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“Kiss Up, Kick Down”: Is the Authoritarian Personality Eroding our Freedom and Rights?

Updated on September 14, 2017
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Charmaine is a native of the East Coast of Australia who is a freelance writer and poet who loves the unexpectedness of the Divination Arts.


Those That Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities

— Voltaire

What is My Concern?

A hate crime.

After returning to my place of birth, I am uneasy that all the good work I did for many years in order to remove inclinations of becoming an inflexible or rigid authoritarian, has been eroded or lost.

My mind is curious, tolerant, broadminded and compassionate.

My personality? Is fortunately or unfortunately, affected by my present neighbourhood, family members, town, media and the country’s ruling management team.

The authoritarian personality of my birth place appears to have changed very little and therefore, I wonder if our country of Australia or our global world, hasn’t changed or changed enough so that we are not maintaining or growing authoritarianism. As this distresses me, because I value and treasure person centred, harmonious, open and compassionate traits to build and nurture not only our personal lives but also how our relations within and between our global neighbours.

I am for growth not death.

I understand that for each new cycle to begin, something needs to be sacrificed, that is disassembled, for this new growth to take place. However, let’s deconstruct in the least possible harmful way.

What is an Authoritarian Personality?

You may be wondering what I mean when I describe a personality as authoritarian? An authoritarian personality to me can be described as: - inflexible, rigid, my way or the highway, domineering, imposing, pushy, strict, slavedriver, iron handed, bullying and a psychopath.

The authoritarian personality makes it his/her’s goal to make him/herself look good and/or take credit for your ideas or work. The authoritarian personality wants total control, therefore the authoritarian personality will divide and conquer to get the numbers on his/her side, and make relationships and communication weak, so that a social system is created where it is easy for her/him to control and manipulate to his/her own advantage.

A authoritarian personality identifies with strength and scorns weakness.

A authoritarian’s attitude is a black and white approach.

An authoritarian personality kisses up and kicks down.

To me, the authoritarian personality is no different to its 1950’s description to my experience of it today. There are 6 traits to an authoritarian personality. See if you think so, too…

1. Conventionalism

Conventionalism is said to be the practice of traditional beliefs. (e.g. manners, heroes, scared symbols, religion, festivals). Traditionalism is said to be necessary for rationality and sanity. To reject traditionalism, is said to be the same, as a student rejecting the advice of a master.


2. Superstition

Superstition is alive in authoritarian personalities, families, towns, cities and countries. Some people define superstition as a belief resulting from fear of the unknown and the desire to increase feelings of certainty in one’s life.

Having a superstitious nature is placing faith in luck or magic (e.g. sorcery, witches, psychics, remote viewers and religion). There is the standard belief that people and life can bring you good luck or bad luck.

e.g. In the neighbouring country to Australia, Papua New Guinea, has a belief in sorcery and witchcraft. It is alive today and affects both the private and public lives of Papua New Guineans.

People who believe they have been attacked by the fate of supernatural powers seek retribution. Attacked people believe the perpetrators to be witches (largely believed to be females) and seek revenge by burying them alive, beheading them, pushing them off cliff tops or stoning them to death. Papua New Guinea have a 1971 Sorcery Act against this black magic, this evil eye magic, which now includes the death penalty.


3. Stereotype of Power, of Destructiveness

The staircase of oppression begins with a stereotype.

When one is seen or felt to be oppressed, it often describes a relationship between dominance and subordination where one person benefits from the ongoing misuses/cruelty, exploitation and injustice, directed towards the other (e.g. as seen in racism, ageism, sexism, classism). Divide and conquer technique is applied here.

Examples of Stereotypes Are: -

*Asian students excel at mathematics

*Men are smarter than women

*Black men play basketball

*Obese people are only fat because they overeat

*Women are kinder than men

*Poor people are incompetent

*Women make poor politicians because they are weak and just fall pregnant

*Aged people cannot contribute to society

Stereotypes are born to suppress groups of people. We see that further, in the anti-immigration laws; in the singling, out and attack of females in vulnerable positions; and the racial profiling at airports.

When we stop questioning stereotypes we then begin to draft and shape our prejudices. Acting on our prejudices leads to acts of discrimination.


4. Cynicism

When enough water passes under the bridge we become jaded and cynical about life.

For instance, you have failed too often; you are surrounded by people that stab you in the back rather than in the front; your ideas are stolen; your good nature is exploited; or a wrong crowd has entered into your neighbourhood once the suburb has been upgraded to being the new city centre for the town.

What Could the Positive Aspects of An Authoritarian Personality or Authoritative Leadership Style Be?

In an immediate crisis, where one needs to gain quick control of a chaotic situation, is an example of a constructive use of an authoritative personality or leadership style.

