If, as Albert Einstein said, “unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth,” then it stands to reason that we should think critically toward, rather than blindly believe in, authority. No matter who or what that authority might be.
Whether it’s an eccentric physicist with wild hair or an authoritarian president demanding respect without giving it. Whether it’s a flat-earther challenging the very foundations of physics, or an overreaching cop high on false power. Belief in authority is a huge psychological hang-up for our species. It’s an evolutionary impediment of monumental proportions.
Even as we daily self-overcome, so too should we daily overcome the myth of authority. It’s a myth because it’s foremost a story. It’s a story we’ve all fallen for –hook, line, and sinker. It’s a story that most of us were culturally conditioned to believe in. It’s a story that most of us take as a given, but certainly should not. For, ultimately, “it’s just the way things are” is a cowardly copout.
Rather than cowardice, rather than willful ignorance, complacency, and intellectual laziness, we should challenge the myth of authority –across the board. We should be ruthless with our skepticism, like a scientist regarding his own hypothesis, like peer-reviewed interrogators keeping the science of others honest.
Because the art of life, especially an examined life that’s well-lived, is scientific, logical, and reasonable. It strikes at the heart of the orthodoxy, whatever that may be. It undermines the Powers That Be, whoever they may be. And that’s likely to upset more than a few blind worshippers, myopic rule-followers, and willfully ignorant law-abiding citizens. So be it. Upset their precious apple-cart anyway. Especially if that apple-cart is outdated, violent, and based upon parochial reasoning and fear. As Oscar Wilde stated, “Disobedience was man’s original virtue.”'
Read more: Overcoming the Myth of Authority
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