When we look at the world, recent history and/or current events tell us that both China and Russia can act brutally against those who don't follow the straight and narrow. More recently, we see a new brutality and authoritarianism rising in the leader of the Philippines while North Korea and Cuba seem to have always been led by tyrants.
But even here, we saw an increase in the authority exercised by President Obama as he prosecuted more whistle blowers than all previous administrations combined, tried to mandate Obamacare on people, can execute people at will in an ever expanding use of drones, tried to fast-track the TPP, and signed a large number of executive orders when he couldn't get the cooperation of Congress. And we should note here that despite the number of executive orders he did sign, each of his two immediate predecessors signed more executive orders than he did.
So what we are seeing with the election of Trump is a continuation in the rise of authoritarian rule both here and in the world. Only with Trump, we see a sharp increase in a President-elect being authoritarian. It's as if we were singing the song line 'second verse, same as the first, a little big louder and a little bit worse.'
We should note The Daily Show's Trevor Noah's comparison between African dictators and Donald Trump (click here). And we should also note the trend toward authoritarianism in both of our 2 major political parties as well as in the other presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
At this point, we should ask, what is authoritarianism? Basically, it is an extreme dependence on authority and can come in an active form where a person in authority acts more-less as a tyrant and in its passive form where people become very sensitive, and thus very aggressive, in defending the authority of a hero or leader, group, or tradition. Some of the traits of authoritarianism are listed below (click here for source):
- Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong
- Belief in aggression toward those who do not subscribe to conventional thinking, or who are different
- A need for strong leadership which displays uncompromising power
- A belief in simple answers and polemics
- Resistance to creative, dangerous ideas. A black and white worldview.
In other words, authoritarians, whether they be active or passive, do not work and play well with others because they, or their heroes, insist on being in charge. So when we see the bickering that has existed in Congress between the two parties, we see an authoritarianism by both parties as they try to force their agendas on the other party. Also, once authoritarians are in charge, there is no tolerance shown to those who step out of line. Think about the harsh criticism Colin Kaepernick received for kneeling in protest during the playing of our National Anthem. Was the anger of his critics because of their patriotism or their authoritarianism. Kaepernick's critics should then comment on how India punishes people who don't stand for their National Anthem. Or think about the debate in Reformed circles about the Trinity. A side debate has opened up over whether the tone used in discussing the issue should be called in question. Some, citing the examples of Reformers like Luther and Calvin have said that those who follow the Reformers should show no concern for the tone and should be aggressive when speaking against their opponents.
What is the antidote to authoritarianism? Is the right way to battle conservative authoritarianism to overwhelm it with liberal or leftist authoritarianism? In a word, not at all. Just as abuse leads to more abuse; authoritarianism leads to more authoritarianism. The antidotes to authoritarianism are respect for others born out of a strong commitment to egalitarianism and an unwavering commitment to seek collaboration. And this applies especially when one's opponents are authoritarians. Here, we need to insist on working with authoritarians by listening to them and forming consensus despite their resistance to such acts.
The growing authoritarianism in the world is Democracy's biggest threat. For it allows the sabotage of democracy by trusted fellow countrymen to fly in under the radar. As we believe these fellow countrymen are serving the nation, especially when we agree with their agenda and policies, in the end they are stifling accountability and seeking more power. This means that we ourselves need to change from looking for savior wannabes for our leaders and, instead, insisting that our elected officials listen more and more to us as we not only share our concerns, but our insights on how to solve our nation's problems as well.