Today

Today, we are raised to believe that all disobedience is bad and that all obedience is good. As children our parents and grandparents taught us that we should always do what we are told, and that if someone is disobedient, they are almost always corrupt. The common belief in our society has continuously been to obey higher authorities at all cost. Obeying a higher authority is usually never questioned because today’s common belief is that valuing a higher authority and obeying them will lead you
to achievement. As human beings it’s natural for us to be obedient, and one who is not obedient might be viewed as unusual. Disobedience is not always wrong. The reality is that sometimes it is completely necessary to be disobedient. Nevertheless, is always being obedient sometimes is not the right thing to do.
Obedience to authority describes our tendency to please an individual of a higher authority than ourselves. Sometimes we may place too much importance on trying to please a higher authority and, consciously or subconsciously, subordinate the goal of acting properly. We all need to monitor ourselves to ensure that we are not excessively suspending our independent moral judgment to please our authority.
Stanley Milgram’s experiment on obedience to authority, conducted in 1963, proved that those of a higher authority had the powerful ability to control others. Stanley Milgram was attracted to understanding how the presence of a powerful authority can lead an individual to obeyed orders given to them by a person of a higher authority. He put together a study, in which he could observe the extent to which a person who presented themselves as an authority could push another person obeyed
their commands, even if it meant leading people to cause harm to others.
During Milgram’s study on obedience and authority, participates were gathered and believed to be participating in the research to study the effects of punishment on learning. After the confederate and participant both agreed to participate in the study, the researcher then clarified that one of them would be assigned to be the teacher and the other participant would be the learner. Each person was given a slip of paper and were asked to open it and to indicate what the paper read. This allowed
the confederate to pretend that he had been assigned to be the learner and therefore to assure that the actual participant would always the teacher. While the research participant (the teacher) looked on, the learner was then taken into the attached shock room and strapped to an electrode that was to deliver the punishment. The experimenter described that the teacher’s duty was would be to sit in the control room and read a list of word pairs to the learner, and it would be the learner’s job to remember which words went together. Each time the learner made answered with
the wrong word, the teacher was to press one of the shock switches to administer the shock. They were to begin with the smallest volt of shock possible (15 volts), and gradually increase the volt shock each time the learner answered a question incorrectly. After several mistakes, the volt shock would increase to 150 volts, and eventually would reach 330 volts, where the learner would remain silent. The participants were instructed to continue reading the questions to the learner, and to apply increasing volt shock even when the learner was no longer responding. Overall, most of the participants willingly performed acts that opposed “their” conscious and beliefs. Participants were led to trust that they were supporting an unrelated experiment,
in which they had to administered electric shocks to a learner. These phony electric shocks gradually increased to levels that would have been fatal had they been real. Which proves my point – not all obedience is good.
Obedience is mandatory for the world to function, yet, because of the power of authority, individuals may obey in ways which are damaging and against “their”, moral values. Stanley Milgram demonstrates that when an individual is following commands with negative and immoral consequences, the fault is placed on the authority; because the individual is simply following orders, they do not accept the responsibility of their own actions. Our military, for example, acts as a slaughter and can be
known for the inequalities. In Milgram’s “Obedience to Authority”, he describes the damaging effects of obedience, which test our society’s stability. We have been taught to practice obedience, but the majority is far more likely to obey for a bad cause, rather than use it to make a positive change. To have a civil civilization, we must learn to take full responsibility for our actions and attempt to use our obedient behavior toward a positive cause.
Like Milgram’s Obedience to authority, our military system, do not know they are being controlled and lose all connection to their pasts and former personalities. “The military training area is spatially segregated from the larger community to assure the absence of competing authorities. Rewards and punishments are meted out according to how well one obeys. A period of several weeks is spent in basic training. Although its ostensible purpose is to provide the recruit with military skills,
its fundamental aim is to break down any residues of individuality and selfhood” (Milgram). Because the authority has the power to make an individual commit horrifying acts without question, they must train their soldiers to obey and abandon all personal morals which may intervein with the completion of given task.
Even though several troopers may have taken regret about their actions, when they are in war, obedient actions become a matter of life and death. The decision to disobey could lead to incarceration or death, because disobedience fades the troop – “thus, they maintenance of discipline becomes an element of survival, and the soldier is left with little choice but to obey” (Milgram). So, a question to ask yourself is – why does a person find it easier to obey an authority that is ordering you to
murder hundreds, even thousands of human beings, rather than obeying a person that is trying to make some sort of peace? The answer is that people can go through with horrendous crimes when they are ordered to do so, not only because it is their duty, but because of the lack of consequences. For an action to be considered immoral there are typically negative consequences determined by a person of higher authority. But when you are in war, there are only consequences for disobedience to your authority,
not for contributing to immoral and inhumane acts.
Some people may not agree that breaking a law cannot be justified, they may argue that laws a law has been created by controlling authorities to serve purpose. Which is ultimately true, but overall laws are a form of human construct. Someone proposed a law and implemented them for a reason, and some of these reasons are completely unjustified.
“I think a key motivation of just civil disobedient acts is when they are in response to oppression. When groups of people are faced with legal domination there is a moral obligation to right the wrongs of the state. In order to realize this, one must be mindful of the fact that legality is not the same thing as morality. If there is a space between legality and morality wherein groups of people are oppressed, then there is a strong imperative to act in response so as to eradicate the unjust law
or laws. There are plenty of historical examples of immoral laws harming groups of people, sometime to the point of murder such as in the Nazi example. In times of severe oppression, people are justified to respond with acts of civil disobedience, especially if other legal means have been exhausted.” The truth is that, if sometimes if you want to do the right thing, breaking a law is completely necessary. (Paul Hopkins). “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” (Henry David Thoreau).