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The Problem With Authority
L. Reichard White

“There’s a constant battle between people who refuse to accept domination and injustice and those who are trying to force people to accept them.” –Noam Chomsky

“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” –Benjamin Franklin

“If I order them to do things they don’t want to do, I won’t be chief anymore.” –The Emerald Forest

“The German people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led.” –Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf Epigraph, 1926 [1]

Professor Noam Chomsky suggests that while French leftist anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, Bertrand Russell and others believe we have an “instinct for freedom,” Prof. Chomsky asserts that hasn’t been proven.

Drapetomania” should save a lot of time in convincing you that we humans do indeed have an “instinct for freedom” — maybe several.

Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness that, in 1851, American physician Samuel A. Cartwright hypothesized as the cause of enslaved Africans fleeing captivity.[1]:?41? The official view was, slave life was so pleasant, that only the mentally ill would want to run away. … –Drapetomania

So, why WOULD slaves want to run away? Why WOULD they exhibit “drapetomania?” If you were enslaved, would you? Seriously, would you?

If your answer is, “Yes,” you likely have an instinctive understanding of one of our “instincts for freedom.

But why would Mother Nature — or as some like to call HerThe Theory of Biological Evolution by Natural Selection — go to the trouble to evolve instincts for freedom for us?

Drapetomania is part of a set of instincts and/or drives that are extremely important to human survival. They’re the key to human liberty — and knowledge use — and so powerful that the hierarchical U.S. Establishment spends at least 13 years on each of us — using government school’s “hidden curriculum” — trying to suppress them.

In a previous article, we developed the notion that many of our inherited complement of genetic reflexive and instinctive behaviors and drives evolved because we depend on our data base which is distributed amongst those around us.

Because of different life experience, the information and knowledge — knowledge being “information organized to facilitate pre-diction” — varies from person to person. This difference of information and knowledge make differences of opinion inevitable.

Here’s a practical example – – –

We’ll find more game to the west, in the forest.

No, we’ll find more and easier game to the east in the meadows.

Keeping in mind that our data base and operating system are spread out over those around us and that different experience often leads to different viewpoints — and thus that different pre-dictions are normal, expected, and inevitable — the problem arises, which pre-diction will we follow?

In tribes and small groups, the answer was straight forward and simple: “We’ll follow the pre-diction we agree with.” That means we’ll often split up — some of us will go west to the forest, some east to the meadows.

So, for our small-group ancestors, differences of opinion would rarely cause a serious problem. These folks, strictly brought up as individuals first rather than group members, would practice what I like to call “natural democracy.” Those who thought the game would most likely be found in the forest would “vote” by getting together and going west, those who thought it would be in the meadows would “vote” by gathering and going east. And some might stay put.

The advantage is pretty obvious. First, there’s rarely one right answer and sometimes you’re wrong so you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket if you can help it. Second, the probability of finding game is at least doubled if you check more than one place.

It’s clear then that differnces should be respected — that nerd may be funny-looking, but he knows things too.

Why would anyone in their right mind interfere with this system that efficiently uses our distributed information and knowledge?

So in small ancestral groups, differences of opinion being normal, expected, and respected, would be handled as Mother Nature intended, by “natural democracy” as a matter of course — and with little friction.

Our small-group ancestors were designed to deal with these regular differences of opinion — and thus, sharing their genetics, so are we.

On the other hand, our ancestors refused to be ordered around or told what to do. That’s another of our complement of “instincts for freedom.”

Here’s my favorite example of just how sensitive to being told what to do our genetics — and theirs — makes us – – –

“Briggs (1970:55-58) tells us in detail how religious services were conducted in iglus [igloos] and how Inuttiag (in the role of religious coordinator) tried at certain points to get his tiny congregation to stand. The community initially conformed, but then more and more people began to disregard his orders until the majority were ignoring him. At that point, he simply stopped trying to command them.”(Boehm 1999:54)

Is it really a big deal to stand on cue for a church service? It was for our ancestors.

You can find other examples of this universal aversion to being told what to do HERE.

However, because, of our modern fetish for large-group winner-takes-all voting where everyone’s forced to go along, rather than natural democracy, we have what folks appropriately call Coercive Democracy.

In modern 20th and 21st Century cultures, then, beset with coercive democracy, differing opinions often aren’t respected and, since huge numbers of folks are forced to go along with things they don’t agree with, there’s a lot of friction.

OK, but what’s this all have to do with drapetomania?

As suggested above, there are more than just one “instinct for freedom.” In addition to fleeing from captivity, there’s the closely related instinct, typically diagnosed by the psychiatric profession as Oppositional Defiance Disorder or O.D.D.

The “Shrinks” correctly recognize what amounts to a resistance to taking orders from Authority figures and a disrespect for Authority in general. Apparently unaware of the genetic basis, that’s considered a negative diagnosis.

What’s O.D.D. have to do with freedom?

Remember those hierarchical folks — the biggest baddest homey on the block, for example. We have that 1% or so of those sociopathic big bad homey hierarachists among us who have a genetic tendency to dominate and control everyone and tell us all what to do, attempting to force us all to do things we don’t want to do, thus putting all our eggs in one basket and doing things their way.

Allow them to seize control and we all go hunting in the forest. Hope that was a good gamble – – –

So O.D.D. isn’t a mental illness, it’s genetic and necessary for efficient use of our distributed information and knowledge — and thus for rational behavior. As a bonus, it’s one of our automatic instincts for freedom.

But how about when it makes sense to “follow the leader?”

There’s a big difference between Authority of Position and authority of better knowledge and information. We’ll temporarily follow a leader who has better knowledge and information as long as it suits us. These days we hope the two coincide but much too often they don’t. And because of our exposure to 13 years of government school’s “hidden curriculum,” — and the advantages of would-be leaders faking it — we often can’t tell them apart.

And perhaps exhibiting O.D.D. himself, is why Ben Franklin suggested “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority,” why Hitler had to “gull” the German people in order to lead them — and why the tribal leader knew, “If I order them to do things they don’t want to do, I won’t be chief anymore.

If you’re still not convinced we have such instincts for freedom, you can find a robust presentation of the solid ethnographic evidence HERE.

What would our societies be like if we ditched Coercive Democracy and fully engaged our instincts for freedom? While not perfect, there’s THIS provocative analog – – –

So, a small percentage of humans are genetic throwbacks to our hierarchical relatives (baboons, gorillas, chimps, etc.) — and their genes often cause some of them to lie, cheat, steal, intimidate, and sometimes murder their way into hierarchical power positions. This applies particularly in the case of “governments.” Some of us are aware this is characteristic of modern societies but have come to think that’s normal. It isn’t. HERE for updates, additions, comments, and corrections.

AND, “Like,” “Tweet,” and otherwise, pass this along!


L. Reichard White [send him mail] taught physics, designed and built a house, ran for Nevada State Senate, served two terms on the Libertarian National Committee, managed a theater company, etc. For the next few decades, he supported his writing habit by beating casinos at their own games. His hobby, though, is explaining things he wishes someone had explained to him. You can find a few of his other explanations listed here.

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