The dictionary defines authority as the power to “influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.” Authority’s Latin roots are master, leader, author—thus it lives next to its tough cousin, power. Families, organizations, and governing bodies influence and command us, whether slightly or mightily. Authority has legitimacy, from a traffic officer’s directives to a mentor’s wisdom . An authority may reward desired behavior or provide expert advice. We can rebel against authority, be coerced into compliance, or fall into identification with a leader.
Ultimately, we must claim our own authority in determining values and making decisions. Jung says, “Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call because of childish laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis. And once this has broken out, it becomes an increasingly valid reason for running away from life and remaining forever in the morally poisonous atmosphere of infancy.”
“There is a viral outbreak. I’m in a car pulling out into the street. I see a lot of police cars parked to monitor traffic. I’m pulled over by the police and taken to a medical facility for testing. The police officer gets tested first by a shot in the arm and then I’m taken downstairs for a “cheaper, less reliable test for the virus.” This seems stupid and vindictive. My perspective shifts to a news flash vignette showing how amidst the pandemic, young men have regressed into grotesque testicular forms who engage in tribal rituals of dysfunctional, impractical sex, chanting “me to me” or “us to us” like in the sex scene in the film Requiem for a Dream. Very dark and disturbing. The global birth rate is plummeting. From elsewhere on the planet a “pure as the driven snow” baby girl is born and mankind is redeemed.”
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind (Amazon).