Reflections: On Authority


I was raised by my father to respect and obey authority. His word was law. If I did not eat my peas…WHACK! I ate my peas. If I drew on the wall again after he told me verbally not to….WHACK! I never wrote on the wall again (or at least I stretched out the times I drew on the wall farther and farther until I stopped).

The interesting part, is that sometimes, I despise authority.

When I was in 2nd grade, I went to a catholic school run by nuns. There I became disillusioned with Catholicism or rather, Catholiscm became disillusioned with me. When I was in religion class, I asked a lot of questions. I had heard all of the stories they told me about Jesus before, so I got bored. I would contradict them and ask why this and why that. They went to my parents about the matter and eventually had me removed from religion class. I was supposed to get my confirmation, but they took me out of the class because I was bored and started playing around. From this, I saw that people don’t like their authority questioned, and they lash out. Looking at it now, I see the whole thing as petty.

When I was in 1st and 2nd grade at that school, I got picked on. Most of the time, my older sister cover my rear, so I was fine. It was that big of a deal. The year after second grade, I went to a different school and didn’t come back until 5th grade. This time, one of my best friends turned on me. He would walk across the courtyard during recess just to pick on me. He would pick on me in class. When I told the teacher about it, she just told him to stop. He would stop for a minute and then resume. When I told my parents about it, my Dad was going to teach me how to beat my “friend” up. But then my parents sent me to military school. They told me it was to help me with my grades, because I lacked the discipline to do homework (but had smarts to do well on test) and it was to help toughen me up. Looking back on all that, getting picked on was not bad at all. But at the time I thought it sucked. Even in military school, I saw interesting things. My roommate, picked on me all the time. He was at least two years older, bigger than me, stronger than me, and  was liked by all the staff. When I almost got kicked out of military school for how I was handling the bullying and get picked on, he was almost completely untouched by the whole thing, because all of the staff could not believe he would do such a thing as pick on me. I remember he was picking on me in class. I said, “Goddamit X! Fucking stop it.” The teacher told him to stop and yelled at me for my outburst.

What I learned from all that was that I could not trust people in positions of authority to fix my problems for me. Nowadays I don’t care if someone tries to pick on me or call me names. But if somebody starts hitting me, he better be a better fighter than I am. Otherwise I will react by beating him senseless. The good news is that I never got into a fight all of high school. I think I exuded this mind set in my body language so that nobody ever wanted to fuck with me (that and they called me military man because I went to military school).

In high school, something changed. I did not automatically give every teacher who taught me respect, just because they were my teacher. I remember in ninth grade, I had a fat history teacher. Something about his personality, whether it was his jokes, or attempt to be cool, or establish authority when he lacked the gravitas set me off. My first day at high school and in his class, he asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell him what our favorite candy. When it was my turn, I said, “Hell if I know.” He asked me if that was a good candy and if not, raising his voice, he said something to the effect of, I should watch my language and be respectful. At that point, I saw him as a joke. I joked around with him class all year long, alternating between laughing at him and laughing with him so he was never sure what I was trying to do. I told him loudly in October that he should dress up as Peter Griffin from Family Guy for Halloween. He was not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult. I meant it as an insult but pretended I was complimenting him. Everyone in the class laughed and knew what I was doing.

It was no better when we had substitute teachers (subs). In fact, it was worse. There was this sub, who I’ll call Miss D.. Miss D. was an Indian sub who was famous for telling “her students” to rub their stomachs and pat their heads simultaneously in order to calm themselves down. I could tell right away from meeting her that she couldn’t teach. I once had an English class with her. I toyed with her and when she finally understood I was making fun of her, she told me to go outside….which was exactly what I wanted. Outside of class I finished the assignment the teacher left behind quickly and started listening to music on my iPhone loudly so that people in the class could hear me. She came outside, saw me laying on the ground with my hands behind my back and told me to turn the music off and come back inside. All my friends enjoyed hearing that story.

My junior year, I had an AP English who could not teach. She gave out easy As and her quizzes were jokes. But she could not teach. Sometimes she would ramble on and on and on and on. I made a game of how much I could distract her from class or argue with her on things I didn’t agree with. I often got in many arguements with her. I often made fun of her. I often joked with her. And just to cover my bases and confuse her even more, I apologized once when I felt I went too far. We became “friends” and I even got her to write me good college recommendations. People, including me, complained that they were not learning anything. I think the school asked her not to come back next year.

I learned to dislike incompetence in authority. If I felt a teacher was less competent than I was, I thought she didn’t deserve to be a teacher. As I was getting older, I was realizing that adults are not the infallible creatures I thought they were.

Looking back on it, it looks as if I could sense a teacher had no authority, I would rip them to shreds. Why do I have to listen to her, I thought. She’s just a substitute teacher. She can’t teach. Why I am here?

When I was in the dorm, I got in trouble for telling a friend about what happened to me in military school. He got scared and told the school. Long story short, I got counseled, was ordered to go to a psychologist for a year a half. Part of the reason why I stayed the school was because one of dorm house parents (people who live within the dorm who teach or run the dorm) put in a good word for me. I made a point to always be friendly with the house parents, joke around with them, and tell them the truth. That way, if I really needed to lie or got in trouble, I could away with it. I started doing this with teachers as well my sophomore year, unless I sensed that the teacher was weak.

I almost always challenge authority and ask questions of people who want me to do things, especially if I do not like the tasks or things they demand of me. My respect is earned, not taken from me.

I feel like what I do to people in authority is similar to what girls do to guys (shit-tests anyone?)