Monday, February 19, 2018

Question authority—all together now!

There are a few of us here in this life, on this planet, who like to challenge authority. We can see it almost all the time in the behavior some of us have. The more courageous of us will shout or swear out our opposition to authority in public for everyone to witness. On the national and global scenes it can get worse and it can involve guns or wars or even nuclear arsenals. The less courageous will simply oppose authority with our behavior. We won't do homework. Or we won't do it on time or all the time. As children we'll test boundaries which if extended outside family may end us up in jail or convicted of crimes. We'll find some excuse for not knowing about homework or the law, for not bringing a notebook or not taking notes in a class or for letting our phone ring in a meeting or even for robbing a bank or shooting someone. It's mental health, says the President. Maybe it's too busy parents who didn't have time to parent children. Generation after generation, for too many turns of the world around the sun now. We'll sit in our corner and check our phone without listening to the teacher while thinking "this is boring," or "why do they make me be here?" We'll pay attention to the ignorant celebrity drunkard at the expense of paying attention to mom or dad, or a smarter well educated cousin or uncle or grandma or grandpa who all make time to be in our lives. We'll chat with a colleague about something completely unrelated to class, or to work, or to anything, all while in a class, at work, or supposedly trying to work or study or do something of some importance on our own time. We'll leave our phone ringer on for everyone around to know what a cool ringer we have, in spite of the phone policy having been just spelled out on a screen at the movies or in a meeting just a few minutes ago, and in spite of the common sense convention between well behaving adults that in meetings (such as a class) or anywhere in a public place (such as at the movies, or in a store or on public transportation) phones are to be silenced if not shut off completely. We even openly say that "I don't like authority." I don't like authority either. We all don't like authority. Genius people of all times didn't like authority. As an old Apple commercial was saying "Here's to the crazy ones." In fact just as a matter of older age I've been disliking authority for almost double the time most of the rest of us on this planet had a chance to dislike or like anything. There are a few exceptions—people older than me who still want to learn to dislike authority in an organized way and who trust that lifelong learning is the only way to staying happy. To those I tip my hat and want to know everyone better so I learn something new about living life beautifully. I teach exactly because I don't like authority. I teach students how to dislike authority in a constructive way. I try to help people to think, and to think critically better, so that we dislike authoritative knowledge or ignorance in an organized and more productive way. 


Disliking authority does not mean being disrespectful towards another. We all owe respect to one another. Swearing in a classroom or on twitter or facebook doesn't say anything about your teacher or about your audience you may be replying to. It says something about you. We are all here in this world to learn, and to learn from each other. Including how to question the authority of scientists or governments or mathematicians or historians or attorneys and judges or teachers of times past, after we learned what they said, and then learning how to understand better why they may have been wrong in what they said or did. And to build ourselves as better human beings as a result of learning from our past and improving on it.


Today, challenging (business, government, and knowledge) authority is no longer possible as a one-person alone effort. We can only dislike and challenge authority sufficiently well together if we respect and help one another. Let's do that, please!

"Those who trust that they can change the world are usually those who do!"

Adrian S. Petrescu, Ph.D., J.D.

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