We Have It On Good Authority

, March 24, 2015 in Reflective Essays

There is a time in everyone’s life when we rebel against authority. We all develop or gather our own ideas, principles and values to help us navigate through life. Authority is the power to compel action from others. The authorities can come and take you away. We all want to have free will and prefer to choose how we will decide on issues. On the other hand, when we are researching information in order to help us choose a course of action like purchasing a car or selecting a surgeon or treating cancer, we want to find authoritative sources. This kind of authority is compelling in that we are linking knowledge to truth. When we say someone is an authority on a subject, we mean that he or she is able to comprehend it and make their understanding available to us, the public. We consult the authorities when we need directions we can trust. How do we know or recognize an authority? Civil authorities wear uniforms. Police, fire brigade, emergency and ambulance attendants all have clear-cut authority and snappy uniforms. Many authorities have knowledge-based occupations and authority is conferred by institutions of learning, such as universities and colleges. Degrees and diplomas hung on the wall are the uniform indications that authority was given. Lastly, when education is by apprenticeship, the authority is conferred by invoking the name of the teacher and tradition.

Are we living in a time of rebellion? The media is filled with stories of corruption in government leaders who are the ultimate political authority. The medical community is deeply divided on how to provide proper health care. There are many people, who will recognize medical authority only if there are certain signs, words or diplomas associated with the practitioner. The orthodox medical community is linked to the political process in order to operate legally and financially. The complementary, alternative and integrative medical communities are not connected to the social fabric in the same ways. Although, in herbal medicine, our roots are deep, we have been pruned thoroughly at the crown. Many in the herbal community seek ratification from the political authorities to legally authorize us to be the authority on herbal medicine. Many in the herbal community feel disdain for the corporate/industrial/political values used to regulate natural/holistic/biological processes. We, as an extended society, have given permission to politicians, lawyers, scientists, clerics, businessmen, and academics to lead us through life. Each group regulates themselves before they regulate us. Is it really the same as it ever was?