The most common notion of the day is “Obedience is a virtue and disobedience is a vice”. However, looking at history, we see a clear trend that it was through disobedience that we were able to achieve what we have achieved so far as good. However, through obedience, we as humans only manage to create chaos and discomfort for all other humans.
The lifestyle of the Kalahari Pygmies is the most primitive source of lifestyle that we can find in today’s modern society. These people resemble the life of early man who walked the earth long before Christopher Columbus landed in the American hemisphere. Despite all the war and changes in the world, these people seem to be the happiest people living in what we call hell, the unforgiving Kalahari desert. They do not know of obedience to any system or man, they live in a symbiotic relationship with nature and over time they have learned to enrich this relationship to the point of being able to find water in the desert and live a very peaceful isolated life.
Now looking at the other side of the dice, we with everything at our convenience have trouble being truly independent. Because society has created us as a wheel of this self-destructive society led by the incorporation of “Obedience” in all aspects of our life, which to become an operator of this machine called society by allowing us to be independent and disobedient. The problem lies when the social operator turns the machine in a direction where all the wheels will follow one after the other in obedience and no one will stop, leading to the end of days.
The common notion is, “Obedience is a virtue and disobedience is a vice.” However, when we look at our history to understand how we came to be what we are as humans, we see that the common notion that obedience is a virtue is false. As famous psychologist and author Erich Fromm says, “Human history began with an act of disobedience” (Fromm 246). Through the ages, from a paleolithic man to a neolithic man, due to various acts of disobedience, such as defying the knowledge that paleolithic man possessed as a hunter and cave dweller, we managed to achieve our mental and spiritual growth until we reached the space age spikes.
Furthermore, looking at this from the religious aspect, we see that throughout the Bible it was due to disobedience that man began to be free. King David’s disobedience regarding association with Bathsheba started the lineage of Jesus, who is the ultimate symbol of freedom and all that is good. Furthermore, throughout the Bible we see Jesus constantly defying the law of Israel to free the people of Israel from Pharisaic law (Garrett Luke 23:1,23:24).
In addition to religion, looking at the world socio-political scene, we see that due to various acts of disobedience by a handful, many people were able to enjoy freedom. George Washington and John Adams, branded traitors by the British for disobeying their laws, created what we know as the United States; Abraham Lincoln, against the consent of the majority, almost dividing the country and creating a civil war, abolished slavery. Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr., by flouting the common notion of segregation, freed our fellow African-Americans, allowing us to have an African-American president in 2009, ushering in a new era in American history.
However, we are still tied to the theory of obedience as a virtue. Looking back in history, we see that our enslavement to obey at all costs or “go with the wave” mentality resulted in the end of civilizations. The destruction of Troy VII (Thompson), beyond the myth, we see it as a decision made by the minor city-states of the Greek Empire to seize the best trading post and have the monopoly of trade in the Aegean Sea that put an end to the Golden age of Athens (Thompson). Furthermore, during Roman times the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar by Brutus, despite what Shakespeare says, was an act of obedience to the senate, involving the death of a great leader and a 16-year bloodbath that ended the it was roman. from the pages of history (Richard 175).
One can write volumes of books based on the theme of how much obedience at the end of days has contributed to many strong civilizations and systems. So what makes a man more likely to obey than to disobey? The human being is a social creature, during childhood man learns by copying what others do in his environment. When the mother points to the father and says “daddy”, the baby eventually points to the male figure that is always around the mother and says “daddy” without knowing if this male figure is really the father or not.
In the same way, it is during childhood that we learn the art of pleasing people and giving up our independent thinking. By doing something that makes mom and dad happy, you get a reward, and when you please your teachers, you pass school easily. This relationship between a student and the school is a perfect example of molding ourselves to be obedient and not disobedient; a sticky thorn in people’s heels that keeps us boxed in alien paradises. As the child grows up, he becomes so dependent on other people that his whole life has become a mirror of another person. The fact that the type of hair cream, the car we drive, the partners we choose, even the toilet paper we flush down the toilet, reflects the needs of our friends and keeps us chained to a false sense of security and obedience . For one to be truly free and independent, one must “have the courage to say no to the powers that be (and) disobey.” (Demo 249).
