Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Saturday, December 18, 2004

On Authority

There is a bumper sticker out there that reads "Question Authority". Hm. How...bumber-sticker-ish. What, exactly, are we to question authority about? And for what reasons? And should we ALWAYS question authority?

Another interesting thing to consider about that bumper sticker is that it is an arguement that commits suicide. If we are to question authority, on whose authority are we to take that advice? The person who came up with the idea of questioning authority is, in their minds, an authority. So, we should question the validity of them asking us to question authority. So, an authority tells us to question authority, presumably to hold the authority accountable, yet, I doubt that the authority on the bumper sticker really wants to be questioned about their authority to tell me to question authority.

Lost yet? Me too. The problem with bumper-sticker philosophy is that it seems reasonable at first, but then, when you actually delve into it, it doesn't make any sense anymore. But, that's not why I called this meeting.

The "Question Authority" bumper sticker gets it half-right, and half-wrong, all at the same time. We SHOULD question authority, if for no other reason, because the authority usually has the answers. That's (usually) why the authority is the authority. Because the authority knows something we don't. And that, frankly, is the way it should be.

For those of you who have dealt with me over the past year or so, from other sites, you probably have noticed that I can converse, relatively intelligently, on quite a variety of subjects. This is NOT the result of me being an authority on any one topic, because, frankly, I'm not. But, I've questioned authorities on so many different topics that I have learned a lot about many things, simply because I've taken the time to ask the questions of the people who know more than I do. I questioned authority. And got answers.

Now, the reason why so many people want to "question" authority is that they feel they have a right to know everything about everything. Want to know what our plans are for Iraq? Bug the living snot out of the President, the Secretary of Defense, and anyone else who has ever thought about serving in the White House. Want to know where we are sending our troops? Bug the same people. Want to know how to smuggle a nuclear weapon into the US? Ask a reporter. They'll happily tell you. (Tom Clancy actually smuggled something similar to a nuclear weapon into the US, to see if it could be done. It could. He wasn't happy about that. You can read about that in The Sum of All Fears.)

People's favorite authority to question is God. Why does God allow good people to die? Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people, and vice-versa? Why does He have all these stupid rules that kill our fun? Why, why, WHY?! Because He's God, dammit. He knows things we don't know, nor should we. If we knew everything that God knew, we would be God ourselves, wouldn't we?

I personally am sick and tired of people thinking that they have a right to have their questions answered. Sorry, I should revise that. There are many people who think that they have to have their questions answered, to THEIR satisfaction. ALL questions are answered, every time they are asked. But, do we like the answer? For instance, "no" is a perfectly good answer to the question "Am I going to Heaven?". It may not be the answer the person likes, but it is the answer. No one has a right to have all their questions answered to their liking.

An excellent science fiction book about this idea is John Dalmas' book The Lizard Wars. One of the central themes of the book is the idea that Life (or God, if you are a Christian. John seems to avoid all mentions of God) will give you the answers you NEED in life, not the answers you want. If you need the answer, God will give it to you, without the question even being asked. If you don't need the answer, God won't give it to you, because you don't need it. I read The Lizard Wars years ago, before I became a Christian, but, that philosophy has stuck with me. In fact, it only really became ingrained in my brain cavity group after I became a Christian. I noticed that, every time I needed to know something, somehow, I found out about it before the critical decision-making moment. If I didn't need to know it, I usually found out AFTER the decision was made. Yet, most of my decisions made without ALL the facts turned out okay, while the decisions I made ignoring the facts I already had turned out poorly. Try it sometime. You'll be amazed.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country