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Fri May 22, 2015, 01:28 PM

Authority

A former associate recently approached me about her working conditions. She is a public school teacher. Although the teachers union per se has organized power, the faculty at her school is inconsistent in advocating for themselves. She described people as “scared,” though there is no rational explanation for their fear.

This is an example of the type of general anxiety that a significant portion of our population feels. It impacts the manner in which individuals and groups behave. In my opinion, it illustrates why the majority of the American public accepts -- or becomes emotionally invested in -- a social-political system that exploits them.

Obviously, the current economic trends are a major factor; people fear being fired. Yet for people to fear that potential, when they know that they are doing a good job, So let’s examine a few “group dynamics” that come into play. We’ll start with “authority,” and how that translates in group behavior. Though I’ve written about this first part before on DU, I think a brief review is of value.

There are three general types of “authority” in human communities. The first is “traditional,” and as the name implies, tends to apply to older cultures. Things are understood to be done in a certain way, because “that is the way that we’ve always done them.” An example of this can be found in how I can identify what general cultural phase a specific projectile point I find dates to, for there was a “cultural compulsion” in which everyone, for perhaps several hundred years, made their spear points and/or arrowheads. There was no authority figure who demanded that they were made thus; rather, it was the way everyone did -- because they worked in helping that group meet their needs.

The second type is “charismatic” authority. This is generally that man or woman who the group recognizes has special insights and talents, and who others chose to follow. In the negative potential, of course, that leader can misuse his/her authority, to impose their beliefs and choices upon others. Charismatic leaders tend to be like meteors: they burn brightly, but for a brief time. For their ideas for social change to take deep root, they must be followed by the third type of authority.

That third type is “bureaucratic authority.” This is the type that deals with large groups of people. The general concept is that most people have similar issues, and this system identifies the easiest way to handle that common problem. If you have ever had the experience of going to the DMV for an uncommon problem, you’ve come face-to-face with the weakness of such a system.

Now, within each of these three types, there have long been easily understood rewards and punishments for various types of behavior. Generally, an individual knew where he/she stood. That does not mean that their status was good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. But it was defined, with another type of “authority” to back it up.

This other realm of authority has two general sub-groups: “overt authority” and “anonymous authority.” Most of us are familiar with “overt authority,” which includes, among many others, when a parent disciplines their child; when a teacher kicks a student out of class; when a policeman arrests a person; or when a boss fires an employee Obey the rules, or face the consequences. In a relatively healthy society, these rules are enforced fairly. In a sick society, these are enforced in an unfair manner.

Let’s consider some examples. In a healthy society, more young black men would be enrolled in our colleges and universities, than in jail, or one parole or probation. For a healthy culture benefits from the education of not only all groups, but all individuals. An unhealthy culture involves a small group that benefit from the incarceration of a large group.

Or, another example: a healthy culture recognizes every adults human right to be married to the adult individual that they love. For a healthy society promotes the happiness and well-being of all of its members. In an unhealthy culture, a group with power attempts to impose its beliefs and values -- its dogma -- on other groups, to deny them basic human rights.

In a healthy culture, the legitimate purpose of discipline is to instill self-discipline. In unhealthy cultures, those who administer “discipline” tend to be undisciplined individuals, acting out their frustrations, anger, and sense of inferiority. By no coincidence, the American experience in the 20th century per public education provides numerous examples -- good and bad -- of how “discipline” and “respect for authority” took root in our culture. As the twig is bent …..

In the post-WW2 period, two dynamics were changing in the United States: public education was being recognized as more important than it previously had been, and the capitalist economic system began placing more emphasis upon encouraging consumerism. The two were, of course, closely related. Yet, there were some significant tensions between the two.

Progressive advocates for public education recognized the benefits of relaxing overt authority within the schools. There was European influences on concepts of instilling self-discipline in children and youth, much of that based upon insights in the field of psychology. These were sincere attempts to improve students’ experiences and futures.

