I spent the evening with some people in Sydney from our tennis club. The discussions are always lively about religion and Australia and tennis and global warming and tonight we spoke for a bit of time about authority. It actually arose from a discussion about social media and how useful it was in finding my camera some weeks back.
One of the ladies suggested that she saw no real purpose for Facebook and hashtags and such. One mentioned one thing that was a benefit; another piped in and around the table it went.
When I was a kid, we had authorities. You know, when you wanted to know something about a medical condition you had to go to the chemist (pharmacist) or the doctor. When you wanted to know something you went to the encyclopedia or the librarian. If the librarian didn't know, s/he would know whom to call and where to hunt. The rabbi had authority at synagogue; the teacher had authority at school. And this idea of an authority brought comfort to most of us.
But in these days, authority has been diminished. Wikipedia allows anyone to post credible encyclopedic answers to themes or make comments about people. Blogs like this one can pronounce about almost anything and it has as much validity in conversation as the official journalists of the NY Times or the Melbourne Age.
A child can don a mortar board (ok, I know this man was sharing with his child in the photo, but it captured my imagination tonight)
Anyone can publish a poem, or a book of poems without being a Longfellow or Poe, without being recognized by others and paying his dues.
I'm happy about that leveling of the playing field and giving everyone a fair go.
I'm not happy about the diminishing of authorities and the commensurate struggle that so many have as a result. Without authorities whom do people seek for information, both academic and personal? Google is limited. Wikixxx is limited. We need authorities who are recognized and substantial.