How often has it been in history, when war is caused by disrespect. An important person in my life has just come to the conclusion that their error with respect to me has been disrespect. But I fear we shall fall again into the maelstrom of conflict. We hold fundamentally different views of authority. I, no big surprise, hold no human authority above myself, though I do what government requires of a citizen, and when appropriate obey the powers above me. But that doesn’t mean that I hold their authority with any more reverence than my own reason, or autonomy. My view and sense of egalitarianism doesn’t rob from the appropriate powers, their right to exact whatever tribute the social contract requires. I am not so stupid as to suggest that authority should be challenged in every situation. Authority has its place, and I give it plenty of room. I count it the wisdom of Christ to allow the authorities to exact their proper payment without any rebellion. This is the agreement of the social contract. The state and whatever body represents them need funds to pay police, pay for schools, etc. to make sure the overall movement of any society I could possibly support is supported by me. There are, of course, errors, but that is to be expected in any human authority. Recourse to political means are always available, since they are not sending people to jail for disagreeing with them, and don’t happily prosecute the public will, at least not without a great deal of blowback that leads eventually to some change.
Egalitarianism, not only an Age of Reason and Enlightenment virtue but that of some ancients and moderns, continually plies its trade against the assumption that law is to be obeyed irrespective of the justness of that law. There is no ostensible recourse for one whose belief systems go against the common political stream. This pressure can be either de facto or de jure, reflecting either the status quo or the legal precedent, but setting oneself against the stream has consequences.
Egalitarian politics strives against these pressures. No one has the authority given by God to exercise law of any kind against another just because they disagree with the status quo. Neither, on a more personal level, does one person have a right to judge another unworthy for their failure to conform, and attempt to exact justice for that failure.
Libertarianism informs the issue here. One can’t impinge on another’s rights without recourse. This assumes some form of natural law and some form of the social contract that doesn’t raise itself to the level of government. In other words, we can’t expect that being unfair to others should go unnoticed, or that we shouldn’t respond to it. We need to keep a sense of fairness that doesn’t cross the borders of decency expecting no response from the golden rule. The golden rule stands as the rule of fairness that exacts from us the necessity of judging our behavior in terms of how we would like to be treated. As a general principle it is the foundation of all egalitarian principles, and the denial of any sense of either divine right against a person, or legal authority that oversteps the bounds of reason.
Let me take you to a conflict that has recently been absolved. A person whom I am forced to interact with daily has under the pressure of my continued censure decided that they have been disrespectful of me and so decided that I should be resisted with all force. We had become desperate for the anger I felt and expressed, and for the futility of the situation that didn’t seem to be resolving.
They decided that the only way to resolve this was to play the authority card, and the anger had escalated to the point of verbal violence. I disrespected that authority, well, on top of disrespecting authority in general as a method of resolving issues, and so had become part of that violence as a matter of resistance. I had the high card, in egalitarian reason, and so was ready to let it play out in my favor. They also decided that since they had authority in their favor, they would let it play out. But they were losing, both reason and common decency, and I was losing my mind waiting for understanding to have its day.
They resolved that they had disrespected me and that that was the problem. Yes, I agree, but they played the authority card by giving it to me. I resisted that authority, claiming that in Christ we are all on the same ground, and that we should treat each other with the respect due to ordinary human beings.
I don’t know whether they have taken this hint, but the effort they made to apologize for not respecting me has brought peace. I will make every effort to respect their move and keep peace. But I have to resist their solution of me becoming the authority. That would be a joke. Who am I to exercise authority over an equal? What a complete waste of effort. I don’t have enough brain power to run my life and theirs as well.
Our interaction will have to be played out on an egalitarian field. I am no more capable of being in charge of another adult than I am of being in charge of my own life. My own life I give over to the love of God, not so much as an authority, but as the beneficent Creator. I do not deny his authority as creator, but sense that authority is not the mode of his communication to us in Jesus Christ. He makes the offer of life, and we either take it or not. I say yes to this offer, try to understand what would be pleasing to God and make my decisions on that basis. But this is not a basis of law. What I can live with is that God offers the way for us, and that we either choose to take it or not in any case. If this is the true God, then taking his advice and rule is the route to truth. If this is not the true God then the advice becomes one more voice in the light of reason that has to be taken into consideration.
Globally, the voice of God has to be tested against other voices, and this is not a zero-sum game. If God is God, then there is no real competition for the position. The challenge that Thomas Hobbes delivers to us is that we must govern ourselves as obedient to a ruling authority and that the state will function as the salvation of people in the political enterprise. But if the state of nature is, instead of the constant war that Hobbes observes, but rather, a state of cooperation as some of his more optimistic contemporaries envisioned, then the authority card has lost its usefulness if it ever really had it.
I argue, especially with this significant other, that we are all created equal, as the Declaration of Independence suggests, and that we are all responsible to God for carrying playing that out. There is no essential requirement to submit to authority, nor to try to figure out where in any authority scheme we fit, but that we are all responsible to God for how we make this work out. Otherwise, we are stuck with the terrible prospect of determinism that requires that we find our place in the scheme of things and play out our part in terms of a script that is already written. Oh my God, how could you have let this happen? 😉