Commitment and Authority

The great Italian writer, Ignazio Silone, often described himself as a “Socialist without a party, a Christian without a church”.

With this, he expressed his belief in commitment outside of authority and all forms of hierarchy.

Because Silone, as a historical witness of both Stalinism and Fascism, knew the dangers inherent in organized belief. Group think, in the extreme, can lead to mass executions and, even, genocide.

To believe sincerely is to stand apart from the crowd. To believe rightly is not to compel but to express. To welcome debate. To be ready to stand alone without recourse to power, influence, or money.

Commitment, at its best, is a beacon of moral conviction which intensity is that of logic, humanity, and action.

In these times of frenetic moral assertion, we should remember that the final worth of an argument is not its general commonness, institutional levels of support, or media attractiveness but its eventual outcome for the total dignity of man. The elevation of such is the only true moral, political commitment worth having.

Structures of authority/hierarchy have a strong tendency to insidiously warp even the most beatific intentions. One need only think of the Catholic Church here and Dostoevsky’s famous “Grand Inquisitor”. The original founder returns only to be criminally rejected by his future foundation.

Perhaps the answer lies in an anarchic epistemology and praxis. In the belief that individuals are the safest examples of commitment, while institutions are their pale shadows at best. To act publicly but alone. An ideal, yes. But today, with new technology, more realizable than ever.

It’s time we all left the spurious safety of large numbers and instead aspired to more clarity of thought, empathy, and non-violent self-directions.

Dan Corjescu teaches at the University of Tübingen's "Studium Professionale" program. Read other articles by Dan.