Industry viewed schools somewhat differently. Since public schools are, in a sense, not-for-profit businesses, this applies to some administrators, but more so to the local corporate leaders and the politicians who serve them. The “elite” male students (many of whom attended private schools) were destined to go on to college, as were a smaller percentage of the females. But the majority of the public school graduates were going to be finding employment in factories, or jobs connected to the local factory or the construction industry. Female graduates might go on to, for example, nursing school, or become public school teachers, but the majority went on to become housewives.

Now, while we know that the greatest growth was in the military-industrial complex, the country grew in other ways, too. This included those things such as “the suburbs,” and cars to drive on the new highways, for the expanding middle class. A high school diploma allowed a father to work in a factory, and support his family in a more comfortable style than before. At the same time, there was a growth in other unhealthy areas, such as depression, substance abuse (primarily legal drugs, such as alcohol), and family violence (including suicide). Although other industrialized nations showed some growth in these areas, the United States was #1.

There are numerous valuable insights on the nature of how the middle class economic experience impacted our society. These include important thoughts on how, when our economy went from industrial to high-tech, the human experience -- in relation to one’s self and others -- has also changed. Still, in order to understand “today,” we need a grasp of “yesterday.” And some of the articles and books that were written back then are essential; my favorites include Durkheim and Fromm.

Durkheim wrote of the phenomenon of “anomie,” in which traditional bonds and institutions give way to the power of the nation-state. He famously spoke of citizens in modern society becoming a “disorganized dust of individuals.” Fromm built upon this, and noted how consumerism had led to a uniformity in the middle class. More, he spoke of how individuals increasingly found it difficult to be either alone, or different than the mass-produced modern middle class citizen.

That discomfort with being alone, and fear of being different, is the essence of unhealthy “anonymous authority.” No person -- boss, cop, teacher, or whoever -- has to enforce a code of conduct upon the individuals that make up a group, for they police themselves.

The dynamics of this type of conformity is distinct from the cultural compulsion that results in almost all projectile points resembling each other in days of old. Those cultures used specific types of projectile points for everyone’s benefit. In our culture, a small sub-group is capitalizing upon that anonymous authority that produces conformance.

Because the true nature of the beast of anonymous authority is not visible to some, or appears “too big to change” to others, society has created various outlets for those energies that should be invested in over-turning the system. People who want to be part of a team for identity are free to become fans of the Yankees, Celtics, or the Cowboys -- or all three. They can even buy shirts, hats, and banners that identify them with that group.

Or, they might identify their life experiences in a group context, be it religion, political party, or similar club. Or, for young adults, there is that opportunity to “be all that you can be” by joining the military. In all of these instances, however, we can see that some corporation or another is profiting financially.

But what is more important to the 1% is that those sports’ fans and religious folks are available to work in the factory -- or school, or office, etc -- most of their time. And to be sure they do their jobs, while feeling uncomfortable for unidentified rational reasons. To get out of work, slam down a six-pack, and to be ready the next day.

The victims of this system become alienated from their own being: they complain about work conditions, but never take meaningful steps to address the real problems. The fill their “off” time with activities that, while intended to be fun, are un-fulfilling. They avoid “alone time,” even if they lie to themselves, and believe they enjoy it -- but just can’t set aside the time. For they are too busy. Busy, busy, busy people.

“It is beneath human dignity,” Gandhi told us, “To be a mere cog in the machine.” Clearly, cog-ism is one human potential. But it is not the only one, nor the most desirable. In order to change the current reality, society needs a group of people to rise above the cog status. To reach a higher ground than that which allows people to know that “climate change” is a reality, and one that poses definite negative consequences -- for Mother Nature practices a type of overt authority that doesn’t consider if one is from a wealthy family, as everyone suffers -- but still be stuck in place, heading down a self-destructive path.

We need a revolution in our thinking, and our behavior.

