Friday, April 23, 2010

Legitimate and Illegimate Authority

There is a curious scene in the Bible (among many curious scenes) that goes like this:

"The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.'

"Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

This scene, in Luke 4:5-8, makes it as clear as can be that politics belongs to the Devil. The history of the world certainly backs up that observation, especially since 177 to 200 million people were murdered during State-sponsored wars during the 20th century.

Clearly, politics, and the State, being of the Devil, are illegitimate authorities. Yet, when Jesus came down from that mountain, he established himself as an authority.

What we're dealing with here are two kinds of "authority." The first, political, is based on force and coercion. It's illegitimate unless one is a real criminal – and that means murder, theft and similar offenses, not not wearing a seatbelt, drinking a glass of wine when you're 14, or smoking a cigarette outside.

That illegitimate political force is the kind Jesus rejected. The second kind of authority is voluntary and based on persuasion. That's legitimate.

Try as I might, I find nothing in the Bible where Jesus tried to force anyone to do anything. Basically he said, "Choose what you want to have to change your hearts and minds willingly."

It's the difference between "I will try to change you, by force, from the outside in" [which never works] as compared to, "You choose to change yourself, from the inside out."

There was a pop psychologist/sociologist, the late Erich Fromm, who got so many things wrong (he thought Freud and Marx made sense) that it verges on pitiful. Yet even though he got a lot of the answers wrong, he asked the right questions, about "the human aspect for freedom, the longing for submission, and the lust for power."

Fromm nailed it, right on the mark, with those three things: freedom, submission, the lust for power.

Freedom is not something given to us by politics and the State; their essence is to make people submit. Liberty is freedom from the State.

Whence lies the "lust for power" of which Fromm wrote? Let's try this again: "I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

The lust for power, obviously, is Satanic. Those with the lust for power (or what Nietzsche called "the will to power") gravitate straight toward the State. You don't have to look any further than Mao Tse-Tung, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Hitler. All these little Satans went straight to the State, in hopes of controlling it.

There is another problem, though: the desire people have for submission. People have two paradoxical impulses: on one hand they want to be free, and on the other hand they want to submit to authority.

Fromm had an answer to this desire to submit, as did Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, and Dostoevsky.

Fromm wrote this, in his book Escape from Freedom: "The person who gives up his individual self and becomes an automaton, identical with millions of other automatons around him, need not feel alone and anxious any more. But the price he pays, however, is high; it is the loss of his self."

Kuehnelt-Leddihn believed the same thing. In Leftism Revisited he wrote: "viewed from a certain angle, we are all subject to two basic drives: identity and diversity." Identity he calls "a herd instinct, a strong feeling of community that regards another group with hostility." He said "identity and its drives tend to efface self, tend towards an 'usness' in which the ego becomes submerged."

In the famous "Grand Inquisitor" scene in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has the Inquisitor say, "For centuries...we have been wrestling with...freedom, but now it is ended and over for good." He was commenting on the fact that many people want to give up their freedom to "authority." The Inquisitor goes so far as to claim, "they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."

It's also the basis for fascism, or Communism, or Nazism, or any other form of leftism. It's what Mussolini meant when he wrote, "everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people."

There is something in people that wants to submit, to give up their freedom, in hopes of giving up anxiety, in giving up fear. They want to be "safe," to be a cog. Take a look at a televised political convention, for an example. They could fit into Leni Riefenstahl's film, Triumph of the Will – thousands of people, cogs all, lost in the delirium of a crowd.

Unfortunately, many today look to the State for that safety. The problem is that the State, being Satanic, isn't going to bring them safety. Ultimately it will bring them death and destruction. The opposite side of the welfare state at home is the warfare state abroad, in an ultimately hopeless attempt for "homeland security."

Lord Acton wrote that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I think a better saying is, "Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts."

Dostoevsky had this to say about power, in his The House of the Dead, "Tyranny...finally develops into a disease. The habit can...coarsen the very best man to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate...the return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."

On one hand, forced submission to the illegitimate State, and the Satanic lust for power that leads to tyranny, and on the other, voluntary submission to a legitimate authority.

The desire to submit to the illegitimate authority of the State is childish. It's the desire to be "taken care of." Children submit to their parents whether or not they want to – they're forced to. In their case, it is for their own good. But adults? It's certainly not good for them.

Liberty is apparently a scary thing for some people, so they try to give it up as fast as they can, even though they don't know what they're doing. But, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety."

The history of the world has not always been a fight between freedom and slavery. It has also been a fight between forced submission to an illegitimate authority, and voluntary submission to legitimate ones.

The Truth is larger than all of us. That is the legitimate authority to which all should voluntarily submit. The Truth, as the old saying goes, is that which will "set you free."

And part of that Truth is that our salvation does not lie with the State.

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