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Agreeing to Disobey

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Agreeing to Disobey

By: Nancy Evans


Blindly obeying authority often results in disobedience to one's personal morality. Since rules were established and exist for the common interests of the general population, some would say adhering to the rules is obedient. However, when rules conflict with people's morals, one has the right, and furthermore the responsibility to disobey. Contrary to popular belief, disobedience does not center around ignorant rebellion. In fact, disobedience is the manner in which people shed enlightenment on the well-traveled path of benightedness, by offering another point of view. By the dictionary's definition, disobedience is a violation or disregard of a rule or prohibition. Nevertheless, if people do not challenge their very surroundings, then they will never discover the many paradises that exist behind the garden gate of control and oppression. Through choosing to disagree, a person is exclaiming the fact that he/she will not negotiate the most personal aspects of his/her lives, such as his/her morals. Prime examples of two very different points of view are: the government drafting young men into the army, and the men being reluctant to go. Indeed, a pacifist is not going to be as patriotic as a navel-officer, however; the pacifist should not have to entertain the idea of killing a man, simply because he is expected to obey. This opinion is not just an act of rebellion to a higher authority; it is a commitment to one's personal morals, simply because no higher authority exists beyond oneself. Edward Abbey, in his book Rain, Fire and The Will of the Gods, stated, "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government" (Abbey 156). Through this quote, Abbey shows that he was a man of great wisdom, or perhaps he was just a history major. To clarify this idea, it is a known theory that history repeats itself, and still society today has neglected to acknowledge an essential partner in the authentication of moral decisions. This essential partner is one's own conscience. By allowing one's conscience to govern ideals and decisions, the community as a whole rises to a heightened understanding of its surroundings. As conscious individuals, humans acknowledge the fact that not everyone holds the same opinion, and therefore, not everyone is governed by the same rules. In Erich Fromm's short essay entitled, Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem he explains that there exist two forms of conscience. The first form being the authoritarian conscience (the authority society aims to please and avoids displeasing, also referred to as the "Super Ego" by Freud), and the second being the humanistic conscience (Milgram 151). Erich Fromm better explains the idea of the humanistic conscience when he says: ' the "humanistic conscience"; this is the voice present in every human being'and is based on the fact that as human beings we have an intuitive knowledge of what is conducive of life and what is destructive of life. This conscience serves our functioning as human beings. It is the voice which calls us back to ourselves, to our humanity. (Milgram 151) Fromm is saying that while the community has established rules for people as a whole, people as individuals have established rules for themselves. The personally established rules automatically take precedence over broad rules, since they are the most significant to free human life. An example of how these 'rules' have been confused would be the Holocaust. Hitler wanted the Jews exterminated, and although many of the people (non-Jewish) felt this was inhumane and unjust, they remained silent and inert. The liberation of the Jews did not occur until Russia discovered the confusion between the broad rules and the moral rules. ...

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