Authority Part 1: Common Sense and Freedom

This is a series of posts which look at the impact of the misuse of all forms of authority in our society upon the freedom, power and authenticity, wellbeing and mental health of the individual and by extension our communities of fellow citizens.  It is not intended as an attack on benign or benevolent expressions of authority where they might exist in the world.

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
~Albert Camus

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The Death of Common Sense

You don’t need to be an Anarchist to realise that we live under unprecedented levels of surveillance, legislative control and financial penalties imposed upon us by those we routinely term ‘authorities’.  Drive down a bus lane at the wrong time or park a few inches over a yellow line and you will be sent a hefty fine regardless of whether you made a mistake or caused any harm or inconvenience to anyone.  Gone are the days when we might be able to appeal to a Police Constable’s or other city employee’s individual sense of fairness and interpretation of the spirit of the law.  Now, Police ‘Officers’ are trained to adhere to policy, claiming they have ‘no discretion’ over how they enforce the letter of the law, even when to do so defies fairness or common sense.

As established forms of authority gain power with less accountability, there is less and less tolerance from the establishment towards our human nature’s tendency to make humane or intuitive decisions or honest mistakes; no longer are we permitted to speak freely, outside of the ever-narrowing confines of ‘political correctness’; and no longer are we justified in using what used to be referred to as ‘common sense’.  Alas, common sense is now no longer common at all.  Indeed, as a symptom of the deliberate erosion of our inner intuitive sense of morality and self-determination via a corresponding increase in conformity (see above video), common sense as inner agency and autonomy appears to be all but extinct in many people today.

And, to paraphrase Nietzsche, ‘Common sense is dead.  And it is ‘we’ who have killed it.’

“I think with intuition. The basis of true thinking is intuition.  Indeed, it is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity.
Intuition tells a man his purpose in life. One never goes wrong following his feelings.  I don’t mean emotions, I mean feelings,
for feelings and intuition are one.”

Albert Einstein

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What Was Common Sense?

And what was ‘common sense’ in any case?  Well, it was the commonly found and commonly shared ability amongst the majority to refer to their inner sense of fairness, morality, justice and intuition under a shared set of narratives that helped us cooperate and make sense of the world.  It was our trusted means of self-determination and direction according to an intuitive drive to creatively meet our needs in life with due respect for others.  Now shared community narratives are fragmented and fractured as we have learned to take our direction from the policies and procedures and their implicit agendas handed down to us by authorities, usurping the shared and individual intuitive intelligence of the individual’s better, free-er nature.

“And thus the deliberate, socially engineered shift from an internal locus of power to an external one, shows us that individual common sense, once destroyed, places us in an infantilised state of dependence upon an elected parent figure to tell us what to do, what to think, what to feel.”

With the increasing infiltration of externally-imposed policies and procedures, laws and legislations seeping into every corner of our lives via management, psychiatry, social work, psychology, medicine and virually every other field of social influence, our internal reference has gradually shifted to an external series of reference points: the capricious and ever-shifting, ever-degrading rules handed down from ‘above’.  And by ‘above’ we are no longer referring to God as the mysterious, morally-cohesive fabric of the universe, but to the faceless departments and offices; the committees, quangos, boards and panels; the unempathic jobsworths and personalities who populate them and who continue to hand out the demands, judgements, declarations, tickets, and threatening letters, the bills and summonses, frequently in defiance of individual common sense or community interest.

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For these State-supported jobs are often populated by those who have willingly surrendered their common sense in order to assume roles of obedience to a boot higher up the ladder.  For the real problem with authority is not its power, but that it is invariably misused to service the interests of those in power, employing a dual set of standards to preserve power over an obedient underclass fed on the illusion that they are free.  These are well-established structures, normalised in the public mind over decades of erosion of civil liberty.  Our conformity to them, as we will see, is proving to be our undoing as human beings.

