for everyone within their jurisdiction. Life has to have rules, because good rules are nothing more than good advice for how to fulfill your potential, and when an entire population follows those best practices then society as a whole is able to accomplish greater things.

The thing about rules is that they were created by humans to help humans. Humans were not created by a dogmatic authority figure to follow rules. When a rule is illogical and counterproductive it negates its purpose for existing. Also, rules don’t draw their validity from the authority figure who wrote them. When a king, elected politician, police officer, teacher or parent tells another human being that they have to obey and respect their authority simply because they’ve been imbued with the right to control another human being they’re really just forcing you into submission to serve their own purposes. When any authority figure’s rules or orders are illogical then the source of their authority is negated.

When an entire population mindlessly kneels before their self-proclaimed leaders they create a culture of servitude which undermines their own ability and responsibility to fulfill their individual potential. Plus, the next generation of humans who will grow up in this culture will assume that willful subservience is the norm. So they’ll mimic their elders’ beliefs and behaviors and pass them onto the next generation. In the process they’ll also spoil their leaders into thinking that their ability to control others equates to their right to. This arrogance will inevitably blind them and cause them to behave irrationally, and since they’re steering society they’ll steer society in a counterproductive direction.

Celebrating and revering other human beings’ authority over you is equivalent to celebrating your own subjugation, and celebrating your own subjugation is immature and irresponsible because it limits your (and society’s) ability to fulfill your potential. It would be illogical and counterproductive to will that everyone should obey their self-proclaimed masters.You simply can’t make a categorical imperative out of this behavior

On the flip side, if nobody follows any rules then society will devolve into chaos, but that doesn’t mean that you have to choose between being a mindless slave or a marauding bandit. Just rules are based on just reason. The most utopian individuals are the most reasonable individuals, and the most utopian societies are based on reason. You have an obligation to think and behave reasonably regardless of what anyone else insists is reasonable. History has taught us that authority figures aren’t perfect. Despite their credentials (and because of the arrogance they tend to draw from their credentials) they can act as irrationally as anyone else.  Mindlessly obeying them is like giving a monkey a gun. Every tyrannical dictator who ever has and ever will set the world back was and will be held aloft by legions of faithful supporters who equate obedience with maturity. Tyranny cannot exist unless good men follow orders. So if you don’t have a problem with authority then you are the problem.

However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

Biker Philosophy

Ethics

Thinking

Atheism and Agnosticism


One response to “Why and when you should have a problem with authority

  • A. A.

    Love this post. It is so very true and makes perfect sense. I will no longer doubt myself when I struggle with authority. I am understanding why I never get star struck, why I can tell people what I think, why I expect a certain behavior from authority figures and Im not surprised when they fail, why I believe a position of authority only means greater responsibility and not automatic respect, why I can easily correct those in positions of authority when they are wrong in black and white, and why I don’t fear authority in general.

    Like

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