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.