Monday, October 1, 2018

When Obedience is anything but Virtuous

If you are fortunate enough to live in a moral society, the Laws are very likely Just and Sensible.  You will agree with them and uphold them and 'do the right thing' even when it is slightly inconvenient. Unfortunately few of us are in that happy situation.  There are societies - yes even our own western, Anglophile societies - where Authorities step well over the mark. 

In which case it is a person's Duty to Disobey.

Obedience is expected from children, who have to learn to live in a society, but many children have parents who are far from Just and Sensible.  They do not learn Justice or sense. Some parents are plain stupid and some are just bad.

Adults, too, are expected to Obey Lawful Authority.  We elect other adults to our legislative bodies in order to raise, discuss, and install Laws for the benefit of all. But most egregious human rights abuse and even human atrocity have been 'Lawful', raised and installed by the stupid and the bad.

This old Knight has spent much of his recent life as a 'Free-Lance'. I make my rules. I consider the rules of the society around me and find most to be reasonable, albeit sometimes inconvenient. But I choose which to obey, which, happily, are most, and to refuse to obey some. And those I refuse have little to do with my convenience.

Do you? And on what basis?

Few people have the courage to object. Fewer still to confront, to Refuse to Obey, and try instead to do the Right thing.

Any reasonably educated person today have little excuse for not knowing of Stanley Milgram

That is Stan to the right. Stan was very interested in just why so many people in Germany before and during the Second World War were so compliant with Authority. Why did they inflict such horror on others.

Germany was an advanced western nation. Its art, literature, philosophy, music, architecture etc were first rate. It had suffered a heavy lesson for its 'bad  behaviour' of WW1 and one might have thought that the people had had enough of  evil.

The excuses flowed and the Great Indictment of Nuremburg made it very clear that 'obeying orders' was no longer to be a rationale that absolved an individual from responsibility.

But what do we have today? All around us are people who claim authority, either over us and what we do or over what we are to think. Everyone and his dog stakes a claim over us. 

Obeying and Resisting Malevolent Orders
Stanley Milgram's famous experiment highlights the powerful human tendency to obey authority.
Would you obey orders to hurt an innocent individual- even when the authority issuing them has no coercive means to enforce his or her commands? 
On the basis of one of the 20th century's most important and controversial pieces of research, chances are that you would. 
In the early 1960s, Yale social psychologist Stanley Milgram, PhD, conducted an experiment whose purpose was supposedly to study the effects of punishment on learning. The experimenter told the subject that his job was to teach a learner in an adjacent room to memorize a list of word-pairs, and every time the learner made an error, the teacher-subject was to punish the learner by giving him increasingly severe shocks by pressing levers on a shock machine. 
There were 30 levers whose shock values ranged from a low of 15 volts to the maximum of 450 volts. (In actuality, no electric shock was involved. The "learner" was an actor who only pretended receiving them, but the subject did not know this.) 
Despite the learner's increasingly pitiful screams and pleas to stop, a majority of subjects (over 60%) obeyed the experimenter's commands to continue and ended up giving the maximum "shock" of 450 volts.
We did not need Milgram's research to inform us that people have a propensity to obey authority; what it did enlighten us about is the surprising strength of that tendency - that many people are willing to obey destructive orders that... 
conflict with their moral principles 
Some Authority can Build Character
....and commit acts which they would not carry out on their own initiative. 
Once people have accepted the right of an authority to direct our actions, Milgram argued, we relinquish responsibility to him or her and allow that person to define for us what is right or wrong.
So how does the ordinary person 'do the right thing'? 

What should we be teaching our children in our homes and schools? 

What specific preventive actions people can take to resist unwanted or immoral pressures from authorities?
Question the authority's legitimacy. We often give too wide a berth to people who project a commanding presence, either by their demeanor or by their mode of dress and follow their orders even in contexts irrelevant to their authority. 
For example, one study found that wearing a fireman's uniform significantly increased a person's persuasive powers to get a passerby to give change to another person so he could feed a parking meter. 
When instructed to carry out an act you find abhorrent, even by a legitimate authority, stop and ask yourself: "Is this something I would do on my own initiative?" 
The answer may well be "No," because, according to Milgram, 
moral considerations play a role in acts carried out under one's own steam, 
but not when they emanate from an authority's commands. 
Don't even start to comply with commands you feel even slightly uneasy about.
Some 'authorities' simply obey higher, ones, but against whom?
Acquiescence to the commands of an authority that are only mildly objectionable is often, as in Milgram's experiments, the beginning of a step-by-step, escalating process of entrapment. The farther one moves along the continuum of increasingly destructive acts, the harder it is to extract oneself from the commanding authority's grip, because to do so is to confront the fact that the earlier acts of compliance were wrong
Now, by 'authority' we must not forget the power of the group: the Mob. They too must be considered, examined and if necessary resisted. 
If you are part of a group that has been commanded to carry out immoral actions, find an ally in the group who shares your perceptions and is willing to join you in opposing the objectionable commands. 
It is tremendously difficult to be a lone dissenter, not only because of the strong human need to belong, but also because -via the process of pluralistic ignorance -the compliance of others makes the action seem acceptable and leads you to question your own negative judgment. 
In one of Milgram's conditions the naïve subject was one of a 3-person teaching team. The other two were actually confederates who-one after another-refused to continue shocking the victim. Their defiance had a liberating influence on the subjects, so that only 10% of them ended up giving the maximum shock.
Don't make the error of thinking me an anarchist.  I do not eschew all rules or even the idea of rules. But you should be fully aware of what 'authority' is demanding. As Roosvelt said......

