If you were walking down the street and a total stranger politely instructed you to alter your pace or to jump in place, would you do it without question?
Most of us would require a solid reason to obey.
Now, how would you react if that stranger was wearing an official-looking uniform?
Would you question the stranger or would you comply simply because you’ve been raised to be obedient to authority?
The difference in how many people would respond illustrates a curious and potentially dangerous shift in how we think.
It’s a shift that has occurred in plenty of other societies before us and it almost always leads to great suffering.
From mass murder to human rights violations to political or religious persecution, there is a connection between human suffering and the desire to be obedient.
That connection was summed up by mathematician and philosopher W.K. Clifford who said:
“There is one thing in the world more wicked than the desire to command, and that is the will to obey.”
This means that true power does not reside within the person or persons issuing commands. Instead, unquestioning obedience is the real foundation for abuse of power.
Think about what that means in a society where we are conditioned from childhood to defer to symbols of authority.
The greatest counter to corrupted authority is people who understand right and wrong and are willing to withdraw their consent when commanded to act against their better judgment.
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