This style of leadership is most easily observed in the cases of fires, crimes, road accident scenes or where one is performing emergency surgeries. So, that means an authoritative personality or an authoritative style of leadership would be seen in firemen, the police, the paramedics and the surgeons. And here, we are all grateful of their ability to remain cool headed, detached, strong and in command in these type of in situ critical situations.

An authoritative approach could also be seen to be helpful as a teaching skill when a person’s skill or knowledge is low or if they are a novice.


Who Else Could Be Displaying an Authoritative Personality or Leadership Style?

People that could display an authoritative personality or authoritative leadership style could be your ancestors, your parents, relatives, teachers, employers, public servants, leaders, town’s personality or country’s personality.

The more insular or less access you have to contrary opinions, ideas, currency to barter with, not only entrenches yourself more tribally, but encourages you to stick to your home roots more because there is an experience (even if it is dysfunctional) of strength and comfort in the familiar and in the surrounding numbers. What you sign away though, is your untraditional self for a conventional, authoritarian personality in approaching life. That is, you become more certain, or is it, you become more dogmatic in your stance or beliefs about life?

I now understand that if you did decide to adopt an authoritarian approach to life, it reflects not only an insecurity within, but also, the desire for a fundamental survival technique that you believe will somehow provide a sense of certainty about life or people.


Returning to My Birth Place - An Authouritarian Township

An authoritarian stance can seem to keep perceived threats from your front door while at the same time, pushing you into magical ways of thinking to obtain that level of comfort that everything is going to be alright.

I ignored my gut feelings about returning to my birth place. I should have listened. I didn’t listen.

To give you some context. I was born into a family of traditional working class people in Australia. The town I was born into was an industrialized town that was known for its coal. As a child and a teenager, I couldn’t wait until the day I could escape not only the authoritarianism of my parent’s leadership style but also the insular authoritarianism of the birth town I inhabited.

I ended up returning to my birth place because everyone was getting older and I wanted to strengthen our ties more. I hoped for the best. I thought surely it has got to have changed although I knew my visits to home in between, the architecture reflected no change in the liberalism of thought or the inclusion of culture or beauty. People still thought it was cool to get wiped out with alcohol and drugs no matter if you passed your twenties and were in your 40’s, 50’s or 60' s.

There is and was a strong division between the female and male genders, especially noticeable when you were out socially. It has an aggressive emotionality to the town culture where the females tends to take the lead. The lead is either as the breadwinner, or the aggressive partner in the relationship, or, the one who does the verbal or physical fighting on behalf of the male partner, or, she is the single mother.

The town is largely divided into two classes of people. There are the wealthier group of public servants who fill up the town’s now focus on health through the offering of a greater supply of hospitals together with an education system through the local University which has a strong focus on overseas students particularly from China. As well as place for defence forces. The other group? Are predominately, working class and poor class, kind of grouped together.

I felt I was trapped in time, thoughts and liberalism. To me, it was still the culture of kiss up and kick down; and still don’t have an opinion and don’t speak up, or else….


Not All Towns and Cities Are Alike-Remember

But please don’t let his town put you off Australia. The cities of Sydney, Melbourne or Hobart, for instance, can be described as having these types of personalities: -

*Sydney-beauty, progressiveness, having a business mind and being driven to accomplish your goals

* Melbourne-this city is more for the quiet soul who enjoys visiting the night markets, reading poetry, seeing cult art films or watching live sports such as tennis and football.

* Hobart-is the city for you if you are a bit of an ecclectic or eccentric. You love nature’s beauty; and you are inventive.

What Can We Learn from an Authoritarian’s Personality or Leadership Style?

I am attracted to conversations and exchanges of ideas. Not one upmanship.

I believe in democracy.

I believe in the individual having the freedom to express itself to its full potential while not intentionally harming others or the planet along the way.

I believe in their being a fair exchange. A balance of give and take.

Democracy is not the situation if it relies on a system of exchange that is based on hierarchy, inequality, oppression and exploitation.


How to Deal with Restricting the Spread of Authoritarianism?

A. How Do We Deal with Traditionalism?

We can apply reasoning, perception, passion, inspiration and artistic creativity.

B. How Do We Deal with Superstition?

I feel the pragmatic learners and teachers of practical magic are our farmers and our indigenous people. They have knowingly and unknowingly passed on their knowledge to us through their natural understanding of their vegetation, insect and animal populations together with their natural learning and understanding of weather conditions and their effects on crops and animals. This is Paganism in affect. It is showing us in real time the benefits of magic, of superstition.


A. What Can We Learn from the Stereotypes of Power (of Destructiveness)

Phillip Zimbardo, the author of the Lucifer Effect wrote that it needs a hostile imagination (a hostile mind) for the citizens of one society to segregate another group of societal citizens, to torment and kill them.

