Relational Practice and the issue of Authority: A Parable

Generally speaking, people do not doubt the need for authority or even hierarchy. The latter exists in every human form of organisation. Relational practice is not a political means to invert hierarchy but instead it a call to develop aesthetic and practical skills for managing power within a complexity of contexts in a way that distinguishes between authority and authoritarianism.

I received the following email this morning from my lovely friend Jean Mawer, that illustrates this far better than I ever can!

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas, and talked with an old rancher. He told the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.”

The rancher said, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there…..”, as he pointed out the location.

The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, ” Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me!”

Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.

“See this badge?! By the authority vested in me by our Government, this badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish… without let or hindrance, on any land! No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself clear…… do you understand?”

The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher’s big Santa Gertrudis bull…

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he’d sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified.

The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs…


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