A system of conformity (#) in society is partially created through obedient behavior. Discipline (#) and orderliness in everyday life are created by individual and group obedience to authority figures. Learning obedience at a young age promotes the abilities and introduces the habits that are needed to eventually self-govern (#).
**Through the socialization process, the youth of society learn to obey authority figures. The life skills, character traits, and self-control learned are necessary in adult life for individuals to contribute to the smooth functioning of society. Recently, a decline in the expectations and standards of society for obedience has contributed to moral and academic decline as well as other social problems. On the other hand, although obedience is usually seen as a positive aspect of society, it sometimes comes at the expense of individualism, independent reasoning, and creativity.
Although the value of obedience has both positive and negative aspects depending on the situation to which it is applied, it remains one of the most important values in maintaining order in society. Two main reasons for obedience exist. The first is that obeying authority requires little thinking or resistance. It is an easy way of functioning both mentally and socially in society. The second is that individuals need to belong to groups in order to survive. The arrangement of people into a series according to rank or power creates authority. It is the belief of society as a whole that obedience to authority allows groups to exist and thrive.
Obedience is most often seen as the means necessary in the pursuit of a common end, usually social order. Obedience is convenient because, when applied, it can protect individuals, especially children, from the dangers of painful, tricky, or damaging situations.
Obedient students in schools and other formal education institutions usually follow the rules of authority figures for the good of the order without question regardless of their own beliefs and values. Students must be able to detect the benefits of and/or reasons behind the rules such as the smooth functioning of the classroom in order to make obedience to those rules worthwhile. Demands made must promote the welfare of the individuals on whom they are placed. Undue orders make a teacher appear to be more like a dictator than an educator. While obeying predetermined standards, students must still be able to think for themselves, express opinions, and learn in their own creative manner.
Problems with obedience are prevalent. Merely complying with orders or demands leaves little room for concern for the effects of certain decisions. Authorities assume responsibility for judgment and motivation for action. Action becomes mechanical in nature. As less and less freedom of choice is granted to the individual, he or she becomes helpless, less inventive, and blindly obedient.
A soldier’s commitment to the armed forces requires discipline and obedience. An individual soldier is part of a whole group that relies on him or her as part of the smooth operation. Training required to prepare soldiers for military duty makes them more susceptible to blind obedience of authority because they sacrifice personal desires or beliefs for larger issues and concerns such as the objectives of their units. For this reason, obedience to corrupted authority figures can have unfortunate consequences because soldiers do not think for themselves but follow the commands given or forced upon them out of habit even though they may not agree with the officer’s judgments. Throughout history, conditions such as these have allowed for tragedies to occur such as the killing of millions during World War II by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler, or more recently, Abu Ghraib and his torture practices.
Although it may seem a strange claim to some, there is an appropriate place and time for disobedience. Positive disobedience usually involves the respectful questioning of authority, norms, and values producing beneficial social change. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi both led movements in society that went against social norms but resulted in positive changes. King once stated, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” This concept applies not only to laws but to any rule or regulation imposed by an authority on an individual or group that is expected to be obeyed and that can result in any type of consequence, not just imprisonment.
While learning obedience is important during childhood as described in the first four paragraphs. It is also important as you age and develop during your life. As time passes laws may change which may require a change in your obedient behaivors, therefore, you must be constantly aware of changes in society, as to properly adjust and conform with society.
Respect authority but think and act independently at the same time. Develop and fund school curriculums that expect students to ask “How?” and Why?” instead of just accepting and memorizing information and concepts introduced to them by their teachers. Create a community forum to discuss community issues and/or members’ personal lives in order to promote change. Peacefully assemble in public areas to protest or to promote the reconsideration of certain norms within the community. Train people to consider how inventiveness and self-confidence are lessened through obedient action. Require obedience as a temporary stage only where it is indispensable.
In order for obedience to be beneficial to society, power (#) of authorities must be contained and questioned. Toleration for reasonable and functional rules and regulations must exist. Recognition that the strictness (#) of rules and demands placed on the individual is sometimes necessary in order to protect the weak (#) and help society to function in an orderly manner is also important.