Authoritarianism and the Escape from Freedom

Authoritarianism and the Escape from Freedom

One set of myths identified by Gross (1980, pp. 28-29) concerns the distribution of power. This myth suggests that a free and nonrestricted marketplace of ideas is alive and well in some (if not all) societies. There is no centralized or coordinated control over production or distribution. I suggest that Thomas Friedman’s (2007) flat world in some ways supports this myth—though he is a very discerning observer of contemporary life and would certainly be critical of certain aspects of this myth. As Friedman has noted, there seems to be an open and immediate distribution of information and many digital forums for deliberation and debate about alternative world perspectives and ideologies. Gross would caution Friedman and those accepting Friedman’s premise that the Internet and related enterprises might not be all that open and free. I suspect that Friedman would at least partially agree with Gross.

A second accompanying myth concerns the appearance of a great leader who represents and fights from the interests of the common people. He (or, rarely, she) is not beholding to the collective corporate interests. The third myth is a real dozy: if there is inequity in the distribution of wealth, privilege and power, then the “little people” will eventually rise up and secure their proper role in the governance of their communities and nation. This myth has a way of distracting us from the power of the first two myths. The hope embedded in the third myth “trumps” the threat inherent in Gross’ first two myths.

The three myths would all be applaudable and worthy of commemoration—if true. Unfortunately, these (and other) myths are being perpetuated by those who benefit most from ensuring that none of these conditions ever takes place in the society they control. While Karl Marx suggested that religion is the opiate of the masses, we might find today that these three myths (and others like them) are now the true opiate of the masses (as are the real-life opioids). Our 21st Century societies are likely to remain saturated with complacency and the absence of true freedom while myths such as these remain prominent and unchallenged. In the United States (and many other countries, including Estonian), we are truly threatened by an impending state of friendly fascism. Other countries might already be fully engulfed in this form of fascistic authoritarianism.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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