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Allan's Philosophy Podcast

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 38 - Authority

Hey guys it's been a while since the last podcast has come out. But I am excited to say I just did one with Nivek Johnson about Common Sense so go check it out on the Fan Page, YouTube, iTunes, or the newly formed Philosophy is Phun Facebook group!

This note I want to talk about authority. I like to think of authority as those who possess some type of power over you whether it is being able to tell you what to do, or you having to maintain a certain relationship with someone where you are subordinate to them in some way or another. For us kids, our authority usually comes in the form of adults who, with society, are presented as the reigning party and we must abide by their rules. You have to be accountable to someone in some shape or form. By doing this, your time on earth will be a much more pleasant one. If you work and get along with everyone then you will definitely see that you make more friends and your relationships become less strained and this usually equates to a happier lifestyle. One of the basics is respecting other people and especially with their opinions. You don't have to agree with what someone has to say but you can't just dismiss it as dumb. If you consider what someone has to say then you also get a wider spectrum of perspectives for which you can base and formulate and opinion yourself by comparing it to your own morals and beliefs.

There is a line however. There are going to be times where the authority might say things or order you to do things that you aren't comfortable doing thus crossing the line. In these situations you must trust your instincts and your own personal understanding of what is right and wrong. In order to have a successful life you need to be able to differentiate between these things. Authority doesn’t always have to be adults. In these cases the word authority doesn’t take on its conventional meaning of like a person commanding you to do something. In these cases you do something because, in a way, you are almost obligated to. One case of this is peer pressure where you are in a sense forced to do something in your attempts to fit in. In these situations it is basically a form of government similar to popular sovereignty where the will of the people reigns supreme and the most popular will is the one that is carried out. Everybody has their own sense of ethics and what they perceive as right or wrong and in situations where peer pressure is present you must be able to judge what actions you should take based upon those ethics.

There are many different forms of authority. As I have mentioned, when it comes to life, teenagers are usually subordinate to adults. One prominent example is in your family. One of your primary authority figures is a parent, especially in regards to family. In the working world and in your career, your authority figure is your boss. Social lives are different because your friendships are unique relationships that usually are equal. This might not always be the case however, like when you are a little kid you will probably listen to that friend of yours who is older than you. In many other situations there will be places that can be considered co-leadership where you are in a relationship with someone where you both are equals and one isn't considered superior or has more power than the other. Based upon things like expertise and unique skills, there will inevitably be situations where one person is considered the go to guy like if one is a better soccer player than the other and you were playing a game, that better player would probably take the leadership position. The other friend might be extremely smart in math and tutor the soccer friend when they need help. These show examples of where authority is switched from one person to the next. Time also changes authority. In government, both parties switch from majority and minority as time progresses therefore changing who has more power thus changing the authority.
It is sometimes necessary in life to appease people. This is used in order to avoid conflict. One of the famous examples is with Hitler in World War 2 being given land in order to prevent a fight. Like the line a mentioned before, there are times however where you need to put your foot down and say enough is enough. There will be times when you need to stand up against authority for your beliefs or risk getting stepped on. If you don't, your progression and improvement in life may be stunted. Like I said before though, you still need to respect others opinions and they may even open your eyes. An example is when your parents piss you off your natural reaction may be to revolt and not follow their orders. I completely understand this reaction and have done it many times but it probably isn't the best course of action unless under extreme conditions. The reason for this is simple, they have power over you while you are in their household. If you make their life hell then you won't be able to get along and life will be much more stressful than it probably needs to be.

Another thing that I wanted to mention is how the amount of authority you have is usually directly related to how old you are. Seniority is a factor that dictates authority on many occasions mostly because those who are older are the most developed and experienced. They usually get first pick whenever there is a limited supply of something. Case and point, scheduling classes for next year. They are positioned in these ruling roles probably because they have already been through the ringer. They most likely have already experienced the process it takes to climb the ladder in a certain field. It is almost like a chain of command in the military where the most powerful people have jurisdiction over people that are under them. Our current bosses and authority figure most likely had their power passed down to them after generations. All our parents had parents who where the bosses of them and now they are our bosses. Corporate bosses are employed or promoted to take over the position from their ex boss. This means that in order to get authority yourself you need to go through the steps. In a career, this means getting an education and going to college. Now this doesn’t bode well for us young people. There are however exceptions to this like with the unlikely cases where you do something at a young age and have other people including those older than you working for you. An example includes Mark Zuckerburg who made Facebook and now has plenty of people who work for him even though he is pretty young yet one of the richest people in the world. Another justification for preventing young people from getting powerful positions is because of our underdeveloped brain functions, especially when it comes to the cortex where we make decisions. Young people are notoriously bad at assessing risks and dangers properly as you can tell with drunk driving and other dumb stuff teenagers do. There is a reason why there is an age limit for people to be president or work in government because we wouldn’t want people with the power of nukes to make rash and illogical decisions. I wonder how the world would be like if John F. Kennedy was in his 20's when the Cuban Missile Crisis was happening. I personally would trust a 20 year old to have that kind of power. This is why people need to guide you to be successful like with your parents leading you and teaching you good values. This leads me to how authority has a responsibility and obligations to those they have power over like with leaders. Parents need to be willing to take on the responsibilities that come with having a kid or else they aren't going to be very successful and their child probably won't either.

There is good news however for the youth of today! As time changes, the current youth will naturally climb to these positions of authority. We will eventually be the bosses that lead the future. The only catch is that we are dependent upon the current authority as the youth of the future will be when we are leaders. One major example is with the environment and how our leaders like Obama decide to deal with such situations. They set the stage and it is an influential part of how we will lead like with the resources we will have available. Let's just hope our current leaders know what we are doing and if we learn and become acclimated to authority positions, I feel like we will be the next successful wave of people who help shape the world. I don't know about you guys but I am looking forward to it!

-Allan Nicholas

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