Authority

On page 325 of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition, Fran thinks the following:

“If the system of authority had temporarily broken down, they would just have to find the scattered others and re-form it.  It didn’t occur to her to wonder why ‘authority’ seemed to be such a necessary thing to have, any more than it occurred to her to wonder why she had automatically felt responsible for Harold.  It just was.  Structure was a necessary thing.”

I can somewhat identify with Fran here on authority.  While I like to read about people who challenge authority, I like for someone to be in charge because there are then structures in place that can help me.  As Jack said on LOST, “Live together, or die alone.”  But a fear of chaos and anarchy is why there are people who have preferred or tolerated strong dictators: a strong leader is better than chaos, in the eyes of some.

But what if one disagrees out of principle with what an authority is doing?  Even that could lead to chaos, unless there are people who are willing to replace the oppressive authority with an alternative government, one that is able to gain acceptance and legitimacy in the eyes of the vast majority of people.  This was the case with the American Revolution.

Plato’s Socrates in Crito, Henry David Thoreau, and others resolved to disobey laws that they deemed unjust, and yet they agreed to suffer legal punishment because the authority structure needed to be maintained for the common good.  (Or I can say that about Plato’s Socrates, but I have not read much of Thoreau.)  They had a way to challenge authority with a higher law, while acknowledging the necessity of the authority structure.

UPDATE: See Looney’s comments here. I may be reading civil disobedience into Crito. It’s been a while since I read it.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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