Dear Diary: Authority


Topic A, chez moi, is of course the angel of grace whom I get to hold in my arms once or twice a week. Never have I felt my incapacity as a writer so thoroughly proved as it is by Will, with his unbeatable smile (Kathleen claims that it will be more effective than her own, which is saying something) and the extraterrestrial curiosity about the world that gives him the air of a higher being on assignment who only seems to be a baby.

And then there are his sighs. Oh.

Topic B is this other thing that I’m interested in: expertise without authority. The developed nations are ubiquitously captained by bright men and women who nonetheless lack authority. No doubt they trained themselves as such! Nobody understands authority anymore, and rightly: it needs a complete reinvention, a re-think that will clearly distinguish between “authoritative” (good) and “authoritarian” (bad).

An authority, first of all, believes in itself, and, second of all, behaves in a manner that’s consistent with its programme. It’s very important for authorities not to be chargeable with hypocrisy, with saying one thing and doing another.

So much for the essential prelimiary. The essential superstructure is the authority’s belief in a vision of life as it might be lived. This is what today’s meritocrats lack altogether: they’re successes at living life as it is lived right now, a life to which most people have no attachment. Testing well breeds a horrible complacency, but most of today’s leaders never meet anybody who isn’t just like them — other successful testers.

We were right to reject the vagaries of hereditary aristocracy (of which heredity monarchy is essentially the pimple), but we have not come up with a good replacement. Let’s just meditate on that for a while, calmly ad quietly.