Against All Authority
By Steve Gillman
Why am I against all authority? Well, I am not exactly against
the authority figures themselves. They have their roles to play.
We need protectors in the form of police, and we need experts
in the various fields of knowledge to advise us. What we don't
need is the concept of authorities who should make decisions
for us, or that "know better" than us. We also don't
need authority in the form of sacred books that pretend to be
the final word on anything.
There is no authority above that of my own mind. This is true
for myself, of course. Obviously, you have to follow your
own mind. I am advocating that each person place the authority
of his or her own mind above the decrees or desires or decisions
of all authorities.
Consider what it means for a moment to believe that you should
obey any authority, whether it be religious, political, medical
or other. To believe this is to stop thinking - at least in any
case where your thoughts might disagree with the outside authority.
Some people think this is good, that a religious book has all
the moral thought they need, that doctors know what is best for
them, or that no law should ever be broken. The reasoning might
be, "If the authority knows better than I, why not follow
Of course, there is a major flaw in this reasoning, because
to even accept a given authority among the many choices, you
must first decide which one is correct or best. This, of course,
requires the use of your own mind. If your mind is capable of
deciding who or what to follow, wouldn't it only make sense that
it is capable of deciding that this person, idea or book is wrong,
or that another is better? And if this is the case, aren't you
really declaring your own mind to be the final authority on all
matters? Yes, and that's as it should be!
Against All Authority - Two Quotes
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard
it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and
rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it
is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything
merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe
in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything
agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of
one and all, then accept it and live up to it. - Buddha
Authority slavery is one of the biggest enemies of truth.
- Albert Einstein
The irony in using these quotes is that I am appealing to
authority (Buddha and Einstein) to convince the reader to be
against all authority. But there is a logic to this, as I will
explain. There is nothing wrong with seeking advice or wisdom
from others, even those who are considered authorities in some
way. If what we hear them say makes sense to us and fits reality,
we should learn from that, right? This doesn't mean, however,
that we need to follow blindly or never change our minds.
If a doctor says that my arm is broken, I will normally trust
his assessment, and follow his advice. On the other hand, the
fact that he knows more about medical matters than I doesn't
mean he knows everything, nor does it mean that he is always
right. This is why we get second opinions about our medical problems.
As with doctors, all advice of authorities should be just that
- advice. You have a mind, and authorities will often have differing
ideas, so you have to at least trust your mind to decide who
is more likely correct.
Okay, you may agree with me that it is best to be against
all authority as a matter of obedience, But what about the incredible
respect that we give to authorities? Is it too much? I certainly
think so, and I will start my explanation with a story about
something that happens hundreds of times daily all over the country:
a weather report...
Continued on the page, No Authority.
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