I hope you enjoy this very timely piece on authority, regulation and certification by my partner Jesse Wolf Hardin. This applies to every aspect of our lives, but is perhaps especially applicable to lay herbalists and other folk tradition based healers at this moment in time. -Kiva
Because It’s Good For You:
Insurgent Thoughts On Authority, Certification & Law
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
My advice is not to trust all authority, but to find the authority in ourselves
to know who and what to trust!
“Because I told you so!” was the answer I often got as a youngster, when – from parents and teachers alike – I’d routinely ask the reasons for what it was I was being told to do. If the adults in charge had simply explained the reasoning behind the order, custom, protocol, tradition or rule, there’s a chance I would have a considered it the beneficial and honorable thing to do. But telling me “because I told you so” is like saying “because I’m bigger than you,” “older than you,” “better connected than you,” or “better armed than you.” This is the limited reasoning and self justification of bullies, whether it be an expansionist empire or playground antagonists. Having such advantages might mean that they can make us do something, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to force us to bend or conform, nor does it mean that the ways they want us to behave are necessarily good or just for us, the human spirit, the things we cherish or the larger world. I wouldn’t buy it back then, I’m not buying it now. I would have much preferred the exhortations of the wise and caring mother, the caretaker, the healer: “Because it’s good for you!” And even then, I would have wanted to know exactly why, how, and under what circumstances and amounts any medicine or course of action might be best for me.
I was willing to heed, but not heel. And what I most readily heeded was counsel and direction from people who clearly knew more than me, who were more experienced and appeared to have grown or learned something from their experiences, who acted out of a deep sense of caring and strong set of principles, with allegiance to truth and to justice. As a teen runaway, I took advice from old bikers on which year Harley-Davidsons had the coolest ride, and I had no objection to coming to a stop when ordered to by a life-saving traffic cop. I kept the counsel of well meaning hobos who had “been around the block,” trading normalcy and security for a life of minor privation and immense freedom. I took to heart the lecture of a drawling rural Sheriff who kindly counseled me not to do stupid illegal things I didn’t even believe in, and from a confirmed outlaw who talked about it being just as important to break those laws that we know to be “wrong-headed” or unconstitutional.
That I could respect and listen to individuals on both sides of the law, is an indication of how little significance I placed on costume and insignia. Then as now, I couldn’t understand the military expression “salute the uniform, not the man.” A person who was worthy of being respected, listened to and followed seems just as worthy to me whether out of uniform, off duty, retired or fired! Conversely, those unwise or unworthy in character remain ignorant and unworthy regardless of what official clothing they might don, or what agency or administration finances and directs them. And just because something is either mandated or banned in one of the hundreds of thousands of laws that govern every aspect of our civilized lives, doesn’t make it right… nor make it honorable for us to obey.
Authority is simply not something that a government or agency can give someone. Genuine authority cannot be “vested” as they say, it can only be earned. And because it has to be earned, it can also be undermined through unfair application, squandered away on superfluous regulation, and overturned if based on or upheld by false premise and manipulative lies. It’s not authority without the weight of truth, it is only base imposition and oppression. And the problem with exercising power over someone or something, is that it only works so long as enough pressure can be put on. Somewhere, sooner or later there is a break, a lapse or loophole through which not only truth and liberty but all kinds of trouble can arise. The wife-abuser is only really in control until he falls asleep, as a number of angry men have found out to their horror. The schoolyard bully can hold you down with a head-lock for only just so long, the second he stops to rest there’s nothing except possibly fear or self doubt to prevent you from retaliating or remedying.
If there is authority in a truth, standard or directive, it retains its influence without mandates, manipulation and control. It rings true when we are alone and our acts unwitnessed, as surely as when we are being closely monitored or working under the gun. When such is the case, we do not need the force of law to rein in our actions nor compel us to act. As herbalists, it isn’t certification that determines how effective we are, it’s our actions, means and results, and government inspection of plant medicines will never be the reason why we seek to use the finest quality and teach the safest methods and amounts.
We’re unlikely to ravage and steal even though no one is watching and there may be no price to be paid, if we feel deeply that rape or theft are wrong. And hopefully, we don’t obediently toe the line, surrender our rights and liberties, compromise our beliefs and march to the orders of the established powers… just because they happen to control the military and the most awesome weapons ever developed, will soon have video surveillance cameras on every street corner, have planted informants among every activist group and provocateurs in every citizen militia, wield a court system that functions to protect the elite and punish the independent, can count on the connivance of “new world order” strategists and the support of multinational financiers, and have made the building of new jails and penitentiaries the fasting growing industry in America. I agree with the prickly ex-Colonel in the movie Legends of the Fall, and his feelings regarding this nation’s ruling administration and its morally compromised minions: “Screw ‘em,” he said in a voice slurred by a powerful but obviously not debilitating stroke. “Screw ’em!”
The origin of the word “authority” is from the Latin auctoritas, from the word auctor which means both “originator” and “promoter.” Our authority is our ability to affect and influence, as parents and teachers, craftspeople and gardeners, artists and healers. It is a result of what we put forward and promote, and as such, it can only originate with us.
(Share and post liberally. To learn more, go to the Writings and Correspondence Course pages of the Animá School website at: www.animacenter.org)