The End Of Authority

by Jeff Costello, November 23, 2011

The “Question Authority” bumper sticker is obsolete. Authority has been thoroughly questioned — and failed the interview. The evidence of its failure is global, as vainglorious national leaders everywhere fall, issuing denials all the way to the bottom, their narcissism and lust for power on display for everyone to see. The jig is up.

And here in the good ol’ USA, anarchy has broken out, from Wall St. to small towns in practically every state. Before long, the terms anarchy and radical may be understood for what they are, rather than what the authority structure would have us believe. It’s fun seeing it happen, as everyone from Middle Eastern dictators to the clown-show debates of Republican presidential hopefuls — all the naked emperors — scramble to save their asses and salvage a shred of dignity. Even the most earnest Obama voters, lots of them, are seeing that there is no such thing as an uncompromised president.

You’ve got to hand it to the Occupiers. Many have left the illusory comfort and security of houses in fictitious neighborhoods, where actual community is an unknown concept, to gather in modern-day Hoovervilles where cooperative community without the bludgeon of authority (anarchy) is necessary for survival. The operative term here is trust. Anarchy requires it. Occupiers appear to understand that. Why do we distrust others so, anyway? Because we are told to, by authority figures, hardly a trustworthy lot themselves.

“Mum, what are cops for?”

“To protect them that has from us that ain’t.”
— dialog from the movie, “The Secret Agent”

During my period of conversations on an internet forum with a few random right wing Americans, I learned that anger was a dominant part of their personalities. And fear — an incessant worry that someone might take away their toys. Thus: Law and Order. The left wing of the American right — liberals — score not much better on this matter. In suburbs where most everyone votes for Democrats, you may not see much red, white & blue, but prominently displayed on most of the properties are signs announcing the presence of high-tech alarm systems.

Let’s distinguish between authority and Authority. Back in the 80s I found a t-shirt that said Authorized, and in smaller letters, like a signature, Larry Joseph. It was a kick having this shirt because I had recently decided to write, be an “author.” And I imagined this t-shirt as lending credence to the notion. Later on, when I met Joseph, he accused me of stealing it, was annoyed that I had it, and let me know that I was not, after all, authorized.

Some years later I encountered a woman who announced herself as “an author.” Well… She had or has written a few self-help books, not very good ones (if there are any good ones). They were about having and gaining confidence, but her speech seemed very forced, as though she was reading out loud from her own text. She was, in fact, not confidant at all. Never again would I refer to myself or any of my friends who wrote, as an author.

We’re talking authority with the small “a” here, a relatively harmless term. To speak “with authority” on given topic. There are times someone must be in charge. The leader of a band, the captain of a ship. Their authority must be based on competence, can’t be faked. The irony is, at the capital “A” authority level, driven mostly by vanity expressed as lust for power, competence has nothing to do with it.

“Who died and made you boss?” Remember that one? A joke. But is it really a joke? You’re supposed to be this, supposed to be that. Even as a child I asked who was doing the supposing. Never got a clear answer. Still waiting.

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