Posted by: johnhourihan | September 9, 2013

Speaking truth to power

This post is for LB who asked me to write about something other than politics.
So this is about speaking truth to power.
All my life people kept saying that I had a problem with authority.
I didn’t have a problem with it. I was just not in awe of authority, and authority didn’t like that.
So I guess it was authority who had a problem with me.
For instance, I asked a nun, when I was in the third grade, “If faith is believing something that you have no proof of, then what is the difference between faith and ignorance?”
I wasn’t being an innocent. I knew what I was doing. I just didn’t like someone, even a nun, telling me how to live. I felt, even then, that I knew how to live. I would use whatever knowledge I had and when I ran out of knowledge I relied on intuition and blind confidence in my gut feelings. It seems to have worked.
I was punished for that faith and ignorance question even more so than when I asked, “If Jesus died on Friday afternoon and rose from the dead on Sunday morning, why don’t we say he rose from the dead in two days instead of three?”
When I was 11 and pitching a little league game in Phoenix, and my second baseman (the coach’s kid) and my shortstop had a fist fight in the middle of an inning, and the coach came out onto the field to break it up, he asked me what happened and whose fault it was. I said, “What happened? Your kid is an idiot, that’s what happened. It’s probably your fault.”
He told me to shut up, so I took off my hat and uniform shirt and placed it neatly on the mound and went and sat in the stands. I never played for that team again.
When I was 17 and driving my mother’s ‘62 Olds, I was stopped by a policeman.
He said, I stopped you for littering.” I had thrown an apple core out the window of the car. I told him, “ An apple is biodegradable. It’s not littering.”
He said “I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” and I answered, “See, that’s why you’re a cop.”
I got a ticket, biodegradable or not.
The Army was a long string of not being awed by authority. Ending with the clarification I offered to the executive officer of our company in Vietnam, “I didn’t call you a bastard, I asked if your parents were married.”
It seems that very early in my life I realized that figures of authority were not always deserving of their position.
Then I found out that they knew it, and when you pointed it out in one way or another they became very agitated and usually used whatever power they had to punish you.
In the final job of my career I had trouble with four people who were in charge. I was older than 50 and made pretty good money so they really wanted me to leave so they could hire three recent college grads for the same money and dictate to them in a way they could not dictate to someone their own age.
While they were “the authority” on the newspaper they felt they were to be revered. I never felt that way and told them so. They felt I had a problem with authority.
Three of them got fired and one is now the editor of a weekly. And I am retired and go fishing whenever I want, visit my grandchildren when I want, read books, watch games, write my blog and sleep in.
So the next time you, as an authority figure, decide someone who you feel is beneath you has “a problem with authority” take a closer look.
Maybe the problem is you.
Maybe you just don’t like the fact that he or she isn’t afraid of your authority.
Maybe you are just not quite as awesome as you thought you were.
I have never had a problem with authority. I was just never awed by it.



  1. I guess it has to do with the person who holds the authority. Weather you respect that person or not and weather they respect the authority they hold or not. You can’t have the former without the latter. It all stems from the latter. I think?

    • Absolutely


  2. My humble thanks to you sir. Authority? I Dont subscribe to that illusion either but Awesome? even you would agree… My Boots are a k Awesome! Thanks for the read.

  3. I’m not sure what my over the top authoritarian bosses are doing today (two that I can think of immediately)… but I am damn glad that I too find myself retired and enjoying life. I sometimes view it as a personal (imagined)revenge on those offenders. I do believe that what goes around comes around and I appreciate knowing that others have experienced unreasonable bosses and not only survived but flourished… thanks again John love being induced to think and remember…


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