-- H2O Man

26 replies, 1229 views

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Arrow 26 replies Author Time Post
Reply Authority (Original post)
H2O Man May 2015 OP
ms liberty May 2015 #1
H2O Man May 2015 #2
Gregorian May 2015 #3
H2O Man May 2015 #4
Solly Mack May 2015 #5
H2O Man May 2015 #6
Hekate May 2015 #7
H2O Man May 2015 #8
olddots May 2015 #9
H2O Man May 2015 #10
tblue37 May 2015 #21
panader0 May 2015 #11
H2O Man May 2015 #13
hifiguy May 2015 #12
H2O Man May 2015 #14
raouldukelives May 2015 #15
scarletwoman May 2015 #16
malaise May 2015 #17
H2O Man May 2015 #19
malaise May 2015 #20
sabrina 1 May 2015 #26
scarletwoman May 2015 #18
woo me with science May 2015 #22
hunter May 2015 #23
woo me with science May 2015 #24
hifiguy May 2015 #25

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 01:58 PM

1. K&R, so i can find it later; I'm on lunch and must go back to work..n/t

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Response to ms liberty (Reply #1)

Fri May 22, 2015, 02:00 PM

2. Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 04:33 PM

3. This is why Occupy Wall Street was so important, I believe

It seems that during the period of time in which OWS was demonstrating on the streets, the term "one percent" was coined. Now when a candidate who cares about the people is speaking, they can mention the one percent, and be confident that there is understanding.

In 1992 I remember being a young engineer, in the office, and thinking that Bush's war was the equivalent of shedding others' blood in order to secure a resource. I chose to speak out about it in the office, against my fear. It was when the younger Bush invaded Iraq that I heard the blood for oil chant, and I then relaxed about saying what I did in that office.

Part of the revolution in thinking is something I've said before: We versus Me. As a biological entity, this society had free reign to enough energy to support it's growth. But rugged individualism is no longer possible nor responsible. This is one area where the notion of changing our behavior is almost totally rejected.

Just the notion of "we versus me" alone is so complex and full of potential blocks that I fear for our future. I talk with people who say one thing, yet do another. So even the perception of one's own behavior must be close to the truth before an accurate consciousness can be formed. And then we can start to progress.

One thing I find very optimistic is the presence of so many people who until recently have been quiet. So I think that there is always a kernel around which progress toward a consciousness of the majority of society can grow. It's like telling a drunk that they have to sober up: it's not going to be easy at first.

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Response to Gregorian (Reply #3)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:07 PM

4. Very good!

"Occupy" was a wonderful concept/movement. The best measure of its positive potential is the amount of resources and energy that its opposition put into trying to discredit and stop it. It had caught the attention of a wide audience, with a message that made sense. In many ways, it was an updated version of King's planned 1968 Poor People's Campaign.

I like the idea of it being like telling a drunk to sober up. There's a lot of truth in that. My buddy Rubin often said it required the waking up of a sleeping people .....waking them up to their humanity.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:08 PM

5. K&R

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Response to Solly Mack (Reply #5)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:09 PM

6. Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:10 PM

7. KnR H2O Man

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Response to Hekate (Reply #7)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:11 PM

8. Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:13 PM

9. you are a reason I come here

 

thankyou .

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Response to olddots (Reply #9)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:20 PM

10. Thank you.

I appreciate that!

I'd like to think that I have some knowledge that is of interest and value to others in the DU community.

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Response to olddots (Reply #9)

Sun May 24, 2015, 11:53 AM

21. H2O Man is *literally* the reason I come here. I was a regular on smirkingchimp.com

when in June of 2004 I followed a link another person provided to one of H2O Man's excellent posts. I have been here ever since, and I always look for--and look forward to--his posts.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:24 PM

11. A fine essay, I'll save this to read again.

The fear you describe, the acceptance of exploitation... Most people now feel "lucky" to have a job.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #11)

Fri May 22, 2015, 06:54 PM

13. Thank you.

Although I know many DUers won't take the time to read a long OP, such as this, I do think the topic is important. And worthy of serious discussion. Not to say that my interpretation is necessarily "right," or the only one.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2015, 05:26 PM

