Is it possible that we submit to authority because we have this ingrained desire to feel “super-safe”? Perhaps it is also true that what we achieve, possess or capture, we want to protect, whatever the cost, so we don’t mind when we turn to arrogance, impatience, self-destruction, self-deprecation, greed and even martyrdom as measures of protection. We do this for one reason, because we live in constant fear, feeling that we can’t survive without what we have. So that is why we practice authority: to protect ourselves and get even more.
Our allegiance to authority
We are frightened of allowing ourselves to think separately from that which has been mentioned or initiated by leaders or decision-makers. We simply submit to authority, believing we can be safe and secure and bonded. We accept bonding within a certain desired circle, even it is not truly fulfilling. But as long as we seek to be secure and influenced by external factors such as possessions, titles, position, status quo, power, respectability, reputation and approval, we become followers and hence do not realise that we are actually trapped. For most it is unimaginable not to follow because it is difficult to be accountable for one’s own actions and directions, as this means being without security and standing alone. Because we don’t understand this, we keep searching for superficial bonding driven by external factors, completely misusing authority. While we know this, we choose to not be bothered about it. Since we desirably seek this inner security – even for a short period of time through sensation, emotion, euphoria or illusion – we will never be fulfilled.
Authority can only be dismantled when we feel safe and increase the scope of human freedom that is inspired inwardly. Instead of increasing pressure upon an authorial system, we must consider what needs to be done to invigorate social mobility, creating opportunities to uplift people and society more effectively. This means promoting educational choices and the mobility and recruiting opportunities that emphasise skills, capacity, aptitude, talents, abilities, qualities, work ethics and morale values, instead of focusing on former employers and the level of education attained.
Destructive employment practices
As long as HR managers continue to place too much attention on previous work experience and schooling, the result will be enormous social cost, as this favours people from well-off circles who often have very strong ties with prestigious employers, increasing the likelihood for their children to be advantageously placed there. In short, current employment practices give applications from people with upscale backgrounds distinct advantages, which is then exploited through their influence.
Today this is an evident phenomenon of authority practiced globally – and this is very worrisome. It’s not a surprise, then, that quality jobs rarely reach the lower echelons of any society, pervasively supporting our concern about poor mobility across the social spectrum of labour and productivity. The opening of opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds is now far more important than ever before. Sadly, we notice more than ever before, that it is far more important ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’. In other words, the more we expect, the higher we put our aims and goals, the less people in society can achieve because they can simply not afford to pay the high costs to obtain all the knowledge required to become high executives or high-ranking politicians, who at the end of the day are products of an exclusive establishment and network opportunities, self-perpetuating among the super elites, and which literally penetrate every key domain – politics, media, business and the public sector.
Refusing to bow to authority
This is the true global authority – but we must refuse to bow down to it! We must stop! The dearth of opportunities for people from lower income groups to lift themselves up reflects elitism in the same way as the lower ‘social casts’ being deprived of the opportunity to prosper. This complete resistance to social mobility has been rolled out globally, and is misconstrued as the way to tackle economic and political challenges. This incredible superficiality, believing that this is what we can overcome in global challenges and problems, is extremely worrisome, an oversimplification causing unfair employment opportunities, reinforcing the social disparity of opportunities.
In fact, this practice opens the entire social system to risk, a deadlock that leads purposely to social immobility and even greater inequality. Anything we have ever experienced before may lead to a global, social revolt and upheaval that our future generations will have to face. But that is the trouble: we have given up bothering about tomorrow or the future. With so much at stake, we can no longer ignore this situation, but even so, we all do because we tend to increase our level of allegiance to authority day-by-day.
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, does authority truly create order? Or does it create a blind, meaningless following (like a herd of sheep) that leads to a dead-end and ultimately to self-destruction and misery?
Challenge to leaders
If leaders begin to understand the way they are and the way others are, then better understanding occurs that gives rise to a profoundness in finding out what reality is and what the truth really is: a leader is not the one who serves best, but the one who challenges us to learn how to learn differently.
