Dissent vs. Disagreement
A teenager comes home late from a party to find her mother waiting quietly at the doorstep. The mother points at the clock and asks where on earth her daughter had been all night. The teenager skulked out of the room. Mom had to stay firm, for it was two hours past curfew and her daughter never called. The punishment was simple: one week without a car. But the teenager raged about the house, hurling insults at her mother, slamming doors, and wailing about how it was all “so unfair”. It was then that her agitated father rose from his slumber, stomped to her room and raised that dreaded one week sentence to a month.
Daniel J. Boorstin warned of behavior such as this in his book The Decline of Radicalism It describes how dissenting behavior is a “symptom, an expression, a consequence, and a cause of all others” and how it differs from civil disagreement. Disagreements show two opinions presented out of logic, producing new ideas and change. Dissent is spiteful, often arrogant; alienating the minority that uses it in an argument. Had the teenage girl come to her parents explaining how she was late because she had driven a drunk friend home safe and went back to get the car, her punishment may not have been so severe.
Dissension isn’t simply a modern occurrence. One of the Greek tragedies, Antigone, paints a picture of a brave heroine who loses her life in a stance against authority all the way back in fifth century B.C. Initially, the act of burying her brother in opposition to Creon’s decree, in order to obey the laws of the Gods, seems quite noble. She stands for integrity and is willing to hold it all the way to her death. Every chastisement from Creon is met by spitting at the ground he walks upon – throwing herself onto her cursed deathbed. What can Creon do? This little girl openly disobeyed the law and threatened his already shaky authority. He has to sentence her to...