I will stop there for now - interested in your thoughts?
While I never try to be a provocateur, I am aware that some of my articles are likely to touch a nerve. This is one such article. Given that, I must say I'm very impressed by the respectful tone of the responses so far. I'd like to begin by thanking you for that.
I'm no slave to hierarchies, and there are many instances of loyalties being misplaced or abused. I am a huge proponent of students choosing their instructors, their dojo, their affiliations wisely. Once a choice is made, I think a community thrives to the extent that its members actively commit themselves to serving that community, and orienting that community to serving others... and with fair expectation they will be served in return. And because things change, it's a contract that is always up for renewal. There are proper, honorable ways to do this.
Everyone brings value. But I believe it's a mistake to believe that everyone brings equal value, or that everyone is always doing their best. An honest instructor has an obligation to call forth the best in students.
I also believe that the exchange between the instructor and student is never equal. With my own instructors, I never imagined myself their equal, nor did they do anything to disabuse me of this sense of inequity (authentically humble gentlemen though they were). Rather, I was told to "pay it forward." There was no realistic way I could pay them enough for what they were giving me.
People come and go, and instructors die. Because of this, many people find it tempting to serve some greater cause, something more lasting -- a philosophy, a principle, an ideal, or an institution. But I always ask, what then, do these serve? Such pursuits can be noble and wise, but only if we examine if they truly serve to foster a better world, and not simply as an escape vehicle for dodging messy, flesh and blood human relationships. Naturally I like being surrounded by principled people, and I hope to make myself worthy of such company. But I've too often seen principles adhered to regardless of the suffering caused.
On this count, I offer the same objection to this way of life as the one you raise. Namely, that such beliefs and practices are prone to misuse and abuse. In both cases, it is the abuse that is wrong, rather than the loyalty to a person, a group of people, or to a system of thought and practice.
My goal with the article is not to say one is better than the other, but that they must coexist in right balance and proportion.
Many instructors will score huge points with their students by affecting an air of dispassionate distance and humility. It is not considered polite to even ask if this behavior truly serves the students' needs, or if it might be a very cleverly veiled form of self-aggrandizement.
As has been said before, "a false humility is the worst form of conceit."*
Many thanks for the exchange. I am enriched by what you offer.
*attr. Rochefoucauld via Ernst Stavro Blofeld