November 14, 2011

No Obedience Monday


Obedience is the tendency to follow orders given by a perceived authority figure, regardless of the quality of either of them. Deferring to authority figures can be dangerous as highlighted by several important (and disturbing) studies, as well as historical atrocities perpetrated by people 'following orders'.

Einstein felt that fate was punishing him for his contempt for authority by making him an authority figure himself. I am not very obedient by nature either, so it felt odd when I became a teacher. Vested with authority by the government and society, I entered the classroom.

As an 'agent of the state', though, I never expected obedience from my students. Cooperation, yes. Obedience, no. When they questioned my authority (perceived or otherwise), it usually resulted in all of us benefiting in unexpected ways.

Considering the dangers of misguided obedience we would be wise to remember Benjamin Franklin's words when he said, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."

Update: Obedience reared its ugly head Tuesday morning in Liberty Square in New York City as hundreds of agents of the 1% dismantled the birthplace of the peoples' push for real democracy.

I was heartened to hear that protesters in the park Tuesday night were yelling, "Disobey your orders!" at the late-night raiders.

I wonder how many police or sanitation workers refused to work that night?

The General Assembly of around 1000 citizens in the park Tuesday night was reported to be the largest, and most joyous to date, although without sleeping bags, tents, kitchen, medical area, or the 5000 volume library. Marches are planned for Thursday to celebrate 2 months of mobilization.

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