I have proposed that control is exercised through threatening power and violence, and also in the name of the prestige of ‘law and order’ and of those moral ideals and religions; and in addition I have stressed the omnipresence of deceit, corruption and of the cunning in economic life, but never have I spoken of the faith of the people towards those who rule, which goes hand in hand with their faith in the ‘established order’; in other words, in the susceptibility of deceit that does not seem to have interested the economists, even though this ancient patriarchal faith might well be broken before the multifaceted crisis now starts to afflict us.
Those who order and those who are ordered have reciprocal roles, and the political leaders are so unwelcome that they are offered like protective parents, because in the minds of the majority of people there lives a feeling like an agonizing child before the problems of living, who willingly accepts a benevolent authority that guides and protects it.
So we have seen Erich Fromm, from his book “The Fear of Freedom” – written in the aftermath of Nazism; and surely his thesis remains valid, in that many prefer the status of obedient follower of some authoritarian regime or some dogmatic ideology to the status of being free, which requires self-confidence.
Translated to our time and our economic order, surely it is the faith of the community in those who represent the established order of long ago – that is, the conservatives – that through the electoral process confirms that the habitual economic and political regime will continue to prevail, but the public already seems to be tiring of the same type of candidates, and it is notable that the United States has elected a leader of African origin, in Bolivia an indigenous leader and in Chile a woman. This does not necessarily mean that such achieving individuals introduce revolutionary changes in a political and bureaucratic system, in which apparently it is only those heads of state who can govern, so an executive should take into consideration his relation with those who brought him to electoral victory and also with the leaders of the opposition.
But let’s consider the difference between the relationship between a good father and a good son, in that the son feels biologically predisposed to follow the father, in the way that chickens follow the hen – and then of the relationship between the son with a bad father, which indicates that passing as a good father is necessary to enjoy of the privilege to be followed and to command.
This is the situation for many people in our sick society: having had only the privilege of maternal love, having suffered both absence and authority from the father. The confusion that can lead to bad authority in the family is made visible in certain schizophrenics who suffer from delusions in which they see antagonism by foreign persecutors – like the Jesuits or the Martians and other aliens. How can one explain delusions so convoluted?
Simply by the fact that through childhood they have had the experience of being unwanted and damaged by someone that in the absence of care, and because of that aggression they behave like an enemy, but still they never wanted to identify with their own father. And in fact we are so programed by nature to behave like trusting children before a good father, that when destiny provides us the accident of a bad authority, we would prefer to believe that the aggressor or enemy is something separate, and this way we can access the consolation of continuing to believe in a good father.
Surely it was in the context of the family and fatherhood that men discovered authoritarianism exploitation, and it is easy to imagine how, after this familiar authority of paterfamilias was emerging, how it could lead to first slavery and then political authoritarianism.
But not all people are so respectful of authority, and this depends strongly on their tendency to fear. When the ancient leaders, kings and emperors, learned to implement their threatening power, the community learned to fear them and to accept domestication in the same way that lions can be trained to jump through fiery hoops; in this way the process of civilizing has for the most part been domestication through fear. But not all people have such fear, and it is only a fraction of the population that is characterized by the type of mind that is prone to hierarchical feeling. It is they who most need to be commanded, and who also like to command – as well described in the 1940s by Adorno and others in their investigation of the ‘authoritarian personality.’ They characterized it by the acceptance of the aggression that comes with authority, and the discharge of the same corresponding aggression about members of other groups or subordinates.
In short: the established order has always depended on an implicit faith on the part of the majority, even though in the contemporary world this faith has been weakening and although our historical moment is becoming uncertain; doesn’t this mean that the necessary basis for legitimization could one day disappear, so much of our political system, like the economy in which it is based? We can say therefore that the confidence in leaders and in the order established by them has been one of the foundations of economic order in the past, but the future weakening of this traditional confidence could establish a gateway to a new world.
If the innocent faith of children in a good father has been an intrinsic component of patriarchal order, and it has been realized lately how the patriarchal order has dominated the world with its bad authority, then already we do not want fathers, bad nor good. But I believe that we should guard against the temptation of blind anti-authoritarianism. And as it was an error of Marx to allow the implementation of a dictatorship of the proletariat of anti-intellectual character (when it was originally the intellectuals who really supported the revolution), anarchist thinking seems to me an error in which the political ideal is merely the absence of government.
This anarchic ideology has been present in the movement of 15M and other related movements, in which reorganization of society was expected based on the democratic dialogue. I was witness to the 1980s essays of Carl Rogers as a facilitator of self-organization for large groups, and this left me with the conviction that at least in therapeutic groups, a balanced authority can help greatly. And I am in agreement with Slavoj Žižek, who in a recent article proposes that it is not entirely certain that people know their desires well enough, and that it is an authentic leader who has the power to reflect back to the people what they want.
In view of such considerations I think it can be an inspirational thought that one can aspire to a hierarchical family in which not the father, nor the mother nor the son command, but instead that reaches a happy order, functional and balanced between them; thus we can aspire also to a hierarchical political order in which the voices of central authority are balanced, from the community and the individuals about themselves.