Monday, February 24, 2014

Traditional Command Structure

Some people believe that anarchy is bad, because it leads to chaos. Those people cling to authoritarian regimes and institutions, because they think that is the only way order can be maintained. In fact, anarchy, if left to take its natural course, leads to traditional command structure in social groups. The problem with authoritarianism isn't the command structure. The problem is that natural selection processes have ceased to function. In an authoritarian regime, the command hierarchy has calcified into something that no longer functions.

In chimpanzee groups, leadership is fluid. In hunter-gatherer societies, people follow leaders only to the extent that they believe a particular individual whom they are following is going the right way. But as civilization becomes more entrenched, people stop judging for themselves what is true and what is false, and they delegate their thinking to institutions, traditions and authorities.

Real dominance is something a leader earns. It is not something inherited by virtue of race, sex, age, or social rank in a highly structured society. Yet when people talk about traditional family roles, they somehow assume that authority is what leads to dominance. Men dominate women, adults dominate children and employers dominate employees as a result of the structure of society, as opposed to the structure building itself out of the function that each person plays in the immediate social circle.

In Theodosia and the Pirates the difference between natural dominance and false authoritarianism is highlighted. The American Navy has the authority, but not the leadership ability to thwart the British in the War of 1812. The privateers under Jean Laffite have no authority, but they have the ability to do so and the true support of the people. Joseph Alston has the authority to command the local militia, by virtue of being the Governor of South Carolina, but not the ability to exercise that command. James Madison has the authority to secure a declaration of war, but not the natural abilities of a true warrior like Aaron Burr to be a good supreme commander.

Even within the sphere of the family, there is a difference between natural marriage and legal marriage. In a legal marriage in the nineteenth century, a man commanded his wife by virtue of her oath of obedience. However, many men were unequal to the task, as being male did not necessarily give them natural dominance over the women they married. Arguably, in many ways Dolley Madison was a better leader than her husband in times of war, even though she was not his intellectual equal as a scholar.

By the same token, though Theodosia was a far better scholar than Jean Laffite, she was not his equal in leadership under fire. It is for this reason, and not because of any authoritarian command issues or sexist preconceptions, that in this novel, Theodosia accepted Jean's leadership.

Excerpt from page 210 of Theodosia and the Pirates

Today, with all the egalitarian changes in the law that we have seen take place, people are still confused about these issues. The majority support authoritarianism in science and in education, because they fear anarchy. They do not seem to realize that if we just allow nature to take its course, the right leader will always arise in a time of crisis. People will follow not because they are compelled to do so by fear of reprisal, but because they want to do the right thing.


  1. True leadership proves itself, such as leaders in traditional Native American tribes who were esteemed for their prowess on the battle field, or ability to heal the sick with herbs.

  2. This is a good article to discuss, given all the people in the government right now that have the authority, but not necessarily the leadership ability. But the problem with allowing anarchy to run its natural course, is that a lot of people are inherently evil, untrustworthy cads. And in the course of a natural leader rising to the top and eventually establishing himself and regaining control over the chaos, a lot of people (the weakest, probably) would die.
    I understand that's part of the "natural selection" process you're referring to, but I think that's why people are so resistant to anarchy. I personally think it would lead to a stronger nation - a lot of the wimps would be pushed aside or destroyed. Our leadership would be better for it and the nation would be more likely to follow the new leadership.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Kathy. Yes, it is because people are afraid of the painful transition from authority-based rule to relative freedom that they cling to the current convoluted system with all its problems.

      I think that the natural results of anarchy don't always have to be cataclysmic. If we only needed to make small corrections due to small errors, we would almost not feel the struggle. It's because we have allowed the selection process to be authority-based for so long that we now fear the correction back to more natural leadership modes will be painful and may involve heavy casualties.