From the Stone Age to the present, humankind has first and foremost been tribal. The need to feel part of a common collective – for survival, uniform culture and values, and an established sense of identity – defines our social and physical DNA. Most tribes desire a leader, the one who establishes standards and practices and maintains order by inspiring the tribe through strength, courage, dogma and charisma. Not all tribal leaders are Authoritarian – but all Authoritarian leaders are tribal.
Authoritarianism is in essence toxic tribalism and rises up in times of unprecedented and often unwanted change. Some people embrace it because it is a fear-based response to senses of loss of personal and national identity, status and security. And powerful despots reach for the crown because, as the old saying goes, “In chaos there is profit.” So, in contemplating it, we must examine its contemporary motivators: the multi-faceted impact of the Digital [Third Industrial] Revolution; the downside of Globalization, including growing inequality between the haves and have-nots; and the devastating consequences of Climate Change, which will only continue to wreak ever-greater havoc.
As we begin a new year after the incredibly tumultuous 2020, we must also note the personal, social and economic damage wrought by Covid-19: the soul-crushing human and economic death that all nations, whatever their politics, will have to work to overcome in 2021 and beyond.
Given all this, the idea of fighting 21st Century Authoritarianism makes many feel like we’re living in the fairy tale of Gippetto trying to turn the wooden Pinocchio into a real-life boy. Impossible! There’s no Blue Fairy to make it so and no Jiminy Cricket to guide us. Why even try? And what would trying consist of? I say calm down and take heart. Crisis clarifies social ills and motivates action for change.