 it is not a 'favour' they seek. Its a Demand they make.

The question posed above posited "even when the authority issuing them has no coercive means to enforce his or her commands? " Mostly of course, they DO have coercive means. The Police. 

The police have almost military power these days and are very choosy as to where it is deployed. Simple observation shows the average policeman doing his or her best to maintain good order and ensure that the Laws are upheld.  Individually, most are decent people. But en masse?  'Under Orders' ? There we see political coecion, selectivity and many, many bad choices which the police enforce.

If a policeman disobeys orders he will lose his career.

He has to take that hit or lose his integrity.

When push comes to shove Integrity gets trampled.

And I mentioned the 'group'. The main oppressive group in our society is the Party. The political party. Pretty well every political party is flawed, almost beyond redemption. They coerce and bribe even within the Party. The individual politician who holds to Truth, Justice, Honesty, Integrity, barely stands a chance. But they MUST hold fast.

The politician who calls out corruption or immorality in Policy will get hit hard. 

He / she must be prepared to take the hit or lose their Integrity.

Most won't resist. Just look at the careerists and corrupt who care not a whit for their own integrity, their citizens, their country. Trudeau in Canada: Turnbull in Oz. (Crikey I could write a page long list of corrupt, criminal, evil politicians in Oz). May in Britain, willing to ignore the clear will of a sensible population and sacrifice the nation to faceless European bureaucrats; Merkle in Germany. Andrews in little Victoria who orders his Police to charge huge fees to good people who want only to state their view, and holds his Police back from arresting rioters and thugs who shut down freedom of speech.

The Entire Democratic Party in America. A page would not be long enough. Ten pages per individual sick, corrupt, lying thief would not be enough. 

False Witness is just one of the crimes they hold as legitimate.

We are at War whether we like it or not. Everyone finds himself or herself on the Line, facing the enemy.  

Some are looking at a mirror. 

But say you are not. Say you face an enemy, an Authority, an Order, a Law. You may not have chosen to be where you are, but that is where your fight is.

You have to choose. Do you Obey? Capitulate your responsibility?

Civil disobedience is always an option.

Remember Nuremburg. 

You Must disobey immoral orders. You must resist and fight immoral Authority.

And you will be met with force.

You must be prepared to lose. Perhaps everything.

That's the Warrior's lot.

Enough for the moment as I have tables to wipe and Ale to pour.

But soon I shall present a Warrior, and everyday person who refuses to obey. We shall see what transpired when she went to war.



  1. On the whole I agree. Most of our laws are at best unnecessary. Many are evil.

    But if we pick and choose which laws we're going to obey we're going to have chaos. And governments are going to be increasingly unwilling to tolerate even the smallest dissent.

    In the long run it just isn't possible for Christians and liberals to live in the same society under the same laws, or under the same political system.

    The only answer I can think of is something like the millet system they had in the Ottoman Empire, where different communities live under their own laws.

    1. As I said....""Don't make the error of thinking me an anarchist. I do not eschew all rules or even the idea of rules. But you should be fully aware of what 'authority' is demanding. "" We have 'authorities' comprising several folk down the street and a blokesse shipped in from out of town. They are not Kings. Yet they make the laws. Many of them (people and laws) are stupid.

      YOU have to risk that chaos and choose to obey or not. If indeed the panel of folks down the street can get on their high horses and crack down on your reasonable, reasoned and moral dissent, then battle it is.

      Bring it on.

  2. YOU have to risk that chaos and choose to obey or not. If indeed the panel of folks down the street can get on their high horses and crack down on your reasonable, reasoned and moral dissent, then battle it is.

    The problem is that it's necessarily going to be a fight to the death. There is no prospect of compromise. That means it ends with the destruction of society, or with the total destruction of one side or the other.

    1. So many nations even in the recent past have had to face the choice. Bluntly, you will die anyway. We all shall die one day. So are we to die doing wrong, doing right or as a bystander who gets it in the head simply for being nearby? Nations have crossed the line between difficult peace and nasty war, and yet people are still around. There will always be survivors. They will make their own rules.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..