You may not care about the dangers of authoritarianism right now, but if you don’t pay attention, it could be too late.
Authoritarianism is something that’s a lot scarier than it sounds. It’s the breeding ground of fascism. It’s a lynchpin in the dictator’s arsenal. It’s a method of thought that’s challenging to break out of or remove yourself from.
And it’s becoming more and more prevalent.
Authoritarianism has a few key traits that make it damaging and dangerous:
- It requires blind allegiance to one group’s view of what’s right and wrong.
- It accepts or demands cruelty to those who disagree or don’t fit with one’s views.
- It looks for strong leadership with unchecked power.
- It resists differing viewpoints and looks toward compliance with a single view.
- It focuses anger toward groups that typically struggle to defend themselves like minorities and foreigners.
- It has a preoccupation with violence and sex.
By now you should see the dangers of authoritarianism. So what causes it?
How Authoritarianism Is Born
Authoritarianism starts in childhood with an overbearing parent and an inability to find justice, and instead find the ability to comply regardless of the appropriateness of the requirements. The child ends up resenting their parents, but, because that is an unacceptable view, they focus the anger outward toward groups and people they consider to be less than themselves.
For this reason, people who favor authoritarianism tend to break down the world into “us” vs. “them” and “winners” and “losers”. They look at people in two groups: those they can get something from and those who have no value.
This view of the world leads to ethnocentrism, sexism, cronyism, corruption, abuse of power, and a loss of democracy. These are the dangers of authoritarianism.
Those that prefer power over working together, and getting what they want over equality may get what they want for a time, but it’s an unsustainable model and will all come crashing down. The only question is how hard the crash will be.
There’s a better way.
The Better Solution
There are several problems with authoritarianism. The biggest is that it doesn’t work. For all the pain it causes it’s counter productive.
First of all, pain breeds pain. When you cause pain, you get pain. That doesn’t go away by suppressing it. It only builds and causes more problems.
Secondly, control stifles creativity. That phone you’re reading this on? That amazing new Tesla you’re eyeing? That fantastic dish you tried and that new restaurant? All of those rely on creativity. Not only does creativity advance us and make our lives better, it can help us solve some of the bigger problems we face.
Another of the dangers of authoritarianism is that it divides our possibilities by having us fight each other rather than work together. It focuses on scarcity and makes people fear “others”: immigrants, transgender, etc. It focuses on problems and finding people to blame rather than working toward a solution.
Partnership, trust, and cooperation, on the other hand, accepts others. It works together. It breeds creativity and unexpected solutions. It focuses more people on finding solutions instead of focusing everyone on fighting each other. It makes the world better.
Leading Kids Toward Positivity
If you want to keep your kids from succumbing to authoritarianism, there are three simple steps you can take. It’s not that these are a secret formula, but if you try these three methods, you will be approaching children in a healthy way and will be open to more healthy approaches:
- Realistic Boundaries: Don’t push your children to unrealistic expectations. You should be leading them toward making wise choices themselves and not pushing them to do something just to meet an unrealistic expectation.
- Consistent Discipline: Nothing shakes a kid more than never knowing when they will be punished and what for. You should not punish a child because something bad happened to you or you’re angry. Children should simply receive an appropriate consequence of doing something that they shouldn’t have done. The discipline is not payback or revenge, but a positive way to show children that they shouldn’t do something that hurts them or others.
- Listen: When children say they have a problem with something listen. When they say there is something up, believe them. When they think something is unfair, hear them out. This doesn’t mean you will change your position, but it does make them feel heard. Truly listen and contemplate what they say.
The Dangers of Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is dangerous, and the longer it goes on unchecked, the more dangerous it gets.
If someone prides themselves on being a bully, splits the world into “us” and “them”, considers people with less to not only be inferior, but also easy targets, these are good indications they are a fan of authoritarianism.
Fight against this type of thinking. It’s dangerous and leads to dangerous consequences. Instill more positive approaches to discipline with your kids. Instead of exclusion, control, and fear, focus on inclusion, creativity, and solutions.
There are dangers to authoritarianism, but if we stay focused, we can work to make the world a better place.