Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Some Thoughts On Authority

Long before I read the Satanic Bible I used to define my personal outlook on life as “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”. In other words I recognised no authority other than that of my own will and I lived as far as possible according to laws, morals, timescales and aesthetic standards made by myself in accordance with my own will. This was what lead me to getting involved with the anarchist movement for a while, before I realised what a cesspit of christian morality it was, and still is!

However even back then I recognised the authority of superior physical force. Whatever my feelings towards the police at the time, I would obey a policeman, simply because he had a baton and pepper spray, while I didn’t and I realised it was wise to obey the laws of the land because the State had an army of policmen (and the armed forces if need be) to enforce it’s dictats.

Similary if I walked into an unfamiliar pub and a group of tough looking locals said “we don’t want your sort in here”, I wouldn’t point out the fact that I had just as much right as them to be there and that they had no authority to ask me to leave. That would have just got me a trip to the local casualty ward, their might gave them the right to tell me to get lost!

Superior physical force is the main way that authority manifests itself. The mace that many kings and queens still carry is symbolic of the club that the kings in ancient days used to bash out the brains of any dissenters. It is no coincidence that the sword appears in the symbol of justice, all authority and hierarchy was enforced by the blade.

Authority can also manifest itself when one party consents to be governed by the other, even though that other party’s authority is not backed up by physical might. The workplace is the classic example; unless you are the head of the company you work for, you give your consent for those above you to wield their authority over you.

However, what is freely given can also be taken away. Whereas authority backed by superior might can be wielded at the discretion of the stronger party for as long as they remain the stronger, the other kind can only be wielded for as long as the ‘subordinate’ party gives it’s consent. Should the authority of my manager at work become onerous to me, for example if he told me I have to work through my lunchbreak, I would simply withdraw my consent to be ‘subordinate’ and go to lunch at my usual time.

This is why I find the topic of “workplace bullying” (currently a big issue here in the Civil Serivce) rather puzzling. Bullying is simply authority overstepping it’s mark. Obviously schoolyard bullying is authority manifested through physical force going too far. Stronger/older kids pick on the weaker/younger ones, the only way to combat it is either to become stronger yourself (learn to fight better or wait til your growth catches up with that of your tormentors’) or find someone tougher to fight for you like an older brother. The victim does not consent to be bullied in these cases.

Workplace bullying however is consensual authority going too far, so surely the first step in combatting it is to withdraw your consent? A classic example given is managers giving their staff unreasonable workloads or unrealistic deadlines. In those situations I would just say “I shall do what I can today, if it isn’t finished by the end of the day then I shall finish it tomorrow”. I would not feel pressurised into working through the lunch break I am legally entitled to or taking work home with me, as often happens here.

I think the problem is that too many people are both stupid and weak. They are too stupid to realise that the authority their ‘superiors’ at work wield over them depends on THEIR consent, which they have the power to withdraw at any time should it overstep it’s mark. I have seen people quaking with fear when confronted by someone of a higher grade, allowing themselves to be talked to as if they were misbehaving toddlers, not adults. Their inherent weakness makes them crumble at the merest whiff of authority, without stopping to analyse and determine whether they have any control over the situation.

Of course in these kind of cases resistance can lead to consequences ranging from being labelled “bolshie” and having your career blacklisted to even losing your job, if you are too forceful. However, having known people whose health has been adversely affected (including in one case a fatal heart attack) by workplace stress, I would say the consequences of NOT standing up for oneself are potentially far worse, both for one’s health and one’s pride and self respect.

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