Archive for December 16th, 2010
This is Michael, the class monitor of one of my sophomore classes in College of Commerce at C.I.T. With exams happening next week, I decided to allow the class to have their Christmas party this week. There is no question about authority in this classroom or any other classroom in a Chinese university. Authority lies with the teacher. At the peer level in every class, the class monitor holds authority, and with it responsibility for his or her class peers. Michael has the authority but doesn’t wield it with vigour. Of all of my students, Michael has a good sense of self. It’s as though he doesn’t need to demonstrate his authority over others. However, this is not the case with most of the other students, even those who are monitors in other classrooms. Again, I have come to the issue of authority, an issue that dwells within the activation of the Father archetype. My students are the typical angst-driven youth found throughout the world.
“The angst-driven search for external authority through fundamentalism is a flight from personal growth and development, an abdication of the summons to individual life.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 48)
Here lies the source of the zealotry that is channeled by groups throughout many, if not most societies. You need a human sacrifice for the sake of religion, someone to strap bombs to their body and become a human torch? Look to these youth. You need front-line fodder to take the brunt of any battle? Again, look to these youth. But it isn’t just the youth who embrace the answers found in fundamentalism, there are many in midlife who yearn for someone to take control, to take the burden of responsibility away from them, to give them answers to questions they are afraid to ask.
But in Michael’s case, it is a matter of revolt, a small revolt to be sure, but a revolt none-the-less. He is carving his own authority based on his individual nature, not an authority bestowed by a higher authority.
“. . . revolts against authority are the only way in which a new authority may be found. It begins with a child learning to keep something secret, to protect some part of the psyche which needs security and solitude in order to live. It takes form in the many experiments of the child, in the revolt of adolescence, in the need to move out of the house. And when these separations are not achieved, the vitality of the personality is sapped,, the life which is meant to flourish withers. No matter what security is offered by staying on the home range, within the protection of a perceived authority, the gift of the developed person to the world is denied through this failure of individuation.” (Hollis, p. 47)
These words make one think, and think hard. Where have I caved in to external authority? I don’t mean an authority based on employer/employee, necessarily. I mean the authority which takes responsibility away and lays it in the hands of an “other” – perhaps one’s wife or husband, perhaps one’s spiritual advisor in whatever church one subscribes, perhaps the authority of a political viewpoint and its leadership. Do I dare answer my own question? To acknowledge the truth would force me to then do something or . . . . .