Authoritarians at Evergreen

The authoritarian Left and the authoritarian Right both work against the liberals and conservatives caught in the middle. The former want a top-down approach (with either a committee or a monarch running things), telling people what to do, seeing a complex world as full of only binary choices and brooking little discussion. They wish to centralize power with themselves at the center.

The Evergreen State College remains closed Friday after what it calls a “direct threat.”

About 10:30 a.m. Thursday, a person called claiming to be armed and en route to the campus in Olympia. The call was made from an unknown telephone number to a regular business line at the Thurston County Communications Center, a college spokesman said.


Most people adapt to change by either doing what everyone else in the community does or what a thought leader tells them. Many times those leaders are strongly authoritarian themselves, basing all human interactions on where someone falls on a hierarchy. So naturally, they work to place themselves higher up the hierarchy, leading to more power.

They often want to be on the committee (the Left) or the monarch (the Right) at the top. Authoritarians see a simple world of binary choices – yes/no, good/evil. If you are not with them, you must be against them. Everything is zero-sum – if someone moves up the hierarchy, someone has to move down.

That is what is happening at Evergreen, as the authoritarians on the Left vilify anyone whose views do not exactly match theirs. And those on the Right are doing the same. Leaving both liberals and conservatives huddled in between.

In a complex cultural environment, the actions of authoritarians are often unwise, especially if rapidly changing circumstances alter things.

But there are also people whose view of the world is more distributed, more democratic. They are able to see shades of gray. They are able to make wiser decisions because they use a more distributed social network with the ability to carry a much more diverse view of the world than simply two choices.

They are crucial for surviving a complex world, where solutions can come from anywhere and anyone, not just those at the top of a hierarchy.

To deal with a complex world, we need to reduce the power of hierarchical authoritarians and increase that of distributed democracies.

As seen at Evergreen, in Washington DC and around the country, top-down authoritarians reduce the complexity of the world in ways that are becoming less and less productive. But we are also seeing an emergence of more distributed democracies, with greater ability to deal with huge amounts of data to find wiser solutions.

This is the battle today. Liberals and conservatives that seek a more distributed approach, who care about individual freedoms and civil rights, must come together to battle the authoritarian Left and Right.

As we have done every other time this has happened.

Image: Public Domain