There is an ubiquitous exhortation present in America wherever
there are college students, leftists or libertarians; an adhesive-backed
exhortation which pops up on bumper stickers, subways, construction sites,
and other people's propaganda. We find we are compelled to instant
obedience whenever we see one of these dictatorial commands to QUESTION
We do question authority. We question the authority implied in
the imperative order to Question Authority, and the authority of the
person who placed that order in the public eye to do so. We question the
nature of authority, the definition of authority, the determination of
authority. We question authority not only to determine its nature and
validity, and not only in the abstract, but directly and in person in hope
of a response which will prove educational. But frankly, the very first
thing we think of when we receive the order to Question Authority is,"
What happens if we don't question authority? What happens if we
don't even believe in the existence of authority as a "thing in itself,"
but see it rather as a quality or property attributed to an object
(something or someone other than oneself) by the perceiver? What if we
are not even fully convinced of the reliability of stimulus perceived as
external to ourselves, if we question our own authority to such a degree
that we are not fully certain of our own capability to judge allegedly
external objects of perception as being or having the intangible quality
After carrying ourselves off into this dreamworld of
imponderables, we find we extend our view to other concepts and begin to
think that entire fields of thought exist only by assigning arbitrary
values to things which cannot be conclusively proved to exist, and using
those values to measure each other.
Only a few hundred years ago when clocks were not as prevalent and
dictatorial as they now are, people didn't ask what time it was. They
asked "What o'clock is it?" That is, they were not inquiring as to their
position on the time-scale, but merely the position of a rotating hand on
the dial of a mechanical object. With the spread of the clock into every
home and workplace and the assignment of Authority to its workings it was
forgotten that clocks don't measure time, they only measure other clocks.
Now we have the notion that everything exists within the Dimension of
Time, and that things which cannot be measured in terms of time are
hallucinatory, imaginary, or nonexistent. We might as well take the
yardstick as our ultimate measure and say that we have established that,
not only is everything to be considered in the light of being more or less
than three feet long, but that everything which is not straight, and
cannot be measured with a yardstick is an aberration, an anomaly, and
cannot truly be considered to exist.
A highly intelligent and much respected correspondent has replied
to a statement of ours by saying, "You can say anything is political
because everything is political." (We use Political here as a symbol for
a thousand other terms like Art, Important, Stupid, Evil, etc.) Is
Political a quality which is inherent in the nature of an object of
perception? If so, is an object, person or idea Political whether or not
they are being perceived? If everything is Political, and Political is an
inherent quality, then a thing which is Political to a person must also be
Political to any other object on which it can have an effect or by which
it can be perceived. Is a Political thing Political to a dog or a shrimp?
To a rock or a galaxy? To an infant or to god?
If we say a thing is NHEEGHEE, we will either be right or wrong, but
if we say it is Political we can debate it endlessly, so perhaps things
like Political, Authoritarian, Art, Fascist, Obscene, are subtle qualities
of nature perceptible only to the carefully prepared senses, as a person
can only truly see that everything is Good or Evil after being carefully
indoctrinated for years in what is or is not Pleasing and Acceptable Unto
God by authorities who got their training from someone else, and so on.
It's a tired old cliche (our favorite kind) that beauty is in the
eye of the beholder. We have no problem inserting other words in the
place of "beauty" and would add a sense of the statement of an asian
Teacher who recommended we not worry about the speck in another's eye
until after we remove the 25-foot- diameter redwood log from our own.
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