When we resist being influenced by another, we may discover and experience ourselves in a way beyond what we were taught, a way beyond previous thinking. This requires courage and clarity that we will gain only when we are free of authority. Only when we have immediate insight into ourselves will we feel free of all authority. That is why embracing virtue leads us to true freedom, but a cultivated humility is not virtue. This tells us who we are – and not what any other external influencers make us feel or believe. Only when all authorities are demolished will we learn about ourselves.
On this note, is it possible that our inward authority of our experiences and our accumulated knowledge, opinions, ideas and assumptions guide our day-to-day routines and our life in our way of seeing the world? Are we manipulated in our thinking? The fact is that under authority we will never understand anything about what reality is. We have been brainwashed into believing that thought must be controlled to bring a state of inner tranquillity and to understand what reality really is. But this is only possible if we give up authority. Followers dismantle their true inner-self and never experience wisdom. Because we are encased in a state of fear and anxiety, most of us have unquestionably accepted how we are told we should see the world.
Embrace a beginner’s mind
As long we are told how to think, we become truly loyal followers. The trouble is that we all have given up realising (or even caring) what global dominance does to us. Leaders and decision makers in the 21st century need to realise that modern education, knowledge and experience taught them what to think, but not necessarily how to think. This is fundamental, because we have been captured by frames which limit us, because we were taught to seek, to compare and to constantly expect, all because of our uncertainly and insecurity. That is why humility is a true state of mind that never seeks more or better, but accepts simply ‘being’. What is needed for us is the ability to release our conditioned mind, so that we can embrace a beginner’s mind.
The fastest and best way to increase the learning process within any organisational system is to reduce fear and anxiety, as this leads to the cessation of following, to empowerment which supports cooperation and involvement. That is why virtues can literally cultivate humility, if shared authentically. For this, we must incorporate ‘islands of stillness’ within an organisational system. Only then will we experience that virtues are not cultivated, but lived and shared, if one has humility and is willing to learn. This learning acts as both a survival and a development tool, the most two essential criteria for leaders and decision makers to do well in the 21st century. Discipline itself never creates virtues: while it is expected to cultivate togetherness or commonality, it generates problems and challenges of immorality instead. This attracts the wrong stakeholders and promotes an unbalanced organisational system, jeopardising the competitive advantage.
Still, we follow authority because we feel insecure, so this sort of inner insecurity must be explored and questioned. We have made a pact with ourselves that we do not want to understand ourselves, nor our impulses, our instincts, our reactions and probably the entire process of our thinking, as well our consciousness and our unconsciousness. Because we all want to attain a certain desire to reach our results quickly, we keep on doing what we do best – mindlessly following authority. Under such circumstances, authority prevents the true understanding of ourselves and others while creating a false sort of security, a mirage, which we embrace as we live day-by-day.
In fact, most of us are very much satisfied with such authority, because it provides us with continuity, certainty and a sense of protection. That is why there can only be creativeness through the process of self-knowledge, not relying on authority and one’s own experience, but on one’s own judgment and inner observation. Self-awareness is arduous, so most people prefer the easier, illusory way. We tend to coax ourselves under authority with the belief that it gives shape to our life, not realising that we have fallen under the manipulation of brand ambassadors, personalities, status quo, prestige, image and even the state. At the end of the day, this blinds us and promotes only thoughtlessness, convincing us to believe that to be independently thoughtful must be painful. That is why we continue to want to receive authority, even though this actually endangers power, as this sort of power is misused and often corrupted, not only by the ones who are corrupt, but also by those who follow. If we understand the compulsion behind the desire to dominate or to be dominated, only then can we relinquish this authority and escape into autonomy.
But when we crave certainty, crave to be righteous and successful, when we compare and continue with high expectations, we protect what we have (or don’t have) and build up an authority of our own experience created by external factors.
Our hope for awareness
Alternatively, if we are aware of the entire process of authority and admit to our own complicity with it, and transcend the desire for certainty, we will be aware of our inner-self, free from limiting ourselves.
This acknowledgement is the beginning of our refusal to bow before authority.