Consequently, we cannot say No to the powers at hand, be it religious, governmental, educational, or any other, because of the sense of power that we feel by being obedient to it and the sense of security that we feel. Also, the three line experiment discussed by Solomon E Asch in his article “Opinions and Social Pressure” where an individual subject, when pressed by a majority on an opinion of right or wrong. The subject tends to be wrong in his opinions trying to satisfy the opinion of the majority despite being right in his individual opinion (Asch 207). This clearly shows us that social pressure also plays a big role in why we can’t say no.
The importance of being independent in our opinions and decisions is not only beneficial for us as individuals but also for the whole world. By studying systems like the Third Reich designed to reach all aspects of all social levels, we see that when man obeys authority without question its effects can be devastating not only for the individual but for the entire world. The end of World War II on November 25, 1945 began the final chapter of Hitler’s Germany, which was the ultimate structure of obedience and the first chapter of humanity. The Nuremberg trials, where all the war criminals faced charges for their participation in the Holocaust, gave us a good overview of the extreme capacity for obedience that the human being possesses even to kill 5 million people because the hierarchy authorized it.
During the trial, not all of the defendants pleaded guilty, however, except for a few, all of the defendants were guilty on counts three and four (Crimes Against Humanity) (Taylor and Kent 14), after that the prosecution provided witnesses and evidence, including the shrug. heads of the Buchenwald concentration camp. When asked why the defense committed these monstrosities, the common summary response was “I was following orders.” Taking the testimony of the Commandant of Auschwitz Rudolf Hoess to Dr. Kauffmann on the Nuremberg trails (Monday, April 15, 1946), it is more than evident that, despite one’s disturbing conscience, killing so many men, women and children was justified by obedience to the commands given by the state (Stackelberg and Winkle 374). Furthermore, when Adolf Eichmann was put on trial on April 11, 1961 for his part in the final solution known as the holocaust, his answers to the questions of why he did these monstrosities were simple: “I was a soldier and I was following orders.” “I never did anything, big or small, without first obtaining express instructions from Adolf Hitler or one of my superiors.” (Eichman)
However, one can be obedient to a system or a person if it is “all good, all wise: (the system) must become all-wise” (Fromm 249). This is where Jesus and his ministry come as a great example. “Jesus was not only breaking the law, but also defining what the law should be” (Crawford 35), He was obedient to God, who is all-knowing and perfect. However, the world we live in and the leaders we choose to follow from church to government are not as perfect as God, even though many leaders preach freedom, a free system cannot exist without disobedience, taking away freedom of disobeying by taking away freedom itself.
Finally, just as in the days when the industrial revolution ignited the boiling pot that led to World Wars I and II, modern space and nuclear technology is igniting the next boiling pot. Since many countries, including world powers, are constantly at war with each other, all it takes is one obedient soldier and one stubborn and obedient commander and there will surely be a nuclear holocaust, therefore it will not be through an act of disobedience, but through an act of obedience that will bring about the end of days.
Asch, Solomon E. “Opinions and Social Pressure.” Behrens, Laurence, and Leonard J Rosen. Writing and reading across the curriculum. 3rd. New York: Pearson, 2009. 206-212.
Crawford, Curtis. Civil Disobedience: A Casebook. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1973.
Fromm, Erich. “Disobedience as a psychological and moral problem”. Behrens, Laurence, and Leonard J Rosen. Writing and reading across the curriculum. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 245-250.
Garrett, Dr. Duane A. New International Version Archaeological Bible. Michigan: Zondervan, 2005.
Richard, Carl J. Twelve Greeks and Romans Who Changed the World. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.
Stackelberg, Roderick, and Anne Sally Winkle. The Nazi Germany Sourcebook: An Anthology of Texts. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
Taylor, Richard Norton, and Nicholas Kent. Nuremberg. London: Nick Hern Books, 1997.
Thompson, Diane. The Trojan War: Literature and Legend from the Bronze Age to the Present. North Carolina: McFarland, 2004.
Trial of Adolf Eichmann [VHS]. performance Adolf Eichmann. 1961.