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And Now A Word From The Authoritarian Anti-Authoritarians
on December 16, 2002
Since the authors are against people living divided lives, they would likely be concerned that I feel divided about their book. On the good side, there is a lot of insight into how authority can be used illegitimately by both ourselves and others for manipulative ends on both ourselves and others. As they have been involved in authoritarian groups teaching various Eastern views, they make quite a few points about the totalitarian nature that can be bred by both the gurus and worldview that emanates from that source; points I have seen others make, as well. Having been hurt by some alleged friends over the past few years, I felt personally helped and enlightened by their chapter on how love can be used as an abusive tool. Overall, the work is for someone who wants to think at length about the relationship between self-guidance and authority over a wide range of issues, and is well worth reading.
On the other hand, there are some real problems here. Kramer & Alstad don�t document a single thing they say, other than to refer to their other equally undocumented essays. Thus, ironically, this screed against authoritarianism must be accepted as the raw authoritarian assertion of the authors� views. It functions just like the type of revelation they condemn. One also wonders what in the world they would build after tearing everything down? The impression is left that, despite throwing a bone to recognized authorities in specific fields, one should be free to do whatever one wants and not feel guilty about it, as long as no one gets hurt and the human race is assured of survival. They seem to bank heavily on the belief that once humans are fed the proper data they will adjust themselves into rational, humanistic oriented beings who are willing to allow �no one gets hurt� and �the survival of the human race� to stand as their authoritarian guides to conduct. Given the number of people who already don�t seem to care who gets hurt or if humans are around after their own death, I don�t seem to be able to raise much faith in this. Also, I�m not convinced they understand the inner spiritual and moral dynamics of either Buddhism or Christianity as well as they try to make themselves appear to. Knowing people in both communities, I felt that at many points Kramer and Alstad were dealing in the fantasies of their own stereotypes and straw persons about these beliefs. They don�t seem as widely read as they claim, or you would think they would have run into prominent authors, like John Piper, who advocate a self-needs aware compassion that seems to echo what they call for from a tradition they seem to think could never generate it. In fact, their entire understanding of what they call �Christianity� seems to really be Moralism, a view many, if not most, Christians would also reject.
This book is a series of excerpts from a larger promised work, called �Control,� which, going on ten years later, is yet to appear. Hal Blacker has posted online his meeting with the authors a few years after this work was published. Look it up. You might feel like I did: I wouldn�t want the authoritarian people described in this book in control of my life, but, know what? I don�t think I�d want people like Kramer and Alstad running things, either.