12. K and R and bookmarked for a long, leisurely read later.

 

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #12)

Fri May 22, 2015, 06:56 PM

14. Thank you.

I hope it's worth reading, and that you enjoy it.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 23, 2015, 09:39 PM

15. K&R nt

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Response to raouldukelives (Reply #15)

Sat May 23, 2015, 09:57 PM

16. Thank you so much for kicking this tonight - I would have completely missed it otherwise.

I never saw it yesterday, and I really dislike missing H2O Man OPs.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 23, 2015, 10:33 PM

17. How did I miss this yesterday

Rec

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Response to malaise (Reply #17)

Sun May 24, 2015, 11:11 AM

19. Easily missed .....

It's not a pleasant topic; the OP is way too long; and hence it has been near invisible!

Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #19)

Sun May 24, 2015, 11:39 AM

20. If you write it

I'll read it - Waterman is never invisible for me

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #19)

Tue May 26, 2015, 04:05 PM

26. I'm glad it was kicked as I missed it before also.

The subject is very interesting. I remember being surprised to learn that in most revolutions that actually changed things, it was usually just a small minority who led them and that often, even families were split when one of their family members became part of a revolution no matter how justified it might have been.

Most of us are not heroes. Risking what is certain, a job, no matter how unsatisfying, for what is uncertain frightens most of us.

It takes a confluence of events it appears from looking at history, before people can be moved to take such risks.

One of those 'events' appears to be a 'charismatic leader'.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 23, 2015, 10:55 PM

18. What concerns me the most, is how so many people in our culture simply cannot bear "alone time".

I honestly don't understand it, and it sort of freaks me out, because I consider it to be absolutely bedrock crucial to the development of a "true human being".

I don't understand it, because from my earliest conscious memory, I loved and treasured being alone. Not as an escape, I just simply enjoyed having time to myself to think my own thoughts from as far back as I can remember. My parents encouraged reading and learning, and praised intellectual achievement and original thought.

And lest anyone assume that I grew up in a family of some sort of well-to-do highly educated elites, my father was a firefighter and my mother was a stay-at-home mom with no education beyond high school. They were liberal Democrats from strictly blue collar backgrounds who grew up during the Great Depression. They were never concerned about their children achieving material success, only that we would grow up to be ethical and kind and live with integrity.

Therefore, I can not remember ever not being introspective. I can not remember ever not engaging in self-examination to check whether or not I was behaving ethically - and to be sure, sometimes I did not, but the ensuing inner suffering definitely convinced me that I was much better off heeding the better angels of my nature.

I guess that "better angels of my nature" is the key thing - otherwise known as a conscience. Because as far as "authority" goes, it has always been the authority of my own conscience that I have followed throughout my now 65 years of life.

Conscience has been referred to as "that still, small voice". How is one ever going to be able to hear (much less actually listen to) "that still, small voice" if one is constantly engaged in activities that leave one with no time to be alone with oneself?

I have absolutely no idea how to fight against the tide of our materialist, superficial, shiny object adoring society. We are surrounded by people who have never developed any habit of self-reflection, who cannot bear to be "bored" by the least bit of time spent not-doing. No one can stand to just be - the very thought repels and frightens them. What could possibly induce them to trade the "authority" of group-think, for the authority of their own conscience?

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun May 24, 2015, 11:55 AM

22. Obedience is conditioned into us early now by our corporate Masters.

Obedience is conditioned into us early now by our criminal, corrupt corporate government.

Quite a few (seven, I think) of these links don't work anymore. For one of them, I was able to find an alternate link. I put them here anyway so you can see the titles of the missing OP's. I can't remember ever finding so many broken links on DU for a single topic.


