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Thread: On Authority

  1. #1
    i love skylights's Avatar
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    Default On Authority

    I am curious to hear people's opinions on authority - it's a subject I've been bouncing around in my head for a while. As an Enneagram 6, I've long had a contentious relationship with authority. But now, having been in several authoritative roles, my perspective has become immensely more complex.

    So authority - we encounter it every day: at work with our supervisors, at school with our professors, at home with our parents, in society with our law enforcement, in politics with our lawmakers, on TypoC with our mods and admins. Perhaps we ourselves are authorities, and have to deal with the opposite side of the coin. Our relationships with authority have a major impact on how we perceive hierarchies and how we live out our lives.

    Some questions for thought - answer all or none.
    Feel free to respond however you wish.

    Origins:
    1. How do you instinctively respond to the word "authority"?
    2. Where does authority come from?
    3. How is authority destroyed or taken away?

    Reactions:
    4. Do you always respect authority?
    5. If you disagree with authority, how do you deal with it?
    6. Are earned and bestowed authority inherently different? Should they be treated differently?

    Applications:
    7. Are you an authority in any role? How do you wish others to treat you?
    8. What is your usual relationship to authority?
    9. How does that relationship impact your life as a whole?

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    ... Tyrinth's Avatar
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    Origins:
    1. How do you instinctively respond to the word "authority"?
    With a twinge of annoyance.

    Reactions:
    4. Do you always respect authority?
    No.
    5. If you disagree with authority, how do you deal with it?
    Depends on the context. I may do nothing. I may just act sarcastically, but comply anyways. I may just ignore the "authority".
    6. Are earned and bestowed authority inherently different? Should they be treated differently?
    Yes. Ideally, no, but I end up doing so anyways.

    Applications:
    7. Are you an authority in any role? How do you wish others to treat you?
    ...Not really. I wouldn't consider myself one, anyways.
    8. What is your usual relationship to authority?
    Reluctant/not the best.
    9. How does that relationship impact your life as a whole?
    It can be somewhat detrimental.

    My... opinion... on authority is that bestowed authority is an annoyance which shouldn't exist (Even though I recognize its necessity), but earned authority is necessary and useful for creating a successful group of people.
    ...

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    I am curious to hear people's opinions on authority - it's a subject I've been bouncing around in my head for a while. As an Enneagram 6, I've long had a contentious relationship with authority. But now, having been in several authoritative roles, my perspective has become immensely more complex.

    So authority - we encounter it every day: at work with our supervisors, at school with our professors, at home with our parents, in society with our law enforcement, in politics with our lawmakers, on TypoC with our mods and admins. Perhaps we ourselves are authorities, and have to deal with the opposite side of the coin. Our relationships with authority have a major impact on how we perceive hierarchies and how we live out our lives.

    Some questions for thought - answer all or none.
    Feel free to respond however you wish.

    Origins:
    1. How do you instinctively respond to the word "authority"?
    2. Where does authority come from?
    3. How is authority destroyed or taken away?

    Reactions:
    4. Do you always respect authority?
    5. If you disagree with authority, how do you deal with it?
    6. Are earned and bestowed authority inherently different? Should they be treated differently?

    Applications:
    7. Are you an authority in any role? How do you wish others to treat you?
    8. What is your usual relationship to authority?
    9. How does that relationship impact your life as a whole?
    i don't automatically respect authority... not in any way that's different than the way i automatically respect people in general.

    i tend to view someones title as just part of the information. i still decide for myself rather or not i trust and/or agree with them.
    There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
    -Jim Morrison

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    Senior Member Chiharu's Avatar
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    I inherently dislike authority, rejecting anyone's attempt at controlling others. AT my best, I lead as an equal, expecting no special treatment or respect. But, when I get stressed, I become very authoritarian and I EXPECT TO BE OBEYED. Rawr.
    Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness." ― Kurt Vonnegut

    ENFP. 7w6 – 4w3 – 1w9 sx/so. Aries. Dilettante. Overly anxious optimist.

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    There is a difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason.

  6. #6
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    If I were to only take my perspective into account, then I would say that all authority is micromanaging.

    Though, I imagine that if I were to climb high enough a bright, blue, gestalt sky would glimmer in front of me.

    As for my reaction to authority:

    I will consider the request - If legitimate then I concede (based primarily on the practical characteristics); if not then I will confront (however I usually end up conceding as I have no "authority".)

