To seek or not to seek permission? I say, stop asking for permission when you don’t have to.
From the day we are born, we spend our life asking permission for everything. It starts with our parents, our teachers, our boss, our spouse, or our leader, and it goes on and on. I say, stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. We grow up with a host of ingrained ideas about what we’re permitted to do or not do. As a child, we have to ask permission from our parents to ride our bikes to town. When in school, we have to raise our hands and ask the teacher permission to speak or to go to the toilet. At work, we have to ask our boss and HR department permission to go on sick leave when we are feeling unwell.
Being compliant, obedient, and asking for permission might serve us well in a civilized society as we learn how to control our wants and desires; but the irony and eventual quiet tragedy of that is that in some instances, our wants and desires might not have a possessor, a licensor or a permit giver. It may lie outside the realms of ownership. There may be broad indifference to whether we act in some way or not. There may be no law and no one to be upset by our move. The desired thing in question might just belong to whoever dares to step forward and take it. There’s no formal procedure, it’s just the courage to imagine it could be yours. The reason why certain ideas haven’t happened isn’t necessarily because they are silly, but because there is a strong and always surprising lack of originality in human conduct.
We are creatures of tradition, systems, rules, and regulations and we are conditioned to think that we need permission for everything and to act within the confines of what is permitted. For most of human history, it was customary to believe that permission to do anything had to be sought from the gods and superior forces that governed the cosmos. We may assume we don’t share this primitive characteristic, but our underlying attitude — in its essential form — suggests we do. We don’t quite know whom we are asking, and we can’t say precisely what approval looks like, but in an archaic part of our minds, we’re still waiting to be given endorsement for our most cherished plans. I say, stop asking permission when you don’t have to.
We want to know from some potent but undefined source that if we act this way, we’ll still be good people, that we won’t be punished that this is allowed, that we won’t bring retribution on ourselves or trouble from the Universe. Our culture is fascinated by inventors and artists who struck out on their own, went strongly against the tide of current opinion, and was eventually vindicated even if only after their deaths. We get excited by the stories of their lives because we unconsciously find in them something that’s missing in us: a bold indifference to permission, a reminder of our lack of courage and timidity.
Stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. You don’t need permission to think the way you think
In the Dystopian Novel 1984 written by George Orwell, the Thought Police (Thinkpol) are the secret police of the superstate of Oceania, who discover and punish Though Crime, personal and political thoughts unapproved by the regime. Thinkpol uses criminal psychology and omnipresent surveillance via informers, telescreens cameras, and microphones to monitor the citizens of Oceania and arrest all those who have committed Thought Crime in challenge to the status quo authority of the Party and the regime of Big Brother.
Democratic societies assert unequivocally that freedom of expression is part of our human rights. The First Amendment of the US Constitution largely protects Americans from the creepy authoritarian systems found in 1984 and so does the Human Rights Act; Article 10 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to hold your own opinions and express them freely without government interference. This includes the right to express your views aloud (for example through public protest and demonstrations) or through published articles, books or leaflets, television or radio broadcasting, works of arts, the internet, and social media.
Sadly, the scenario envisaged in Orwell’s book 1984 seems to be more reality than fiction. The new Thought Police are Big Tech and the rise of Cancel Culture. We will have to decide as a collective if seeking conformity of thought or language through public shaming is healthy or suffocating. Condoning the censorship road that is being taken by Big Tech is likely to be the road that takes us straight to that place called Tyranny.
“When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing. When you see, that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favor. When you see that men get richer more easily by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them but protect them against you. When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice — You may know that your society is doomed” Extract from Atlas shrugged Ayn Rand (1905 to 1982) — Novelist, philosopher, and screenwriter.
History is full of examples of crazy things you won't believe used to be legal, slavery being one of them. We tend to think of the law as an obvious truth, the reality is that society pretty much makes things up as we go along. Thank goodness, we can rely on Natural Law which is a superior law to the Law of the State to save us from tyranny. Some big thinkers spent time thinking about this concept.
Aristotle is often said to be the father of Natural Law. The Natural Law thesis holds that if a human law fails to be backed up by decisive reason, then it is not a proper law at all. This is captured in the maxim “an unjust law is no law at all”. In his treatise Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes expressed a view of Natural Law as a general rule, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or takes away the means of preserving the same. According to Emanuel Kant, in a free society, each individual must be able to pursue their goals however they see fit as long as their actions conform to principles governed by reason.
Thomas More’s refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon lead him to be imprisoned and put on trial for treason. During his last remarks to court — defending himself in his trial for treason and knowing in advance his fate of being found guilty for his refusal to assert in writing that the King was the Head of the Church, he made the following arguments to the jury :
“Some men say the Earth is flat and some men say the Earth is round. But if it is flat, could Parliament make it round? And if it is round, could the King’s command flatten it?”
What Thomas More so eloquently expressed during his trial was that the Laws of Nature will force the government to exercise a certain restraint. There is a limit to what a government and/or parliament can legitimately do. That limit is set by Natural Law.
You don’t need permission to be enlightened or to act with reason
The 18th century was a period known as the Enlightenment, another term used in the Age of Reason. The concept of a social contract, limited government, consent of the governed, and the separation of power started making an impact on people. New beliefs started spreading such as “all men are created equal” and “a king has no divine rights.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right in 1762. His thinking was that humans are essentially free, but over time they become less and less free because of the mere fact that they live in a society. It is only natural in society to see a ruler emerge and to attract followers, who would happily give up their liberty to be under the ruler’s protection. The question that Jean-Jacques Rousseau asked himself was: “How can we be free and live together without being overpowered by the force and coercion of others? The answer he came up with was: “through a social contract.”
A social contract is a process whereby people will come together and agree to form a new single body called the Sovereign. The Sovereign’s mission is to act for the good of all the people and its critical element is the element of reciprocity. The Sovereign is committed to the good of the individuals who constitute it and each individual is likewise committed to the good of the whole. In the American colonies, more and more people were being influenced by this concept and started to believe that they weren’t receiving their end of the bargain and, gradually started to think that it was their duty to rebel against and disobey laws that were viewed unjustly. The American Revolution began in 1775; the root cause of the revolution can be found in the way Great Britain treated its colony, as some kind of faraway outpost, whose sole purpose was to provide for the needs of Great Britain, and for the American people to be subject to and subservient to the will and power of the Crown.
So, please stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. There is a whole raft of things that fall outside the realms of ownership. Not all our wants and desires need to have a possessor, a licensor, or a permit giver.
And this my dear friend, is your quest.
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