This isn't about safety, it's about obedience
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x9608293

Excessive Loyalty and Obedience to Malevolent Authority
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x9588288
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x5751677
http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Time%20for%20change/593

The stench of fascism
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7765352

Is obedience the only way to avoid police brutality?
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10025544025

Either you are a rebel or a slave---Choose---But choose fast .
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=439x2030062

OBEY. - I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10025411360

Submissiveness required by zero tolerance, no excuses (Corporate Education)
http://www.democraticunderground.com/11249559 http://www.democraticunderground.com/10025714928

Seven years of silence, chanting, and obedience: Argosy Collegiate Charter School
http://edushyster.com/?p=1425

Why Are Americans So Easy to Manipulate and Control ...
http://www.democraticunderground.com/101644596

With little fanfare, the TSA has expanded to sporting events, music ...
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023416581

Noam Chomsky: How the Young Are Indoctrinated to Obey
http://www.democraticunderground.com/101623207

Submissiveness required by zero tolerance, no excuses.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/11249559

Students Terrorized as Police Officers Draw Guns During Unannounced ‘Active Shooter Drill’ At Elementary School
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10025826009

'I don't want to go to Disney World anymore': Parents' fury as TSA agents detain their crying, wheelchair-bound daughter
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022408410

Police set up roadblocks to 'voluntarily' collect DNA, blood
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023016470

The President decides. TSA groping will continue ...
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x9598152

Civil liberties disappear in the 2012 Democratic platform.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021267747

TSA detains woman for "attitude"
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021317581

Pennsylvania street checkpoint asks drivers for mouth swabs
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10024195885

The National Security State: Cultivating a Culture of Fear and Obedience
http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017222034





#TSA%20groping%20people%20640x360

?v=5








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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun May 24, 2015, 02:34 PM

23. Kids have to be taught to blindly accept authority and punishment of all sorts.

A society, community, or family is dysfunctional to the extent their children are taught that.

Look at North Korea. Look at any especially crazy cult. Look at the Duggers.

I was largely a feral child, my mom questions all authority, especially religious authority. (Why suffer middlemen if God occasionally talks to you directly?) Our family would be expelled from churches, big men bouncers waiting at the door. The Quakers were the only church that ever accepted my mom. She'd say what she came to say, the friends would listen respectfully, and then move on. It doesn't work that way in the Catholic church, or with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

My siblings and I were never taught to accept punishment as anything more than "shit happens." If you play with fire you might get burned. I played with fire a lot as a kid, and sometimes I got burned. Oh, well. Sometimes the burns were worth it to me, sometimes not. Random shit.

In middle school whenever I got in trouble I'd simply run away and the school administration learned soon enough that calling my mom would never achieve the desired result. It was either "Oh, he'll be home for dinner," or her showing up at the school as a Ms. Holy Terror. But even then, there were many solid boundaries in our family that could never be crossed. We were expected to be kind to others, kind to animals, and to use our brains. I had trouble with my algebra teacher, I had trouble with my history teacher, but I was still expected to learn algebra and history. They helped me escape high school for college, no questions asked. (In high school bullies could beat me. In college most students were adults and an adult beating a minor bloody would have been a serious legal issue, but more importantly, those sorts of bullies mostly didn't go to college.)

If I asked "why?" about punishment I eventually got an answer, past the immediate hot temper of any adult, and I've never stopped expecting that.

My mom's dad was a conscientious objector in World War II. He said flat out he wouldn't take up arms and kill anyone. They gave him a choice, jail or working as a welder in the shipyards building Liberty and Victory ships. He built ships.

My father-in-law is a peaceful sort too. The Navy put him to work as a Marine medic. He missed Korea by random luck, but they did use him as a guinea pig in nuclear weapons testing. He got to witness a nuclear explosion up close from a hole in the ground, and march across ground zero while everything was still on fire.

In a chaotic universe like this, authoritarianism of any sort is a failed ideology from the start.






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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun May 24, 2015, 06:21 PM

24. kick

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue May 26, 2015, 03:44 PM

25. A very interesting and thought-provoking read.

 

Thanks for posting!

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