Old-guard authority says:
- I have power over you, and you must do what I say. I am in control, and if you don’t obey my orders, I will punish you, by brute force if that’s what it takes for me to maintain power over you.
- To keep order, we must control “the masses.” Our best tool on this front is fear—we should rule by mental intimidation, and when that doesn’t work, we will instill fear through physical violence. The more they fear us, the more they will acquiesce to our system; the more they fear outside threats, real or imagined, the more they will depend on us for a sense of physical safety and economic security.
- Vote for me so I can take control, on behalf of our party.
New-paradigm authority says:
- I’ll earn your trust by serving our common interests. In this leadership role, I welcome and accept challenges—I do not regard them as personal threats or attacks. I realize that our real power is our ability to transform ourselves and any conflicts we may have with others. I understand that the best solutions arise from diverse ideas and talents. So more than anything, I am a facilitator: I intend to highlight our individual and collective potentials.
- “What is order, and what is its purpose?” we ask. Our aim is freedom and well-being for all, so we define order as that which nourishes our capacity to evolve human conditioning into love and compassion.
- Vote for me, but I am not the solution—nor is any party. We are. Let’s find common ground, working community-by-community to bring peace and shared prosperity. We will untether GDP growth from human progress, and we will disentangle education from “the competitive marketplace.”
Genuine authority is both comfortable with and encourages challenge: a healthy society can only exist when authority is kept in check by free thinkers, when its sole function is to empower people to flourish on their own terms.
Truly democratic systems are co-creative and grounded in an appreciation for humans’ unique yet interdependent place in life.
This is a slightly revised version of a post I originally wrote for the Metta Center for Nonviolence.