Getting Free From Authority

Authority is a story we tell each other. That’s all it is, no more.

Telling a story does not make it true. Telling it again and again does not make a story more true with the telling. Repetition automatically creates credibility, but this effect is a cognitive foible that we need to be aware of and not get fooled by. The mere fact that a story has been repeated since time immemorial in no way means that the story is true.

A badge on someone’s chest does not give them authority. Nor does a gun on their hip. No article of equipment or clothing can give authority, only the stories we believe about their equipment and clothing can do that. We tell ourselves stories about what they will do with the equipment and what the clothing means. An impostor can dress exactly like a cop — badge, gun, uniform and all — but that doesn’t authorize him to act as a cop. To act as a cop, not an impostor, he needs to be authorized. Once he is authorized, he has the right to act as a cop. Then — whether or not he sports badge, gun or uniform — he’s a cop.

But authorization is just a story told by those who claim to have the right to authorize.

When you follow stories of authority back, looking for their origins to see whether they have any worthwhile basis, you’ll find two things: Usurpation and violence. The right to be an authority is always usurped, originally, either in opposition to another “authority” or simply as self-bestowed in opposition to all and any self-proclaimed authorities that might challenge it. This in itself is an act of violence — if not violence to others, at least violence to the truth. Beside this, establishing authority often happens by means of literal violence as well.

In every case, authority is preemptive violence against every person subject to it, because — no matter who they are, how good they are, how intelligent they are, or how well-meaning they are — authority precludes their right to decide whether or not the authority should be obeyed, and it does so in utter, mindless dismissal of their views, desires, wills, and their very persons. This is violence to each one’s personhood — indiscriminate violence to every person’s dignity and integrity and soul.

Before we encounter and deal with authority, we tell ourselves and each other stories about authority and what will happen in those encounters. These stories determine what we actually do in those encounters. At the end of these stories is either some reward for obeying authority or, more likely, some terror that befalls us for disobeying. This is how we enslave ourselves to authority, no differently than any other kind of enslavement.

In fact, this is the method of all slavery: believing the stories we tell and were told about our masters and our powerlessness to change our subjugated state.

The first step to freedom is to realize that authority is just a story, and the slavery it leads to is just a story. The second step is to realize that we can create our own stories, stories that free us instead of oppress us. The third step is to realize that we always and only choose which stories we will believe. No one else is our master in that. The final step is to believe the freedom stories we created instead of the slavery stories that were forced on us and violently injected into us when we were defenseless against them.

It’s ironic that most people’s concept of liberation involves what takes place after those four steps, when we act on the freedom story we believed. We aren’t liberated only after our freedom is manifested. We are liberated in fact and in truth when we genuinely believe our own story of liberation. We become free people when we believe we are free people. If you are still fighting for freedom, you have chosen the wrong battle. Manifesting freedom, demonstrating it, is of course a natural consequence of believing you are free, but the definitive step is the fourth step. What follows then happens as an inevitability, a result of having freed yourself, not a condition for becoming free.

Ultimately, the one who enslaves us is the one whose story we believe, and we always have the freedom to choose which story we believe.

You will see this as soon as you take those four simple steps.

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