Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Authority and Domination is the Mask of Lazy

me grey
Author: Shella Zelenz

I have been giving great thought to the power structures in our society. Our parenting tactics, our employment hierarchies, and our relationship power struggles. One common theme has emerged for me that I feel needs to be looked at much deeper. That theme is power. We all know that power is used and abused. We are not oblivious to it. However, I feel that most of us just accept it and roll along without truly questioning what it really represents.
Of course, my primary focus is typically pertaining to adult/child relationships. I want to address that isolating the power and domination factor between adults and children in education is only a tiny scratch on the surface of the overall picture. Our entire society is based upon hierarchical structures. We have all been raised in this hierarchy and many of us conditioned to maintain it. The question I would like to pose is: Is maintaining this hierarchy really essential to success of the species or to the health of our world?

Let’s take it down to more personal levels that we can all relate to. I will start out with the traditional boy meets girl scenario. Regardless of culture, there is a power hierarchy involved. Some are more legally supported, some are just so intricately embedded that even the most liberated women can’t see their own submission to the power that is deeply entrenched in the most advanced societies. It can also be reversed. There are certainly instances where the woman dominates the man, and the reasons for this can be quite complex, and not the point of this post. The point is how power replaces effort.

The minute a relationship steps down the corridor of one person having to answer to another person, the power trip has begun. Sure, people can behave in less than honorable ways. That, however, is no reflection on the person who feels the need to ask questions. The scenario often goes like this: The person who feels slighted will ask questions of the accused. The accused will defend his/her position. This alone puts one person in power and the other in a position of weakness. How this can change is whether the accused answers the question or if he/she reverses the role and starts accusing the accuser of something and putting the accuser’s own behavior in question. It is easy to see how this is clearly a no-win situation for either party. What it has become is a power struggle. The irony in this concept is that those who feel they need to maintain power, do so because they think it is the most effective and efficient. Yet what they fail to realize is that they end up wasting much more time with power struggles than they do had they taken the time to communicate in a meaningful way in the first place.

This is where I feel that authority/power is a true representation of lazy. We pass more and more laws restricting movement of others and judges' hands are tied by those laws, so they are not even given the opportunity to use their own communicative judgement to decide if the punishment even fits the crime in each particular instance. We are handicapping our own society with our fervent attachment to control others.

Relationships, of any kind, require genuine effort if they are to succeed. This is true in intimate relationships, families, employment, and general societal functionality. The trend to become more powerful, has essentially encouraged laziness in our entire societal fabric. It is very easy to lord over someone, to dominate them, to make yourself believe that if you maintain the power and control, that the most effective and efficient process will unfold. On the surface, this may seem true. However, the undercurrents speak a different story.

We all know, on some level, what it feels like to be oppressed. When someone decides for you (we’ll address the invalidity of that statement later) that you are worthless, that you need to shut up and do what you’re told, that you need to conform, that you are causing trouble, that you are ineffective, and the list can go on and on, we do not feel happy to comply. We feel inner rage and resentment. In other words, the lazy effort of the one in power, just planted a seed that WILL germinate and grow. The more this is controlled by the one in power, the more they feed the growth of that seed. One only has to look at what is going on in our world around us to see the validity of that statement.

What the oppressed fail to realize, is that the power placed over them is a facade that covers true inner weakness. If that person of power was truly powerful, they would be able to communicate with you and meet you on a level that represents the full power of the collective good. That requires TIME and EFFORT. The oppressed are truly the ones in power because they DO understand the needs of the collective and they DO take the time and effort to uncover those needs. Where they fail to succeed is when they give in to the power. This is the same in parenting. Parents threaten to take things away if the child doesn’t comply. That is how employers, teachers, etc. treat those they are assigned to hold “power” over another in order to maintain the process essential to keep you complacent and oppressed.

What I am not suggesting is some kind of revolution of dramatic proportions. What I am suggesting is that we truly and deeply consider what this means to us as individuals. Are we allowing an intimate partner to question our every move, to make us answer to them (thus weakening us and making them have the full power in the relationship) or are we owning our own individual power and fully acknowledging, in the face of the oppressor, our full value? We are in a powerful position to teach the oppressive powers what it means to NOT be lazy. Those who yield power as a sword, do not have true and meaningful power. They are weak. They are full of fear and insecurity. They are emotional children. We need to raise them up and teach them to be fully mature. We have the power to completely revolutionize the way that meaningful communication occurs in our intimate relationships, our parenting, our education systems, and in our employment scenarios.

We also must fully understand what their fear represents. They do not know any differently. They do not know how to function in any other way. For in order to have a democracy, they must actually experience one. 


  1. A beautifully laid out and extremely important thought...furthermore, let us consider where this laziness and lack of value in the individual has come from. Is it possibly lack of skill resulting from the very beginning of school and its structure? We must begin to allow even our youngest students to make decisions on their own. Decision making is a skill that will combat submissiveness in the individual and help him/her stand up for relevant independence. Students in my little lab school (a school hoping to help forge the way toward a 'revolution of dramatic proportions') are able to make decisions about their environment, their own learning and life in general. The results are astonishing! So very glad I found Bad Ass Teachers - and am eager to read every word...

  2. Quite true, indeed, Shella, as far as you go. The way to achieve one's equal power to participate in democracy of relationships, is full acceptance of one's responsibility, at least in nominally free societies. If one is Uighar in China, one has a gun to one's head most of the time. But in a domestic relationship, if both parties are fully self-responsible individuals, then and then only can true democratic communication take place. Oppressors do sacrifice true relationship for the easy road of power, but the oppressed likewise take the easy way, but they do it by a lazy unwillingness to be fully responsible for themselves.

  3. I would like to see you apply that to a public school scenario. Your own belief is going to fall short of the bigger picture, especially when it falls into the expectations of an external party being the only voice of good decisions. If students are given no autonomy (same as teachers), then they are not being lazy. They really do have a gun to their heads. Look at the laws around compulsory education in this country. The reason our schools aren't democratic has much to do with great fear. That fear is deeply reinforced by our society's beliefs around who is trustworthy of making choices for themselves and who is not. Many who make choices that disagree with the oppressor's power, are held down and threatened. The more educated and empowered the oppressed become, the heavier the club swinging of the oppressors. Oppressors don't hand over their power willingly. They are lazy. Why would they truly care if others had a say in their own experience? The need to control another to ensure your own viewpoint or life position is not about being fully responsible. It is about being lazy.