    It cramps my style.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Very interesting post/thread. Thanks for posting it.

    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    Origins:
    1. How do you instinctively respond to the word "authority"?
    I have no abreaction to the word or actuality, I dont think I ever have, even during a libertarian/anarchist phase growing up. I've always had an understanding that there is legitimate authority and illegitimate authority, at the most simplist this could have been the authority of my parents (legitimate in my eyes) vs. the authority of teachers or strangers (illegitimate, at least part of the time or when in conflict with my parents).

    2. Where does authority come from?
    I believe it is to do with knowledge, being an authority in something is knowing about it, like being a plumber it would be expected that you have an authoritative knowledge of plumbing.

    It also can be associated with or arise from a role that someone is playing, they have authority because they have responsibility and with that accountability, in the main I do believe that this is role specific and circumscribed, so while your boss would have authority in respect of your work they cant and shouldnt stray across the boundary between that and anything else, like your leisure time, and presume authority there. Authority is also likely to time limited in most respects too, aswell as being context specific, so people could be appointed to the role of exercising authority but it ends with project completition.

    I know that this view is pretty rationalistic or thought out, there are other kinds of authoirty, charismatic authority for instance, and appointment can mean that you have persons in positions of authority who cant make a distinction between authority and authoritarianism or legitimate and ilegitimate authority and as a consequence dont want to exercise authority and are conflicted about it. I also know there are people who think that their authority should be boundless and frequently do presume to stray across boundaries and can make peoples lives hell if they deviate from what they expect or want them to conform to. That's the beginning of illegitamcy with respect of authority.

    3. How is authority destroyed or taken away?
    If it is authority which is based upon a role being played, well, that role can be taken by someone else. The nature of the relationship can change, if someone has authoritativie knowledge of something and that person develops their own authoritative knowledge then they are on an equal footing.

    The relationship between a parent and a child changes as the child matures, it changes to being one of equals, at least it should. I personally dont think that there should be an exchange of authority between parents and children as they grow up, personally I think that should only happen when parents die or when children have become adults and begin a family of themselves, although there are certain caveats to that. I believe that there should be intergenerational respect and that elders in the community should have the benefit of years and experience in exercising authority but I know that is not always the case and has been destroyed pretty much in a lot of youth centric societies.

    Reactions:
    4. Do you always respect authority?
    When I was young, yeah, I think I respected authority and had high expectations of authority, I was disappointed by authority more often than I was defiant of it or in opposition to it. This made my conflicts with authority growing up sort of interesting and anything other than cliched.

    Although those disappointments, eventual disaffection and disillusionment with authority led me to some interesting reading and development in my later teens, I remember reading a lot of anti-authoritarian literature then with a bit of a thrill of breaking a taboo or transgressing my own norms. I started out with the view of critiquing it and finding nothing of any worth in it but I found that wasnt the case, Marx's idea that you have thesis, antithesis and new synthesis I've found to be true at least most of the time in my own thinking.

    There are a lot of ideas which have some currency among US libertarian or individualist, like respecting the individual and not the office, which are commonsensical truisms, I've decided, on the other hand I do reject a lot of the unsavoury thinking which readily and easily attachs itself to that scene too. Always will.

    5. If you disagree with authority, how do you deal with it?
    As far as possible, without surrender, I try to be on good terms with all persons. Like the poem dissiderata says.

    On the other hand sometime syou have to be in opposition and be prepared to camp down for the duration in doing so. I think its important to first examine yourself, understand completely why you are disagreeing, ensure completely that the disagreement is not a rationalisation for your own faults or failings. In part this can be a good preparation for conflict or challenges from the authority you're disagreeing with because they ARE going to suggest this and its possible most of the time to anticipate what they will bring up most of the time.

    I once heard a saying that in any argument there's one side, the other side and the truth, to a certain extent I believe this to be the case. There remains a right and a wrong of any discussion but the discussion process itself can bring to light a lot of things which neither side has perhaps considered that carefully and which can be useful. However, in my experience, most authority which deserves to be challenged or corrected is not characterised by reflectiveness but instead arrogance, usually the arrogance of not being challenged by anyone, either because they have worn everyone else down or no one has ever tried to challenge it in any serious fashion.

    While I do believe in taking a position and holding it I've no illusion that disagreement is anything other than that, its not going to change anything automatically and it may never do so, perhaps the best you can hope for is that if you are taking your position and maintaining it and can sustain it then whoever or whatever is in need of correction will breakdown under the weight of its own contradictions in time. Most of the time when someone or something proves to be an authority in need of correct others have similar experiences of this to you. Sun Tzu was wise when he said that if you wait by the river long enough you will see the body of your enemy floating by.