  • Video: Malcolm Muggeridge speaking about the misuse of power

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“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Viktor E. Frankl

You are Free to do What We Want

We are repeatedly told by authority figures that we are ‘free’ and that our leaders are there to protect our ‘liberties’.  This is a narrative handed to us by those same leaders and their agents who, for the past decades have been marching our armed forces into illegal invasions of sovereign nations.  This type of military action effects the systematic destruction of lands, cultures, schools, hospitals and peoples abroad who have done us no direct harm whatsoever.  Indeed, it is becoming better understood that it is corporate and geopolitical objectives rather than humanitarian or moral imperatives that are directing the will of military forces these days.

And what liberties are our authorities claiming to defend by such actions?  Tony Blair systematically eroded civil liberties in the UK over the decade or so he was in office in Downing Street; giving speeches to the nation on how lucky we all were to have the ‘freedom’ to say what we wanted.  During his tenure we saw an unprecedented destruction of the public’s civil liberites and freedoms since the end of World War II: freedoms our grandparents enjoyed in the space that used to be referred to as common sense, community, cooperation and workers’ rights in the post-war years.  The largest single protest march in British history – protesting against the proposed illegal invasion of Iraq – was completely ignored by Blair.  To this day, despite damning evidence showing the illegality of that murderous invasion, he expresses no remorse nor regret over his decision, which led to the deaths of millions of human beings and the irradiation of the environment with the use of depleted uranium munitions.  And all in the name of ‘freedom’.

The version of ‘freedom’ that we have been sold over the years by Blair and his successors is, of course, not freedom at all.  It is a conflating of Capitalist economic notions of ‘consumer choice’ and ‘liberty’, with each consumer freedom involving our choosing to which branch of the oligarchy we elect to give our money, time and energy.  In doing so we have enriched countless new billionaire whilst creating more poor. Being able to choose between two hundred breakfast cereals and ten, or whether we work for Microsoft or Amazon doesn’t constitute ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’, any more than choosing which brand of straightjacket we wear.  Blair’s often regurgitated ‘democratic freedom to speak and protest’ was automatically met, time and again, by over-sized thugs, hired to grab those with the courage to speak out against him, and to march the ‘free’ out of whatever conference hall in which they dared utter an opposing whisper in Blair’s presence.

True freedom in the social sense is our ability to make choices to peacefully determine the directions of our lives without hinderance or penalty from dictators like Blair, who to this day people still refer to as ‘a war criminal’ who continues to avoid prosecution, as do his counterparts in the USA and elsewhere.  This is nothing new of course.  The entire twentieth century and beyond is a litany of authoritarian illegality executed with impunity by the dominant, predatory and exploitative members of our global society.  For example:

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men [and women] are almost always bad men [and women], even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton (10 January 1834 – 19 June 1902)

Political Morality is Machiavellian Morality

So, the political salesmanship that claims we’re all safer and free-er thanks to government intervention and over-reach making our lives ‘more secure’, is undertaken by the same politicians, many of whom are diagnosable as psychopathic, sociopathic and narcissistic in clinical pathology terms.  These individuals instigate rapacious wars in the name of profit, but under cover of calls for patriotism and ‘security’, overseeing the sale of billions of pounds and dollars worth of weapons to oppressive regimes who use those weapons to undertake coups, to terrorise, ruin and kill innocent men, women and children.

On closer examination this process of trusting – either by concious choice or by default via our indifference – those ammoral authority figures who were actually elected to serve us but who in reality end up governing us, turns out to lack what used to be called common sense or common decency. And thus the deliberate, socially engineered shift from an internal locus of power to an external one, shows us that individual common sense, once destroyed, places us in an infantilised state of dependence upon an elected parent figure to tell us what to do, what to think, what to feel.

Such a shift in the individual’s sense of agency and power contradicts personal responsibility and any kind of moral imperative that the individual hitherto claimed to hold.  In reality, our conformity to authorities who murder in our name, is our de facto collusion in the process.  Not only is it immoral to kill people for being poor, dark skinned, or who have the ‘wrong’ religious beliefs, or who live in the ‘wrong’ location, or who stand in the way of resources our governments and corporations feel entitled to take from them by misuing our soldiers, it also stigmatises the citizens of the aggressor countries.  Namely, you and me.  More than this, it has been proven to create and worsen the backlash – what we call so-called ‘terrorism’ – thus eroding our security rather than blostering it; a prediction made by UK intelligence services prior to the illegal invasion of Iraq by the UK and US, for example.

