Sunday, November 28, 2010

On Questioning Authority

Being an armchair quarterback is, at the very least, an American tradition if not irrevocably part of the human condition itself. It's really easy to question the actions of someone in charge - be it the President, a Senator, a Mayor, your boss, etc - and to say what you would've done differently. We all do it. Myself included. And why not? We (presumably) have most, if not all, of the same facts at our disposal. If we can see the solution, why can't they?

Yesterday, I was thinking of one of the pearls of wisdom that Bill Adama (from the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica) sometimes produces (usually as if it's by accident), and I couldn't help but think of another. I'm sure many of my readers (all 12 of you) know the show but those who don't may need a little context; I'll try not to give too much away. At one point in the series Adama is no longer in command of the Galactica and his XO takes command of the fleet. Under his command... well, let's just say things don't go so well. One of the reasons is his wife, concerned mainly with herself and her own social status, keeps manipulating him, second-guessing any decision that might make him (and her) look "weak." She is doing exactly that during a conversation with her husband when Adama unexpectedly walks into the room, interrupting them, unintentionally eavesdropping on the meat of the conversation.

After she excuses herself, Adama says to his XO: "Never had much use for people who second-guessed my decisions. Especially if they've never held a command. They don't understand the pressure."

I believe in Timothy Leary's mantra "Think for yourself; question authority." I think it's everyone's duty to do so. Many leaders - the good ones, in my opinion - even welcome it. But we should remember that we often lack context - of the situation, of experiences, of knowledge, etc. As a result, when we question authority I believe we should default to doing so with respect. Just try to remember: if authority can be wrong, then so can you.

No comments:

Post a Comment