Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Authority & Independence

Today is US Independence Day. So it is rather odd to be talking about authority. That's a word with a ring of finality to it, and its often associated with the death of independence. But there really ought to be no difference between 'authority' and 'authorship'. They both convey the sense of bearing the stamp of the author, the evidence of auctorial rights. In a strange way, establishing authorship establishes auctorial independence to some extent.

There are two main authority-related issues in an auctorial context.

Firstly, there are people who look at others' intellectual property and misappropriate it. This effectively changes the author of a work, an idea, a process – anything that has already been committed to a physical medium by somebody else. It happens whenever people fail to acknowledge significant contribution, regardless of what legal authority says. This is why creative people occasionally are driven to assert a moral authority, realising that legal authority and casuistry will not necessarily protect them. Moral authority does not protect one's auctorial rights very well either, but moral victories have different standards and produce different elements of retribution.

Secondly, there are people who reserve the right to rewrite the rules of the milieu to suit themselves. Sometimes, this is fair; sometimes, this is merely dictatorship. Most times, it is somewhere in between. One ought to be careful when attempting to rewrite the rules of the game to one's advantage. Some players are better at gameplaying than others, regardless of rules changes. It is the 'metagaming' ability which sets these apart. A more reprehensible version exists in many major organisations – it normally takes the form of a written or unwritten clause which allows for rules changes without consultation or prior notification or warning.

These two issues are quite separate from the traditional issues of authority. Earlier issues of authority were mostly about physical and social control of the traditional elements: money, power, sex, influence and such. These are hoarded, traded, and encashed much like any other kind of token. But the modern world revolves around information, another kind of bargaining chip.

I find it reprehensible, but unfortunately all too justifiable, for a morally-oriented organisation of any kind to slam the gates down on information and engage in the cyber-equivalent of skullduggery and espionage in order to control the flow. If you want to be a pure power-broking institution of the mundane and secular kind, say so. If you're an eagle, don't call yourself a dove. Don't call yourself a charity, a mission school, a bible society, a church, whatever. Especially if you are a Christian institution.

For Christians, Romans 12 warns very firmly about not conforming to the patterns of the world. This is not to say that we shouldn't be law-abiding, peaceable, societally-appropriate in some contexts. Rather, it tells us to disdain the lure of the human-oriented chips: the hoarding of counters based on information, sex, power, money, control, physical force.

Isn't that rather idealistic? No, not at all. Earlier, I mentioned meta-gaming. If you are right about God and happen to be a Christian, then logically you have access to the Author and Finisher of your faith, the Architect of the Foundations, the Lord of Hosts, the Ruler of the Game. You are already a meta-gamer, and no matter how the world's patterns shift and flow, you will remain ahead of the game as long as you remember the true Author. And give Him the intellectual property kudos that belong to Him. Then you will be free indeed.

Happy Independence Day.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

you may be interested in this:
looks like they're finally getting together a concerted effort to promote the arts in Singapore.

Thursday, July 05, 2007 4:22:00 am  
Blogger dlanorpi said...

Oh hehe... faultyguard. =)

Thursday, July 05, 2007 7:27:00 am  

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