“If you see yourself as a creature of external forces, buffeted by a market, government […] you search for something […] that’ll tell you what the meaning of […] life is. If you have [..] respect for yourself […] you will design the meaning of your life.”

Noam Chomsky, quoted by Chomsky_Quotes

In Part 2 I discuss the impacts of this erosion of individual agency has upon the individual’s welfare and wellbeing: preconditions for stable mental ‘health’, autonomy and personal authenticity.

Related:

  • Native American Mental Health [a culture and peoples destroyed by genocide, ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism]
  • Native Australian Aboriginal mental Health [a culture and peoples destroyed by racism and settler colonialism]

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. LovingSummer says:

    “ I don’t mean emotions, I mean feelings, for feelings and intuition are one.”
    Okay… THIS is news to me! I use feelings and emotions interchangeably as to me it’s one in the same. I think I need to get me head back into the dictionary to see what’s what! 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stephen says:

      I wouldn’t read too much into it LS. Einstein is just qualifying his description by referring to feeling as equivalent to intuition, as in ‘I have a feeling this is the case….’

      Some people use feeling and emotion interchangeably. Others make a distinction and insist that feelings and emotions are different. They can be used in all these ways. For example, a feeling can describe a sensation of pain or an unnamed emotion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LovingSummer says:

        Yeah. Okay. It’s all equally unpleasant whether they’re under the same umbrella or not. Let’s just stick it all in the bin then, best place for all of it 😁 (apart from intuition, we could all probably do with a bit more of that).

        Like

      2. Stephen says:

        Are you saying feelings and emotions are unpleasant generally?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. LovingSummer says:

        Very much so. Don’t you find the same?

        Like

      4. Stephen says:

        I don’t. Feelings and emotions are often our most valuable sources of information. When we learn to understand them then they become crucial in helping us in being aware of and meeting our needs, protecting us from harm, allowing us to enjoy life etc. There’s a whole body of work that can be done in therapy to this end.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. LovingSummer says:

        Hmm.. think I walked right into that one! 🤔 Of course a psychotherapist is going to embrace feelings and see a purpose for them!
        Though you intrigue me with your belief that they can be a crucial help and actually a protection (sounds great if it’s true) or even allowing us to enjoy life(!) when they can feel quite the opposite of all of those things.
        Does the ‘body of work’ you speak of have a name… a kind of google-able name? I had a quick look at ‘emotions and psychology’ but it’s all a bit vague – other than giving me a longer list of emotions to add to the only 3 I can usually name (angry, sad and happy!) – so I’d like to be able to look into this a little if I could.

        Like

      6. Stephen says:

        It doesn’t have a discreet name. We could call it emotional intelligence or skills just for reference. But I’m talking about things like emotional awareness, learning about the purpose of emotions, naming and expressing emotions etc. These are all things we all need to learn to do if we are to find balance and good functioning. If we don’t then this is where problems arise and we suffer unnecessarily. Dissociation, conflict (inner and outer), stress, insecurity, etc can all be related to this. The actual work is straightforward and can take a while but it’s not beyond anyone.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. LovingSummer says:

        Okay, thanks for that. I appreciate it.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. LovingSummer says:

        Ps: just got to say I googled emotional intelligence and there is a LOT to look at there so that will be my starting point. Thanks for the lead!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Stephen says:

        You’ll probably find E.I. is quite specific. The kind of learning I’m talking about is more concrete and methodical. Specific learning tasks if you like.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. LovingSummer says:

        Oh ok… I think… I was going to make a start with the self awareness thing but not sure if that would be barking up the wrong tree. Would you say it’s possible to DIY or does it really need to be done with a therapist?

        Like

      11. Stephen says:

        I’d suggest it would be best done with your therapist. He should be familiar with the process and will be able to help you structure any work so that you can experience progress. It’s straightforward, but at the same time a bit too complicated to manualise as it needs to be done within an individual’s specific context, life history etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. LovingSummer says:

        Alright then, thanks Stephen.

        Like

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