For some time, I’ve been meditating on the source of authority. From organic social groups to governments, what mechanism propels an authority into being respected? And even more abundantly, how do “gurus” achieve their status despite having any official certificate? And for those who do have something “official” (read bureaucratic) what mechanism gives the institution offering the certificate, authority to do so? In the end, I came to the conclusion that violence is the source of all authority.
It’s easy to understand if we look to history. Kingdoms and rulers were established by force. On a smaller scale, leaders or regions and towns were established the same way. Gangs rule an area by force. Even the church (and other religious prescriptions) were all established under the sword– or, at the least, the threat of the sword. Once the general population subjugated, it just becomes “the way things are” and we continue until another force rises up to disrupt the incumbent authority. It’s primitive.
Naively, we might like to think that authority is established by voting and more sophisticated, even pleasant methods like logic, intelligence and service. Logic, intelligence and service help to maintain an authority in power since it liquidates the need for an opposition uprising, but it rarely establishes an authority. Not even in a “democratic” country. Of course, when we look to current establishments to argue that democracy does indeed establish authority, we forget that we are only looking at our generational window of a much older system at play.
So violence, or the threat of violence is enough to establish authority. You don’t need to look very far to see this playing out every day in a hundred different ways. Who holds the authority on the roads? Cops or blatant transgressors who get away with (quite literally) murder? Think of any confrontational issue, be it at work or in a social setting. Who establishes authority in the moment- and thereby sets the tone? The one prepared to fight or the one backing down?
If you look at more physical, criminal encounters, it’s the criminal who intimidates the victim and holds authority in the situation. This is achieved through force, or the threat of force. And inside that situation, the only authority over the criminal is the justice system “in action”. When that system fails to counter with a reasonable and equal counter force, or threat of force, there is no real authority that compels the criminals to reconsider their behaviour.
Take the death penalty, for example. In the days of olde, the hangman’s noose was prescribed for horse theft not so that the justice system could kill thieves, but so that they could stop thieves from stealing horses. Because, in the beginning, man was violent, always will be violent and no matter how much metro-political-correctness you try instil in a generation of young men, there will always exist a band of violent young men outside that fluffy conditioning, who will only know violence as the way.
To counter this forever-present force of evil in the world (for lack of a better description, for it is evil) you need brave warriors. Not cold-blooded warriors. You need warm-hearted, sacrificing and bold warriors who can stir hearts and lead in the face of adversary. You need young men and women who don’t back down when someone barks at them. You need young warriors who are not afraid to knuckle down, and if necessary, throw down to suppress the forces which threaten our hard-fought liberties. Yes, the liberties we enjoy today were won by the sword, lest we forget.
To that end, sport plays a critical role in the development of the young warrior. After all, sport is just a reflection of and preparation for greater things in life. Sport as the end in and of itself is indulgent and selfish. Sport is so much more; a master which trains us to lead and serve. And, less deeply, a great physical release, enjoyment and celebration of the human ability. But on the deeper level, sport offers us an opportunity to confront the seemingly impossible, overcome fear, achieve dreams and help us believe. We know this everytime we see it, and everytime we experience it for ourselves on the finish line. If only we care to reflect.
It’s no coincidence then that the great leaders of our past were fanatical pugilists. Today, we look at the sport of boxing with disdain and label it “barbaric”. We consider sports like rugby, NFL football or Aussie rules as violent. We steer our kids away from situations where (healthy) violence is prolific in the hope of protecting them from injury, while ironically allowing them to soak up ridiculously (cold-blooded) violent cartoons and movies. This in itself raises so many questions: how do kids learn to differentiate between the two? how do kids learn to respond, practically, to physically rough situations? how do young men, in particular, develop a healthy sense and responsibility for their own inherent violent nature?
Truth be told, violent but healthy sports offer our kids an education that can’t be transmitted academically. Dealing with violence is a skill, not a written test. Both when on the offensive and in the defensive, knowing your own physical limitations, strengths and weaknesses, as well as that of your opponents’ makes you a formidable warrior.
One only has to read through a brief history of Mahatma Gandhi’s life (arguably the world’s greatest pacifist) to understand the role and influence violence has over countries and communities. Not being afraid of violence, because there is a deep understanding of it through experience, is the first step to overcoming it, even non-violently. But being prepared to fight is what is important particularly if your opponent is dogmatic, stubborn and only knows one way. More than being able to fight, is being able to fight well. Of course, you can also (willingly) submit to the butcher’s knife as Gandhi put it, but that’s a matter of perspective I guess, one I would probably disagree on.
So while the world grows violent young men in abundance through an aggressive model of corruption, dishonesty and selfishness, fuelled by modern advertising (and by advertising, I am speaking very broadly and not pointing at media agencies at all), we should be cultivating a generation of young warriors prepared to inspire and work towards protecting and serving the values and ideals we hold fast. How?
Practically, with sports like boxing or rugby. Not with the sole purpose of “winning at all costs”. I believe those intentions are an invention engineered by the same cold-blooded violent mentality we oppose. Incidentally, we recognise that dark force within a game itself. It’s the cheap-shot player as an example. And in those moments, we see real heroes emerge and learn how to deal with villains. Heroes are not the ones responding with tit-for-tat violence. Nay, they are the ones responding with class, rising above and triumphing with a display of ability, strength and spirit. And it is in that demonstration which intimidates the opposition and establishes real authority; where we learn how to wield authority and circumvent aggression with non-violence in a violent world.