An Appeal for Authority
Any just court of law operates on the premise that a man is innocent until proven guilty. The reasoning behind this premise is that, in most cases, mere suspicion is not enough to warrant the sort of action that is to be taken upon the guilty. If the powers-that-be in the legal system were to act upon mere unproven suspicions, many more people would be unjustly incarcerated. It has also been proven that paranoid minds are subject to a very slippery slope, whether they belong to Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or Senator McCarthy. Provided leeway, a paranoid legal system would look much like, to be frank, the Obama administration if given its druthers. A sane society is one in which men can trust one another and particularly trust the authorities on whom their civil rights and material well-being dependent. Indeed, submission to an authority operates on a premise similar to that of the courts of law: that the authority is valid until proven illegitimate. Yet in the contemporary perspective of the United States, growing numbers of people are operating conversely; that is, on the premise that until an authority validates itself, until the natural tendency to hold some actions of authority suspect is proven unfounded, that it should be treated as an instrument of one’s oppression. This perspective, fostered by mediums of entertainment, is not only destructive of the individuals who capitulate to its prideful rhetoric, but of the institutions of Western civilization as a whole, for it is only by an authority that unity can be maintained, and it is only by unity that civilization persists and achieves any sort of genuine progress.
The general spirit of reactionary resentment of authority in the United States grew out of the blooming rock-and-roll culture of the 1950s and protest movements of the 1960s. For several decades, the spirit had little political or economic effect—since the two are nigh indivisible in this country—beyond the nominally counter-cultural movements centralized largely around the various music scenes and progressive college campuses, and achieved little grounding in people over 30 who were not enlightened liberal college professors. Yet the seeds sown by the counter-cultural movements and the deficiently educational and exceedingly propagandistic colleges, though abated in the lives of individuals who found that working for the man is not so bad since he pays so well, nonetheless took root in the larger social consciousness.
The germ of this spirit, which for brevity will be called the Puerile Spirit, which finds yielding soil in the drama that is adolescence, readily blooms when watered by the inundation of politically-driven entertainment media. Anti-establishment movies such as Fight Club or V for Vendetta corroborate not only the rhetorically polished but insubstantial conjectures of authors such as Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Phil Lombardo, nor just government conspiracy television shows and “investigative” programs on channels such as Discovery or The Learning Channel, but also the average news broadcast. The subtle use of background music, computer graphics, interviews and expert analysis, emotional testimonies, and a thousand other nuances of manipulation invigorate the dramatically-grounded Puerile Spirit. This has become blatantly obvious over the past 6 years, as media disillusionment with the Bush administration, some of which was justified and some not, was played up to a frenzy of conspiracy and lies.
Ironically and amusingly, the backlash of sensationalistic reporting by the mainstream media is being felt in the pullulating distrust of the socialist policies of Barack Obama. Granted that FoxNews employs spectacle more than any other major news outlet, the trend was viciously employed and to great effect by the liberal news media over the past several years. Though Hussein started with a high approval rating, his acceptance as an authority was based entirely on the thin ice of his substantially deficient hortatory mantras. The Puerile Spirit, though hypocritical in its fostering of an inquisitional attitude without simultaneously encouraging an intellect sufficiently developed enough to pursue truth, despite its pursuit of naught but self-affirmation, can nonetheless instigate the downfall of an authority proven illegitimate on the grounds of incompetence and injustice. It is to be hoped that the distrust of an illegitimate authority can mature into an objective evaluation of authority itself; that the goodness of authority can be seen for what it is. A distortion of the perception of authority, as something that mandates incessant inquisition, breeds a society of distrust; a society of insanity. Government, rightly exercised, is a good thing, which provides for man’s material well-being, by enabling him to pursue it and by preventing his wrongful deprivation. To preserve the United States, the emerging weeds of the Puerile Spirit’s tendency to reject civil authority need to be plucked before long.
Where the Puerile Spirit has not long lain dormant, however, is in the realm of religion, most notably the Catholic Church in America. Intellectual dissent, such as that of Hans Kung and Karl Rahner, dissolved into the emotional coddling of the insecurities of feminists and homosexuals, and brought about what has been termed the hermeneutic of rupture; the interpretation of the documents of Vatican II according to this very same Puerile Spirit, which innately rejects authority on its merit as authority and collaborates with it only when its goals match those of the individual. This intellectual and emotional juvenility also has its fostering in cheap entertainment spectacle: Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, both in written and cinematic forms, John Cornwell’s minimally researched Hitler’s Pope, countless inaccurate portrayals of the Church as it truly is (though depressingly accurate of how many see it), and the prominent liberal cafeteria Catholics and politicians throughout the media limelight, such as Sean Hannity, Maria Shriver, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, James Carville, Ted Kennedy, and Rudy Giuliani. Dissent is everywhere glorified. Whereas interaction with the authority of government constitutes only one part of a person’s life, however, faith is involved with the totality of a person’s existence, for it is or is supposed to be the pinnacle towards which all of a person’s actions aspire; thus a rupture in accepting the authority of any faith, but especially the Faith, by operating on the premise that the authority needs first to prove itself in order to be accepted, nourishes the noxious growth of the Puerile Spirit on a gigantic scale. If inherent rejection of civil authority produces political weeds, then the inherent rejection of ecclesiastical authority sprouts moral, intellectual, and spiritual kudzu. Where the former is a political pride, a fallacious principled intractability against the idea of men having authority over one another, the latter is a spiritual pride, the damnable obduracy of Satan.
In conclusion, it is not only acceptable to question authority, but right. Yet questioning it from the premise that it is invalid to begin with, questioning it as the Pharisees and Herodians did Christ: “Tell us therefore what dost thou think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? Show me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? They say to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:17-22) 1.
1 For any Protestants reading this, who would insist that the authority of Christ was not transferred to his Apostles, answer this: Why did Christ come in human form at all? Why did He act as He did in human form? Why teach with authority as a man? As an addendum, watch Stephen Colbert intellectually trounce Dr. Zimbardo; as a caveat, Colbert does swear at the end.