Tuesday, December 7, 2010

i-TFTD #303: Beware of Too Much Respect for Authority

#303-1. Some people have so much respect for their superiors they have none left for themselves.

(Thanks to K. Shailesh for sharing this.)

#303-2. Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
-Albert Einstein

#303-3. I do not look to authority for truth (reality), but look to truth (reality) for authority.
-Yoshida Kenji Sensei

Respect for elders has been identified as one of the core values of Indian and other Asian societies. The suffix '-ji' in Hindi and '-san' in Japanese are used even when the conversation is in English. While this may be a good thing by itself in keeping society together and in preserving cultural traditions, it ca! n also clash with the innovative, questioning mindset needed in a meritocratic, excellence-oriented, multi-cultural business organization.

Some may look at this quote and think about rebels and those who challenge their manager or government or any prevailing institution of power. This is one correct interpretation. It could also be extended to other situations. Authority could mean any set of beliefs I hold on to. It could be what I have unconsciously imbibed in childhood from parents, forgetting that my parents, of a different generation, brought me up in a different era. It could be the conveniently like-minded views of admirers I tend to surround myself with. It could be based on a single first-hand experience I have had, ignoring many contrary experiences of others.

It is a good habit to assess whether authority represents a higher truth or wisdom. It often does but in those cases when authority implies blind adherence to past practices, we must step up and initi! ate change. Early experience in this helps, that is why rebels and non-conformists have an advantage in today's world.

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