Appealing to Authority and the Breakdown of Community
I’m not sure what it was like for you growing up, but being the eldest sibling with a younger brother gave me plenty of opportunity to be annoying. It starts with everyone enjoying themselves. Then a button is pushed and someone reacts adversely to another, “Stop it! Leave me alone!”. If this call out doesn’t work, and the behaviour continues, it eventually results in – “I’m telling! Mom! Dad! They won’t leave me alone!”. Maybe they took your favourite chair at the table, or won’t let you play on the swing.
We each learn how to respond in situations based on the models of our parents and peers. Perhaps we learned that violence will help us to get what we want. Maybe we learned how to evoke and coerce external authority to force the result we wanted. Or maybe, just maybe, someone taught us how to use our words to create a mutually supportive resolution that does not use force or manipulation to create an outcome in favour of one party and not the other. This is the art of having crucial conversations.
Other than the rare few who may have been shown how to create win-win situations as children, the rest of us fell into patterns of external control to solve our problems for us. These patterns have created the world around us. Growing up, the image of authority shifted from parents to teachers. Threats of punishment and encouraging through rewards were used to align our behaviours with the structures of society. If we had a problem, we went to the authorities to force the other to give us what we wanted, whether it was a ball, an apology, or an injunction.
If we are never given the tools to effectively communicate and resolve our own disputes as adults, we end up recreating the same structures that helped us as children. This is where the legal system and law enforcement come into the picture – “You won’t be hearing from me anymore – you will get a call from my lawyer!”. Unable to reconcile our conflict, we appeal to an outside authority that can do it for us. Go and tell Mommy and Daddy court system so they can hammer down the punishment and force hands.
I recognize that there are situations that call for external help with resolution. This is especially the case when children are disputing, for children can often close up, react strongly, and behave, well, age appropriately childish. Maybe some instances do call for mediation, again, mostly because we are not given the tools as individuals to find mutually beneficial resolutions. The type of solutions that leave everyone walking away happy.
This is where community provides yet another one of its incredible gifts. We are able to find perspectives and assistance through those who know and love us on a deep level. Mediators become those who show compassion for all parties involved and can hold space for solutions that benefit everyone. Suddenly the incidences are no longer simply about the individuals within the community – they are about the Whole and the Whole desires to help the individuals. The stories of the people are known, and from that space, an answer emerges.
The breakdown of community has necessitated a lot of the structures we have created today. Without knowing each other deeply we require certifications to qualify our experiences for others. Without a tight community we require contracts and written agreements to hold people in honor and respect. Without the circles of community we require political hierarchies to be a voice for us. Without a sense of belonging in community we feel lost in a sea of strangers without any identity. In community, we are our relationships.
The idea of having an “impartial” judge or objective analysis to a situation is ridiculous. Even if an outside individual comes into a dispute without any previous knowing of those involved, they will still create associations, patterns, and judgements as the situation unfolds leading to a decision. Our minds are constantly creating subjective interpretations. Community recognizes this and instead looks to integrate personal knowing into the resolutions. If two people are having a conflict, wouldn’t the best mediator be someone who knows and loves them both deeply?
Our pattern of reliance on external authorities to force an outcome can only be broken if we as individuals have the courage to step into adulthood and take responsibility for ourselves. This means taking our own individual authority back. This means holding each other in honour and respect. This means believing in the best in others. This means knowing that a supportive and healing resolution always exists. This means having the faith in others to uncover those resolutions. This means expanding and evolving past our immature individualism to step into our unique role within the global community.
This is the birthing of a new dawn of truth and justice.