    6. Are earned and bestowed authority inherently different? Should they be treated differently?
    They can be, I would not assume that one is legitimate and one illegitimate purely by virtue of one being earned and one bestowed. I do think that legitimate and illegitimate authority deserve to be treated differently.

    Applications:
    7. Are you an authority in any role? How do you wish others to treat you?
    I think most people are if they reflect upon it in some way, there are, at the very least, others who will treat you as an authority frequently enough, anyone who has ever asked you your opinion seriously with a view to it informing their decision making is assuming authority on your part to answer them.

    At work I operate as an authority, I've no illusions as to how tenuous that actually is, authority is a hard thing to prove legitimate and personally worthy of but its very easily lost too and hard to regain. Most of the public I work with are used to authority being capracious, combinging neglect and cruelty, being self-serving and as a result have seriously delinquent views and profess a toxic anti-authoritarianism built upon rationalisations for their own selfish actions.

    I would wish that others treat me with curteousy and a level of deference when it comes to certain decisions, on the other hand I wouldnt want them to do that too much, total deference is nothing other than total dependency, no one should identify too much with authority even when its good and true because they need to preserve a certain independence of mind and motive too. Without that they cant develop personal responsibility and consequential thinking which I think authority is there to foster in the first place.

    8. What is your usual relationship to authority?
    I would class it as fine. Authorities are just people, flawed as anyone else, most of the time struggling and particularly in middling circumstances in which they have superiors and subordinates operating a push-pull or when there are elephants in the room which no one can talk about, like the democratic deficit in most nation states which can be ruined by the decisions of international financial institutions or financial sectors. World is an imperfect place.

    Although perhaps there are authority figures who'd say that is bullshit too, I know a lot of them who think that I'm a thorn in their side and they really, really do want to be on a war footing with me because they are shit scared most of the time that I'm smarter than them. It could be true considered the Dunning-Kruger effect or theories like that. On the other hand anyone who has prove trust worthy, reliable and has not threatened me or over stepped the boundary of their authority with me and who are an authority figure are sure of pretty devoted and loyal service and deference from me.

    When authority turns toxic I'm its worst enemy. I've read at length ancient and modern sources on this, spiritual, philosophical, political and psychological, I think honour demands that you personally dont allow toxic authority to develop, that you challenge it where it exists, that you make sure it doesnt make a combe back were its gone and that you do what you can to support its victims and provide some kind of amelioration of their circumstances. It is a big ask but you've one life to live and if you dont stand for something you'll fall for anything.

    9. How does that relationship impact your life as a whole?
    Hmm, I do experience burn out sometimes, taking up that position is not one which everyone chooses for themselves. I know a lot of positive thinkers who're more content to believe everything is for the best instead and they live lives which are to their liking and probably experience less stress, I couldnt be contented with that though.

    Its just necessary to try and build up and maintain good social support because this is going to be one of the realities of life so far as I'm concerned.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaptorWizard View Post
    There is a difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason.
    Science's authority is derived from observation and reason, religion's authority is derived from revelation. To be honest I think both involve observation and reason but anyhow, neither are perfect (I mean observation and reason but it could as easily be applied to religion and science).

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    I agree with Lark for the most part.
    The only major thing I believe that he didn't cover is the issue of voluntarism. I think that a good portion of where authority comes from is the consent of those whom authority is held over. For example, as a military recruit, I'm volunteering to be subject to far more authority than most people, but I don't think that anyone who isn't should be subject to that. Of course this has it's limits. Mostly in regard to authority that is there to stop aggression. It also doesn't really cover individuals in an organization that should not be where they are in it's hierarchy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jryn1993 View Post
    I agree with Lark for the most part.
    The only major thing I believe that he didn't cover is the issue of voluntarism. I think that a good portion of where authority comes from is the consent of those whom authority is held over. For example, as a military recruit, I'm volunteering to be subject to far more authority than most people, but I don't think that anyone who isn't should be subject to that. Of course this has it's limits. Mostly in regard to authority that is there to stop aggression. It also doesn't really cover individuals in an organization that should not be where they are in it's hierarchy.
    That happens in all walks of life, I've read some research on it and would love to read more. Whoever learns definitively how to predict and prevent it will make a fortune.

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