In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
If you’re screeching at your TV screen and demanding a total lockdown because the government knows nothing, or if you’re planning a trip to the beach with your twenty or so besties, you’re actually part of the same problem.
It’s a problem with authority. Or at least a suspicion of it.
Not all authority of course. Not your authority. Not those things that you would wish to come under the authority of. Which is why so many people are gushing over New Zealand PM, Jacinta Ardern.
Not because they like to obey authorities. But because they like what those authorities declare that they should obey. Obedience comes easy when it’s what we want to do. Not so much when it’s not. So should that change at any time, and Jacinta demand obedience to something her Aussie groupies don’t like, that attitude would change pretty quickly.
And this is a problem built up over many decades in the Western world. It’s a problem rooted in the likes of West Side Story, the James Dean rebel with/without a cause.
So whether you want to grasp the levers of power and shut the place down for three months, or if you are packing the car for a beach trip, you won’t be told what to do. You won’t believe that someone could know better than you about anything. Especially anything about which you hold long-held, and often unexamined, beliefs.
There’s no sport on TV and there won’t be for months. But that doesn’t stop the armchair experts. “Umpire! ” “Referee!” everyone’s shouting out. Clearly if they were in charge they would do differently.
So we get a cohort in the community that no matter what the government says, no matter how much public health experts and a war cabinet of federal and state leaders say, simply refuse to believe anything that they are saying could be true.
There’s no trust – some of which is understandable – and no desire to believe that anyone in the government actually knows what they are doing at any stage at any time, ever. Though our politicians haven’t exactly helped. Julia Gillard as PM was dogged by obstructionism, simply for its sake. It’s been modelled to us in glorious technicolor from Canberra.
It reminds me of the bloke who gets washed up on a strange shore after a shipwreck and the locals find him and he asks if there is a government in this place. When they affirm that there is he replies “Well I’m against it.”
I have seen more progressive Left-leaning friends on Facebook have to apologise for what they are about to say: They are saying sorry for thinking that the conservative PM, Scott Morrison, is actually handling an excruciatingly difficult situation extremely well, balancing a whole bunch of competing interests.
They know that the a priori approach of many of their Facebook, and other social media, friends is to never accede moral or spiritual or political authority to their cultural enemies. And seriously, they are worried that they could lose friends over saying it, so they couch it in so many caveats “Of course I think everything else he does is monstrous”, or “It pains me to say this because…”
But when we’ve said “Not my Prime Minister” ad nauseam, anytime a PM not of our particular stripe is in power, then it doesn’t simply prove that we don’t recognise their authority, it shows that we don’t recognise any authority other than our own.
Should a PM come along who aligns with our thinking then we are more than happy to follow along, but that’s not because we recognise their authority, but because they are doing what we wish them to do.
But all of that is understandable. After all there’s a veritable cottage industry of shutting down schools for the day to go on protest marches. It’s such a mark of true wokeness that we don’t have to say “Hey teacher, leave them kids alone“, because the current generation of teachers in the West have, by and large, drunk from that anti-authority Kool-Aid themselves.
To obey the authorities (outside of themselves of course) is to be less than true to oneself. That’s the basis of just about every English and Literature program in the Western world (save for a few noble exceptions).
Of course the flip-side of this is those who are heading towards the beaches in droves in both Melbourne and Sydney recently. The ones who refuse to practise social isolation at all, simply because they know better, or because – as I read this morning – “We’re keeping away from the old people.” They too refuse to recognise any authority that tells them something other than what they wish to hear.
Astonishingly it was in the well-heeled, well-educated parts of Sydney that we saw this. Thousands and thousands. Why? Because, of course, they know better than the authorities.
When you’ve been brought up with a “You do you” culture it’s hard to break that thinking. You will self-justify all the way down. My wife worked in a high security men’s prison and her experience was that self-justification was the default for most prisoners, even those who were in what is euphemistically called “the bone yard” – where the “dogs” are housed.
Now this does not for one minute mean I want to see a system like the Chinese one, in which heavy-handed authoritarianism takes control. But then again, perhaps that’s because I have a certain level of antipathy towards authority too. For many people that’s exactly the kind of system they wish for.
After all I DO occasionally answer the phone in the car. I DO occasionally speed. And I more than occasionally go against the commands of God that I verbally acknowledge hold universal authority across time and space.
There’s a line in there somewhere I reckon.
But before we start to jump up and down and demand the government and public health officials shut the whole place down because they don’t know what they are doing, let’s remember that’s the same thinking behind those youngsters packing the car this morning and heading to the beach.