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There’s No One Driving the Bus

The habits of authoritarianism run deep. Obedience is only the most superficial. Deeper is to look to authority as a source of truth. Deeper still is to look first for “who is in charge” when seeking to understand and change a given situation.

I am speaking of the reflex to ask, “Who is doing this to me?” This question is useful in power-over situations. It forms naturally in those conditioned to victim-perpetrator relationships, as well as those in authoritarian institutions like schools and prisons. However, when that outlook becomes a habit, one looks for someone-in-charge as the explanation for every injustice and the key to righting every wrong.

Sometimes the explanation works. Sometimes, identifying and removing the bully, abuser, or psychopath solves the problem at hand. Such is the familiar, almost comforting plot line of the typical Hollywood action movie: good guys versus bad guys, hero versus villain.