Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Fear of Freedom

One of the strange things I've learned in teaching is that most people basically want to be told what to do. People always tell you that students love "active learning" and getting involved in a group educational process and thinking for themselves. So, you go in expecting this 60s style rap session.

But, not really. Actually, most of them are happy as a clam if you give them a lot of direct orders in a fairly loud voice. They don't really like freedom. There's something elevating about strict hierarchical structures. For some reason they do well when they don't have to think for themselves. Oppress them too much and they're miserable. But, give them more than a tiny bit of freedom and they feel lost. So, after a while, you realize that what they want is a benevolent dictator. Don't get me wrong- they want to be flattered and soothed and told that they're brilliant as well. But, most of them crave vertical authority. The ideal teacher is a dominant personality.

I've also noticed this to be the case in every job I've ever had. People panic when there's nobody telling them what to do. The vast majority of them will never want to take initiative. It just upsets them. Why do you think they need political parties and churches anyway? They need authority.

I think the mistake we make in historiography is in seeing history as "Power" and "Resistance" waging it out for all of time and eternity. What about the myriad ways that people ensure they will be controlled? What about the passive-aggressive stunted personality that seems to go along with democracy? What about the fear of freedom?


jingyang said...

Well. I have two kinda opposite POVs here. For most of my school life, I was one of those 'responsible' quiet students, the smartest in the class and also the oldest child in my family. It seemed to me for a long time that 'being responsible' meant getting the blame for the actions of other more stupid people, or worse, being held to a higher standard. I hated it.
It took me a long time to realise that taking responsiblity was not for others but for myself. And here is where freedom comes in. The freedom to do what I wish to do, and accept the consequences or blame, the good or the bad. That if there is something I want done, or to do, that I simply do it, and let others join in or not as they please. And, much as it sometimes displeases me,
I now often end up in a 'leadership' role.
That is where many people don't want freedom, cos it means taking responsibility, and not hiding behind the actions of others. It also means a degree of self-awareness which many people are simple uncomfortable with too.

Rufus said...

Excellent! Ideally, democracy should work with everyone taking an active role and charting out their own path, if not taking the leadership role. But, most don't. Maybe it's because they have nothing to overcome.