Right from an early age, I’ve always wondered why authority behaves in the way it does. Call me rebellious if you like, plenty of my teachers and probably my parents would agree, but I have generally always questioned those in authority.
It cost me a bit too – slapped face from female police officers, punishments at school, a few thumpings from parents and one extreme case of bullying by a primary teacher. Aye, well done. You victimised an 8 year old because he stood up to you.
First off, who is Authority? Parents, teachers, police, officials, managers – I guess the list is endless and in some cases, it’s virtually every one else they come into contact with. Some people wear authority well and deal with it in a human way, others lose their identity and become the stereotype, not understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing but hell that won’t stop them.
We see police officers as authority figures, which is understandable as they are there to do a job, an important one, in keeping us safe and upholding order. I remember a friend who was a serving PC at the time told me his biggest power was discretion and then went on to tell me that after 20+ years, he was now being directed to lose that power and just act.
He didn’t see that as a good thing and I agree with that. If he was an automaton, he would miss out on the human touch that builds relationships with people in the community they work, maybe even live. I feel that is being lost now, due to the way officers are now forced to be reactive than work as part of the community due to budget cuts, so the relationship has changed.
We now have a range of roles on our streets given to private firms, such as community wardens but their job in some areas is not to be part of the community, but to raise revenue in the shape of litter or parking fines. While I see the relevance of this, the application is all wrong and again, relationship with the community in which they work and perhaps live, breaks down.
Then we see a large section of MPs behaving in a manner that if not breaks the law, certainly violates the very spirit of the relationship with the electorate. Take expenses: MPs voted themselves an 11% pay rise twice in the past few years while public sector employees get below inflation annual rises that equates to a reduction in real terms. MPs then claim for second homes, a limo for 500 yards travel and minuscule items such as pints of milk, biscuits then to the ridiculous of having their moat cleaned as well as the cost of a duck house on their pond.
With all this above, with the contract being changed by authority forcibly on people, is it any wonder we are now questioning whichever guise it comes in? It’s not rebellion, it’s waking up to the fact that we are getting the short end of the deal, all with our implied consent.
It’s not just here in the UK. In the US, talk out of turn to a police officer or border patrol, even if you are being polite, you can be pepper sprayed, hit with a baton, tasered and even shot, such is the out of control nature we are seeing ‘authority’ in response to being questioned.
At the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, the riots were out of control and reportedly worse than has been seen at other similar summits. Yet, we condemn the protesters without questioning why they are behaving in this way, dismissing it as rent a mob who wanted to start trouble anyway. While I do condemn the violence, there is a point that is missed – the contract between authority and people has been changed and is diminishing the relationship.
I like the Ghandi style of protest; civil disobedience in a peaceful manner. Authority will poke you and provoke groups into a fight, as they can deal with that. Stand peacefully, engage and refuse to comply with any directive as a large group works far better and I’m sure that most police would be happier with that too.
I’m not saying we should all become instant lawyers or Freemen of the Land but question everything and if you get threats and violence as a response to a question, you know there’s a problem with the agency and the people. Never should someone be met with violence and intimidation for asking another to justify their actions, especially in a legal / lawful basis but also common sense.
Should the construct of authority want to be part of the community once more, that authority needs to change the relationship and remove the issues where it is causing confrontation. We’re all people at the end of the day and all deserve more respect, whether it’s in the job we’re doing or going about our daily business.
More common sense would go a long way to building that bridge and while there are difficult behaviours to counter in society, there must also be some care carrying out those tasks. It takes everyone to build the community and respect is then given, as well encouraged.
Let’s get back to that point again.