Authoritarian Blues

Photo by Daria Sannikova

On several occasions during my childhood, I was taken aside by a handful of different teachers and chided for being anti-authoritarian. On the first occasion, as an infant, not only did I not recognise the authority of my teacher, but I didn’t even know what it meant. By the time I was fourteen, my art teacher, at the local grammar, obviously sick and tired of my backchat, told me to wait until everybody else had left. They calmly said goodnight to several kids, closed the door, grabbed me by the throat and demanded to know, what I shout abuse at a disabled man in the road. I answered ‘no’. They then asked, ‘So why do you call me ‘Jimmy’ and disrespect me in class?”

Now here’s the thing, their name was ‘Jim’, but because they were Scottish, I guess they took offence. Nevertheless, no matter how offended they might’ve been, there was no need for violence. The man punched me several times; he was at least twice my size. I took the whole situation with a pinch of salt. I’d been beaten before by people in positions of power. I didn’t say a thing, I didn’t report them to the authorities, for I’ve always had a knack of bringing people to their breaking point.

A flatmate once tried to strangle me to death for sitting in their chair. It wasn’t theirs, but so be it, that’s how humans think. There were a few lads from the school rugby team who once spent ten minutes beating the crap out of me on a motorway bridge, they even kicked the back of my knees, hoping to break a bone or two. They didn’t succeed, and the next day a few of them spotted me on walking by, they ran over to shake my hand and apologise. I refused, I told them it was bad enough that they were bullies, but now they were acting like cowards. There must’ve six of them altogether, on average, three years older and a foot taller than I was at the time. Yet they were desperate to pass the buck, and blame their friend — I merely told them to grow up.

There was a guy called Nathan who hated me with a venom. The funny thing is we used to get on, at least to a degree. He was older than my crowd, he had problems, partly because he was hooked on morphine and codeine. For some reason, I antagonised him, especially as I didn’t want to be best buddies. He spent three years tracking my every move, and waited until I’d taken some acid, then kicked the crap out of me in a graveyard in Deptford, South London. He’d have let it go, but I couldn’t help laughing, I didn’t feel a thing, and he never bothered me again. Some years later he died in a motorbike accident on holiday in Greece. Everybody suddenly had something good to say about the guy, except me. I wasn’t going to lie, and I wasn’t going to make his excuses.

That’s the thing about authority, some people claim it, and others recognise their clout. But I don’t, I don’t care who you are, you’re not in charge, you’re just a clown. You might have a uniform or a badge, or an honorary title handed down by god knows who, but you’re not the ruler of my world or the next, there’s no point laying down the rules. I sometimes wonder if I might’ve been the king of some small island somewhere in the past, I have that air around me, self-righteous for no apparent reason. Gracious in defeat, philosophical in conflict, a peacemaker to strangers, a problem solver, a sympathetic ear, all qualities that I believe could’ve once made up a great leader.

Except knowing me, I did an awful job, and I was a lousy king because I can’t even imagine doling out punishments to strangers, curtailing freedoms, or taxing the poor for my personal gain. I’d never conscript the fit and able and send them off to fight my wars, and I couldn’t marry unless it were for love. As for ceremony and tradition, I’d prefer to give them a miss, for the grandiose dreams of the pampered and pompous have never really appealed to me.

I take the long view, and far too long for this world. I’ve known people spend ten thousand years as slugs, just to learn a little humility, and earn themselves a righteous life of great power and responsibility. I’ve met souls lost in deep contemplation, so far from earth that they have near enough forgotten what it means to be human. They, unlike the aspirants who form so much traffic between the living and the dead. Those who have opted out of this game of trials, this cruel sport of life, whereby one individual can enact the power of a god over their fellow mortals. There is no reason to respect law and order; the world of humans has no hold over the spirit. Yet so many of us do, most likely for a quiet life, a trade-off between protection and freedom, where the negation of equality costs so much more for the disenfranchised.

Imagine spending a life incarcerated by the authorities, much like a hermit might isolate themselves from the world. For some, it might be no better death itself, the broken wings of social butterflies trapped inside a cage of lies. Then there are those who are prisoners of themselves, of limited thought grounded by fear, stunted by the threats of others, playing their part and trying to fit in. Freedom is a rarity these days, so many people clustered together, listening to the same voices of reason, fearing the same abstract terrors.

There is a place now long forgotten but still reserved in the underworld, neither heaven nor hell, but something in between. Asphodel Meadows is where we’ll meet, the blind leading the blind into mediocrity. The majority, the masses, neither particularly good nor bad, neither accomplished or quite the failure, the in-betweeners that did very little with the life that they once had. The meadows are comfortable but not beautiful — populated by the average souls who harbour little regret or hope. The people who don’t mind waiting, sometimes all their lives, for patience is its own reward.

Those who inflict pain and pressure the weak, the natural authoritarians who are proud to wear their uniforms, the weaponised minds of the unspoken id, the wild beasts caged by conformity, who take pleasure in doling out just punishment, they have a surprise waiting for them when they die. They will be at the beck and call of all those they have tortured, eternal slaves to a new order of total chaos. Those who follow their rule and have abstained from all responsibility, have no ideas, no dreams, no great loves to comfort them when they die. Only tradition, the habits of a lifetime, the hand-me-down abstract notions of a binary mind. They are merely cannon fodder for endless holy wars, fought without passion or reason in Hades and Tartarus, at least until they realise they needn’t follow orders.

Sometimes, those cursed by second sight might witness the pitiful manoeuvres of dead soldiers still lost in the field of battle. They, who cannot die, who will not accept defeat, carry out the wishes of their superiors for all of eternity. They who suffer for a forgotten cause must come to understand that they are in eternal conflict with their brothers. The fallen that rise up again and salute the chain of command, that which tethers them to their remains and weighs them down with a fool’s responsibility. The shackles of authority are a curse upon humanity, and one day, perhaps years from now, each of us here will discover that this place has no claim over us. Its only power is our submission, should we choose to kneel down and surrender.

We, who have nothing to fight for and nothing to gain, needn’t root for winners or commiserate the losers. For none of this is real, it’s nothing but a power play, a game of chance and favour for cowards and dictators.





A homespun philosopher looking for meaning in a meaningless world.

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Frank Maddish

Frank Maddish

A homespun philosopher looking for meaning in a meaningless world.

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