Thoughts on the destruction of authority – a tragedy

The destruction of authority is a far greater tragedy than people realize.  There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Authority is needed in life.  Despite what people think, authority is needed in life.  Without it we’d all be in a world of hurt.  We need it to direct and guide things and to make things happen.  We need it to give us direction and to look up to.  Any destruction of authority is a destruction of something needed.   In some respects, it would be like a farmer destroying his fields.
  • Authority takes time to develop and grow.  In general, authority doesn’t just ‘appear’.  It takes time for it to take form and grow.  It needs time to settle and get established.  In many ways, authority is like a garden and, like a garden, needs to be grown, and tended.
  • Authority is not easy to regain once its lost.  Once authority is gone it can’t just ‘appear’ overnight.  If authority is destroyed its almost like it has to be ‘replanted’ again. 

There is a viking saying:  “Take care of the oak and live under its cloak”.  This is very descriptive of authority, its power, and our relationship with it.  It shows that if we take care of authority it will take care of us.  Nowadays, there is no concept that authority needs our tending.  We need to take care of it.  Often, the failure of authority nowadays is a result of lack of tending by the people.  There is a tendency to think it will grow and maintain itself as if by some magical power.  It does not.  In many ways, the failure of authority is often as much the peoples fault as any action of authority. 

There seems to be many misconceptions of authority:

  • That authority maintains itself.  As I said above, authority needs tending.
  • That authority is ultra powerful and invincible.  In actuality, authority is a very sensitive and fragile thing. 
  • That authority is trying to “harm” us in some way.  “Real” authority is beneficial and helpful.  That’s it power and its use.  History has shown that authority has been, and continues to be, misused.  This, though, is misuse of authority.  It isn’t ‘authority’. 
  • We tend to think that authority is like a god and is going to solve all our problems.  When it doesn’t, or something goes wrong, we make a big deal about it.  In effect, we are too quick to give up on authority and to despise it.

One of the great tragedies of the modern world is the destruction of authority structures.  By this I mean the political/social authority structures.  Many of these took centuries to grow and develop.  In the modern world we undermine these like they are nothing.  Governments are overthrown, cultures toppled, etc. as if they were toys.  Christianity has forced conversions of people, democracy overthrows governments, the idea of ‘freedom’ has become a cause to ‘free us from authority’, the modern world has thrown in many foreign elements into peoples society that they are unprepared for, etc.  All these has a history of destroying authority.  And after the authority structure has been destroyed what’s next?  What do you think happens, an authority structure just starts again?  When an authority structure is destroyed it is seldom regained.  In effect, the modern world is making authority structures extinct.  This is a great and serious tragedy.  People talk about the destruction to the environment . . . what about the destruction to human society?

A lot of the alienation of people I’ve seen in my life is a result of the loss of authority.  A lot of the hopelessness and despair I’ve seen in my life is a result of the loss of authority.  In reality, a lot of unhappiness is caused by the loss of authority.  Why?  Because the presence of authority – one that is believed and respected – creates a sense of security and safety.  Basically, this says that the loss of authority has great and serious impacts on the mental state of the people.  It is as impactful, if not more impactful, than any other element in life.

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