I think it would be reasonable to assume that we all can be oppressive. Either oppressive towards ourselves and oppressive to others in some shape or form, depending on the depth or nature of our life experiences. Therefore, the ball is still in our court. We just need to get up again to see how, where and when, we can prevent the step from discrimination to oppression together with pulling ourselves up to reflect on what is happening and what could happen.

e.g. If we were a Politician and felt we were slipping from democracy into oligarchy/authoritarianism, maybe it is time to introduce the action of deliberate democracy. Here, we would randomly select citizens (from all walks of life).to develop the projects together with voting on the top priorities, and implementing those that fell within the scope of the budget.

Whether the technicalities of deliberate democracy can be applied or not, I feel the bottom line is that we can still be effective and play a role in acting as an agent of change in our everyday world. Acting with care, courage and compassion.

How Do We Overcome the Authoritarian’s Cynicism?

It is up to us to rekindle our version of idealism. In what ways?

A. Challenge those beliefs of ours that keep us doing the same thing over and over.

e.g. If you think poor or indigenous people are drug addicts and you don’t give them certain scripts of medication because you assume they will get high on. Do your research once more to get the facts, figures and/or direct personal accounts to make up your mind.

B. Dissect or limit your daily news/social media infiltration

Whether we like it or not, we get stopped in our tracks when we hear of dramatic incidents about people or life matters. Here, we need to remind ourselves that social media and news outlets are out to make a profit. Sensationalism is the tool to capture our imagination together with our wallets and purses. Journalists can be directly or indirectly guilty of acting on behalf of Politicians and the like, in order to keep their jobs secure.

Remember, like you and I, Journalists have families to feed and a certain level of lifestyle to maintain, so they need to keep their jobs too.


What About those Negators in Our Life?

Cull them. Or, learn techniques on how not to be negatively affected by them.

What if you began focusing on what is working (rather than what is not working?) And, holding that thought.

Perhaps, doing a nightly reflection of your day and the actions of people you encountered. Find a way to flip a destructive or unpleasant situation/encounter into seeing a backhanded positive.

What if each person and even unpleasant encounter was meant to teach us something about ourselves or about a held belief that isn’t expanding or progressing our life forward.

Using a simple example: -

What if someone was putting you down about your known or unknown leadership qualities. This person used a derogatory snide tone while choosing to use the word, disruptive, to describe you to a colleague while you were present. To me, this person is saying in a backhand way they recognize your leadership qualities/skills. So, you need to get past the emotional put down and how it is meant to affect you, to see or hear the real message behind it all.

What Can Help to Break Down the Rigidity of an Authoritarian Personality or Leadership Style?

Bring back your curiosity,

To do that? Just disrupt the safety net of your everyday routine. Start to introduce moments of spontaneity.

e.g. Do something where you can just be. Here, you are not looking at the time. You are willing to go with the flow, laughing and smiling freely.

So, the next time it rains, think about going for walk without an umbrella. Get soaked in your clothes. Walk through mud puddles. Who cares? Right?


Last Thoughts….

Simply, authoritarianism is a reflection of insecurity and worry.

To me, authoritarianism is by and large about having choices and resources and the power it gives them together with not sharing that power with others.

I feel that to help prevent the spread of authouritarinism, we just need to be a little more altruistic rather than self-interested in our daily lives. What if we did one altruistic thing each day. That means there would be nearly 8 billion acts of altruism done daily. Can we afford this? Yes, I say.

To me everyone is an expert at something. Look and you will find.

The Athenians believed that everyday people make wise decisions when given sufficient time to reflect when given comprehensive information.

Thank you for stopping by and showing interest in the content of my article.

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© 2017 Threekeys


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am well aware that authoritarianism is normally pejorative. And you did a fine job laying that out. The dangers in having that form of government are scary.

      But when a duly elected person seems authoritative I think we should give more pause than you suggest.

      I like authoritative from bosses, military and sports. I also admit I like it when it goes my desired direction.

      I also think it is good when expertise is required rather than consensus.

      I think your definition including bullying is a great example. Sometimes we need a leader who steps up and bullies a bully.

      Just a great article for thought and reflection Thank you for sharing it. I will think of it for days.

    • threekeys profile image

      Threekeys 2 months ago from Australia

      Somethings just don't change. Like you were saying Jo, you either stay where you are or you see if you can find a more relatable environment. I love the story of you and your husband. Thank you, Jo. All the best to you and your loved ones.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 2 months ago from Tennessee

      Charmaine, I too moved back to my birthplace when I retired. Like you, it was a place I couldn't wait to leave when I was young. Early on I thought 'these people may drive me crazy', so I reached out to meet people in a nearby, more progressive, urban area. That's how I met my husband. He joined me here and we live happily with our Confederate-flag-flying neighbors.

      The place is still the same as it was when I grew up here, and all the things I didn't like then are still here. I'm a little different now and more accepting of these flawed people because I'm a little flawed myself.

      Your authoritarian descriptions fit the president of our country perfectly.