I was reading through a thread yesterday on the excellent Slugger O’Toole web site, which developed along the lines of that old chestnut, “There has been a decline in respect for authority in recent years.” Whilst in years gone by such talk was the terrane of the elderly, these days it is something one hears often and from the young and old, not least because the media spouts it on a regular bases and it got me to thinking about whether there is any actual truth in such claims.
Undoubtedly if one asks the man or woman on the Claphan Omnibus whether there has been a decline in respect for authority; they are liable to reply yes and they might even go further and claim that the lack of respect for authority is an affliction of the modern age. Of course in reality the reverse is true as we in the west today accept the diktat of those in authority without question far more than in our parents and grand parents day. So why do people seem to believe the contrary that there is a general revolt against authority.
There are a number of reasons for this and they all centre on the desperate need of those in positions of power to turn reality on its head, for they live in a world in which reform means turning back the clock, those denied the benefits of our society are deemed scroungers, a military aggressor becomes a victim; and those who invade and occupy another’s land become peace makers whilst stealing even more land from their victims in the process.
The unsustainable pace of life inflicted upon individuals by Capital and its political gofers due to its mad rush to produce and consume ever more; and the pressures this puts upon the psyche of the average human being, cannot but make us far less tolerant of our fellow man. Which sadly we often display by being rude and inconsiderate to each other as we go about our daily life’s.
Thus what some people mean when they say there is less respect for authority, is in reality that people are showing them personally less respect; and when this is coupled by a continues bleating from the media and politicians that there has been a decline in respect for authority and the solution to this is to build more prisons, recruit more policemen etc, then people start believing this nonsense.
If there was any truth in it the first question we need to ask is how does this disrespect for authority express itself, do we refuse to tax our cars on pay for TV licenses, no it seems less people are being prosecuted for such misdemeanors. Are we going on strike more often or protesting about government decisions. No these days we accept almost anything our employers and the government gets up to no matter if it is against our best interest. Leaving the invasion of Iraq to one side, we were more interested in canoe man than complaining about the fact that the government lost the personal records and bank account details of every family in the nation, or loaned the greedy capitalists who ran the Northern Bank incompetently £30 billion of our hard earned tax to dig themselves out of a hole, whilst our own council tax rises by leaps and bounds.
Are we up in arms against the disrespect and contempt this countries millionaires display towards us almost every day, no, not even when we pay our taxes and they do not. Nor when the rich award themselves and their fellow millionaires massive salary hikes or redundancy pay offs whilst the average working man must make do with a below inflation wage rise. Are we angry, enraged and disrespectful to those in authority who instigate and administer such blatant incompetence and unfairness, I wish!
One of the main reasons why people feel there is a decline in respect for authority is there is so little real disrespect shown towards authority these days. Thus when it occurs it becomes an event which the media plays up to the hilt; and they always come down on the side of authority. Today if a group of workers go on strike after their employers have treated them dismally, it becomes a front page news story, whereas in the past it would have maybe made it on to page 10 as back then people were continuously standing up for there economic and political rights.
No where is this better demonstrated than when the London Tube line workers went on strike over issues of public safety. They were portrayed in the media as dinosaurs who have no respect for authority, with their leader Bob Crowe being portrayed as the devil incarnate. Never mind that these striking workers were defending the publics best interest against the callousness of their employers, who had refused to make the traveling publics safety their main priority.
And there is the rub, for respect for authority in todays world means accepting what the rich and powerful deem to be our lot. Employers decide what a worker earns, public and employee safety is for them alone. anyone who has the gumption to stand up to this 19th Century boss class mentality is deemed a trouble maker and tagged as being someone who has no respect for authority.
That people are under such pressures today, working longer hours in more unregulated work places than at any period since WW2. That the gap between the rich and economically poor has widened to an obscene level. That the London police shoot a man dead when he was on the way to work and then blatantly lie about it. That one in every three children live below the official poverty line. That the UK is involved in an occupation of Iraq which came about via an illegal war and the lies of the Prime Minister.
All of the aforementioned and countless other issues tells me one thing, we need to show much less respect for authority and in the process display a bit organized rage. For by bending the knee to authority as we have done increasingly over the last decade, it has done us as individuals and our society as a whole no good at all. To hell with all this winging about a lack of respect for authority, for authority is not an abstract thing, it has human form and must earn over and again any respect we are prepared to give it; and until it does we should treat those in authority with the contempt they deserve unless they prove otherwise.