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A Piece of the Pie

By Tiahna Osorio

Everyone always wants a piece of the pie. Everyone wants a say in how things are done. It’s human nature to want to have authority, but not in the way most people expect. Most people want authority for the sole purpose of maintaining autonomy, or the ability to do whatever they desire. In a study conducted by multiple Universities including the University of Columbia, it was revealed that people more often than not would accept a promotion for their job if it gained them more autonomy rather than influence. The appeal of autonomy is even something of an American ideal. While it is human nature to want to appeal to the crowd and find comfort in acceptance. There is also an innate desire, may it be societal in America, to usurp those with authority.

It’s best to begin with the definition of respect. In schools there is a certain social hierarchy, the principal carries the most authority, the teachers the second most, and students are at the bottom of this social hierarchy. Everyone has a moral obligation to treat everyone else with a bare minimum amount of respect. Which can be defined as, “In the literature of moral and political philosophy, the notion of respect for persons commonly means a kind of respect that all people are owed morally just because they are persons, regardless of social position, individual characteristics or achievements, or moral merit” by Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy. However, there is also another kind of respect, that which is owed to authority in order to maintain a functioning society.

A certain conflict occurs when a person represents authority. The conflict is while many people will respect the position they hold, they won’t respect the person holding it. An example is most students with difficult teachers. They’ll be considerate to teachers to their faces, and respectful in their presence because of the power the teacher possesses over them. However, as soon as the teacher is no longer in hearing range, students will say terrible things about them. It is morally considered wrong to say rude things about someone because they are not there, so this is an example of not showing basic human respect. The worst conflict is when an authority figure is respected neither as a person nor in regard to their position. This leads to backlash from people under the authority. Whether that backlash is morally correct depends primarily on the situation. However, it all stems from the need for autonomy. People with no respect for that authority in both regards will lash out in an attempt to claim the ability to behave in whatever way they desire. While in some cases this is seen as the right thing, it is also capable of being the wrong thing. Not all uprisings are necessary, and not all authority is bad.

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