Existential Psychology

Authority And Rebellion

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Almost everybody identifies with and roots for the rebel alliance in Star Wars but many of these same people subtly or brutally crush any and all attempts of those around them to rebel against whatever little authority they have managed to amass in their own lives. Rebellion against entrenched structures of power is usually good and just from the perspectives of those doing the rebelling and bad and treasonous from the perspectives of those  authority figures who represent entrenched structures of power.

Some authority is rational, meaning it’s based upon actual skills and knowledge, skills and knowledge employed for the benefit of those who lack those skills and knowledge. But the majority of authority is irrational, in place to protect the unfair, undeserved rights and privileges of the few gained at the expense of the many. These few have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, in keeping entrenched structures of power exactly as they are, because this allows their own authority and with it their unfair, undeserved rights and privileges to go unchallenged.

The above psychology holds whether we’re talking about an abusive tyrannical father within the confines of a nuclear family, an abusive boss within the confines of a tiny company, an abusive cultural group within the confines of a nation state, an abusive nation state within the confines of the world, and so on.

At all of these levels authority and the unfair rights and privileges it protects will always be rationalized by those who wield that authority as just, right, necessary, good, but these rationalizations are in place to smooth over the psychic discomfort caused by knowledge of the real motivation, which is to maintain and perpetuate unfair power imbalances where one group benefits and the other group suffers.

It becomes quickly obvious that rebellion is not bad or good in and of itself, nor is authority bad or good in and of itself. When rebellion is against rational authority, the kind based upon real skills and knowledge whose purpose is to represent and help all members of a given group then rebellion is bad. When rebellion is against irrational authority, the kind whose power is derived not from any real skills or knowledge but through fear, intimidation, brainwashing, and the reliance upon preexisting societal structures, the kind whose purpose is to protect the unfair rights and privileges of those few who identify with that authority then rebellion is good.

For people who have amassed their power through the use of irrational authority, rebellion of any kind will be considered bad and wrong, indicative or dysfunction, while following the rules, knowing one’s place, will be considered right and good, indicative of the natural order of things, since at the conscious or unconscious level those who wield irrational authority know that the rights and privileges they currently enjoy are based upon a veneer, they can only be maintained so long as the status quo is maintained.

Those who wield rational authority don’t fear rebellion, in fact they embrace and encourage active questioning and free thinking. They know their authority is based upon real skills and knowledge so they don’t feel threatened by outside inputs. And they wield their authority for the good of everyone, not their personal gain, so from their perspectives they have little to lose if someone comes along who can get the job done better.