Dealing with authority

It will come as no surprise to many of you that I have a hard time dealing with authority Especially the kind that gives people I have never met the “authority” to unpack all of my bags – twice in the same day.

The guy in Heathrow was a nervous trainee so I reigned in my grumpiness. The officious TSA subcontractor in Reykjavik didn’t get off so lightly. Thank goodness the border official in Washington was cheery and pleasant because otherwise I might have ended up head butting someone.

Getting grumpy doesn’t help but just giving in to increasing control by “the state” doesn’t feel right either. Control in the name of protection is a slippery slope. Making people afraid of perceived risks and then being seen as the ones to protect them is the way to snatch increasing power from the unwary. Blindly trusting people in uniform to do the right thing is a dangerous way to live.

But the nature of authority is that the more we resist it the more they enforce it, the more we question it the more we are seen as marginal or troublemakers.

We need to find some sort of balance between holding the state to account and maintaining our individual freedoms, especially in a world where the decisions about us and what we are allowed to do are increasingly encoded in systems that few have access to or control over.

Being grumpy with a hapless official may be pointless but satisfying. It is impossible with an algorithm.