The On-going Task: Challenging Illegitimate Authority

by Mark Chmiel

At Northwest Coffee, I was having a conversation with Theresa Schafer about women’s ordination and clericalism, and I paraphrased what Noam Chomsky once said about any hierarchy or authority needing to justify itself.  Later, I found this passage in David Barsamian’s first collection of interviews with Noam, Chronicles of Dissent:

Any form of authority requires justification; it’s not self justified. And the justification can rarely be given. Sometimes you can give it. I think you can give an argument that you shouldn’t let a three-year old run across the street. That’s a form of authority that’s justifiable. But there aren’t many of them, and usually the effort to give a justification fails. And when we try to face it, we find that the authority is illegitimate. And any time you find a form of authority illegitimate, you ought to challenge it. Its something that conflicts with human rights and liberties. And that goes on forever. You overcome one thing and discover the next.

Theresa Schafer poem

Poem by Theresa Schafer

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