Archive for October, 2018

What is Your Source of Authority?

Posted: October 25, 2018 in Philosophy

When we were children we on an adventure that was predominated by the question ‘WHY’?.  If you have been around young pre-school children, you certainly have been asked “Why” any number of times.  Sometimes this question of “why” is repeated over and over again when our first attempt to answer seems inadequate.  If this goes on too long, which length is highly dependent on the person trying to answer the child, the child usually gets either the answer “Because I said so!” or “I don’t know why.”

As we get older and ask a superior (read boss) “why”, we may expect a reasonable, rational answers, but it is also possible we are told “Because I said so!” or some facsimile of it.  Seldom are we told by a boss “I don’t know why.”  As children, we don’t have a clear distinction around the question of authority.  In fact, we don’t have a logical system of thinking able to formulate question “Why do you have authority over me to answer my questions or tell me what I must do?”  That is in spite of the fact that we begin to formally challenge authority as early as age two.  That ignores all the challenges we make by crying when we don’t have language to give reasons for our challenge.  Our challenges to authority typically are  searches for our own autonomy.

Throughout the history of human existence, the role of authority has played an important role and to a large extent power of one person over another still establishes the authority of one person over the other.  Religion also deals with the question of authority.  This has changed over the eons from the shaman to the priest or the holy scriptures.  In the secular world, we tend to rely on answers derived by the “scientific method.”  Over time, things change.  That is just the nature of the creative human existance.  The understanding of what constitutes “the authority” on things spiritual or secular also changes.  Who is the authority that we rely on today?

Much of the turmoil we experience today in the general decline of church participation or the willingness to ignore the consensus of scientific thought, for example, on climate change is the open question of what is our authority base.  In the West, the empahsis on the individual has consequences in authority as more and more people say they rely on themselves to know what is right or wrong, true or false.  It has the effect of setting people adrift, grabbing onto whatever seems most comfortable or least challenging to their thinking and way of living.  It ignores the fact that we are imersed in a culture whose characteristics, languages, and patterns of thought were not created by us.  They were not even created by people of positional authority, but by the language in which we swim and the culture which we enherited.

This search for a new basis of authority is an unfinished task, but in the long run, it will be invented by the creative nature of human existance.  Wish I would be here to see the outcome.



Thought About Political Gridlock

Posted: October 8, 2018 in Philosophy

I was wondering how we resolve the current (2018) political gridlock and polarization in the US.  It seems that national politics is in a state of hostility and working across party lines is a sure way to be defeated in the next election.  The parties value the success of their party now to such an extent that exercising power when in the majority and being obstructionist when in the minority is the rule.  We like to call out the hypocrisy of those who when in the minority ranted and railed about the practices of the majority only to exhibit that same shift-flip-flop when in the majority.  It is so bad, that most Americans have very low regard for national politicians even while re-electing those in their own identified party or simply failing to vote in disgust at the whole affair.

So, is there any resolution to this state of affairs?  I will admit that this suggestion would be difficult to achieve because of the lock the two-party system has on elections in the US.  It is one place that the two parties agree, locking out any other parties, rendering it very difficult for other parties to form and if formed to gain access to the electoral processes.  Yet, it occurs to me that one of the ways our political system might be improved is by the successful introduction of additional political parties.  OUCH, you might react.  How could it be better to have more of what we detest?

One of the problems is the growing inability of members of one of the two parties to cross the divide and work with the other party.  We are too polarized.  You would be defeated in the primary.  So, the party in power, if it can herd its members successfully, can control the legislative agenda so that we get partisan agendas, ones along the extremes, not ones in the center of our citizens’ willingness to support.  We get protests against all odds.  We get declining faith in our political institutions, no matter what party has power.

But suppose there were, in fact, multiple parties reflecting the many points of view in our society today.  It would then be necessary for the parties to form alliances in order to get things done.  In effect, politicians would have to make compromises in order to get the votes to pass legislation.  There might be a substantial party, but if it were not in an absolute majority, it would have to compromise with some members of other parties to gain support for legislation — similar to the parliamentary systems of Europe.  And compromise is a good thing, working across party lines.  Of course, there are no guarantees that this would improve the laws, but it would, in my opinion, offer a better chance.

It seems to me this might be worth exploring in today’s troubled environment.