The Gnarled Bush of Authority

After centuries of pretending they were better than everyone else, the royal families of Europe became so intermarried that their family tree could be described as a gnarled bush. The varied expressions of social, economic, and political authority share a similarly incestuous relationship with each other.

In Queens, NY, a 12 year old was arrested and taken in handcuffs to a police station where she was detained for several hours. Her offense? Doodling completely non-threatening messages on a school desk. In other words, she was treated like a criminal for attempting a modicum of self-expression within the confinement in which political, economic, and social control have placed her.

According to the New York Daily News article about this case, “Alexa is the latest in a string of city students who have been cuffed for minor infractions. In 2007, 13-year-old Chelsea Fraser was placed under arrest for writing ‘okay’ on her desk at Intermediate School 201. And in 2008, 5-year-old Dennis Rivera was cuffed and sent to a psych ward after throwing a fit in his kindergarten.”

In Yelm, WA, an Iraq war veteran was arrested for abusing his daughter, which included dunking her head in a sink full of water for not reciting the alphabet.

What do these incidents have to do with each other? They are what happens when authoritarian values are pushed to the conclusion. The principles become: those of inferior rank owe obedience and acquiescence to those above them, and those of superior rank are primarily accountable to their peers and to those who outrank them, not to those below them.

Witness police violence: It’s considered acceptable to frown upon police violence and get someone who outranks the cops involved to punish them, but when individuals physically resist or retaliate for police violence, they become transgressors.

Authoritarian practices are related to each other by their devaluation of the individual. The individual life is not seen as a means to the achievement of the individual’s personal values. Instead the value of an individual will be judged by his ability to satisfy the demands of authority. We are assigned a few choices to make, and once we pick a pre-made place we are expected to act the part.

Authority starts to gnaw on minds even before kindergarten lessons about brave soldiers taught by people who say that fighting for yourself solves nothing.

The state is the primary expression of authority. It often provides the muscle, and usually provides the official face of domination. It provides the structure to enforce the devaluation of individuals, and its ever-growing structure encourages the ruthless pursuit of individuals who assert their liberty.

Destroying tyranny begins with overturning the dominance of the ideas that enable it. Spreading the values of liberty makes it easier to live by them.

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