Thursday, July 28, 2016

"When someone bigger than you says something, you don't Contradict them"

A child opened the blinds. Her grandfather told her that it was still dark, and to open them more to let more sun in. The 4-year-old said that she thought it was already pretty light in here. Her father interrupted, "when someone bigger than you says something, you don't contradict them."

I was very bothered by that. When someone bigger than you is wrong, of course you contradict them!

It brings up the idea of authority, and where it comes from. The father taught his daughter that authority comes from bigness. But men are bigger than women, does that give men authority over women? Does Arnold Schwarzenegger have authority over the president, Jesus, and Gandhi because he's bigger than them?

We shouldn't take the father so literally. More likely he meant, "someone older than you". But does authority come from age? Should I tell my wife, "don't contradict me, I'm older than you?"

But maybe older means at least a generation older. We can test that. Must a young adult not contradict an older man? An old man says Jewish people are the scourge of the earth, should we not contradict him?

Maybe he means we shouldn't contradict those further up the family tree. Authority comes from familial generation. Well then I feel sorry for those born with wrong parents. Many spend their time trying to argue others out of the traditions of their parents, and these same people have kids and then say authority comes from parenthood.

But maybe authority comes from familiar generation only in regard to children. A child must not contradict an older generation relative, but once the child is old enough contradiction is fine. Again, what makes the older generation relative right, or his opinion so supreme that they ought not be contradicted? Many parents teach their children wrong things, and we wish this child would contradict the parent. Suppose the parent tells the child that a Pikachu is a ground type pokemon, is it improper for the child to say, "no, Pikachu is an electric type"?

So why is the child allowed to say that? Because authority in fact, comes from insight. The child has insight about Pokemon, just as his father may have insight about the workings of a car. What insight the grandparent has over the child about whether it was light enough in the room to be called a lit room, I don't know. That's why I remain bothered by it.

Reason, of course, rules individual insight. When someone with insight says something that doesn't make sense, you don't believe it. But sometimes we don't have information or sufficient exposure to a topic to find the correct answer. So we ask those with information and exposure to the relevant topic for their insight, and thus we give them authority. If you want to know about firemen, you ask a fireman. The only insight a parent has by being a parent is insight into having sex.

Parenthood and age ought to be connected with insight, but it isn't always. Some people have spent their lives without gaining insight, often because they themselves were pressured not to contradict their un-insightful parents. Many false beliefs are rooted in superstition that, generation after generation, they were taught not to contradict.