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Friday, July 19, 2013

Intermezzo: On Obedience

My “Tangled” blog-post is not coming along as fast as I'd like. I'm thinking of it every day, but my days are too crowded now to write such a complex text. Six weeks from now I'll be unemployed. To get an alternative source of money I'm writing articles for the high sum of $6,- per article (which comes down to less than $3,- per hour on which no one can live in the Netherlands) on top of which I'm reorganizing the house. Moving out of the attic to live downstairs in the living room, like normal people do. The attic will be 'let' to tourists, who either want to spent time in the area of Amsterdam, the Keukenhof or the beach or who just want to spend one or two nights at my house because of the weird times at which their plane leaves / has arrived.

In order to stay involved in the series of Tangled posts, here's a short one that will help explain a thought that is of great importance in the Tangled series. Explaining it here, helps me keep the main text shorter.

It's not the first time I said it, and I will repeat over and over because it's so important:
Obedience is NOT a virtue
When a child makes his homework out of sheer obedience.... it stinks. The act of making one's homework isn't bad, but the motivation is.
Do you see the distinction? Obedience is not an act, it's the motivation behind the act. And it's a d..... shallow one, selfish and dangerous. It's obedience that makes a soldier kill another human being and it's obedience that makes a civil servant choose to break a person, rather than to break an [inappropriate] rule to which said person simply cannot comply. It's the cement of Cults and Sects.
Getting a subject to become obedient requires 
  • threats  
  • punishments
  • keeping the subjects view on life very limited and narrow (withholding the opportunities to experience life in the 'real world')
  • cultivating a negative self image within the subject.Taking a good look at this list, I am reminded of sects,  Scientology, Communism and fundamentalist undercurrents in world religions... Sending shivers down my spine....
Every item listed is somehow making use of fear as a tool. Fear for punishment or  of getting hurt due to failure. The leading role often being played by either parents, teachers, members of the social group we want to belong to, the government.... 

As an alternative , the person who has learned to be obedient, enjoying his gilded cage, might maintain his obedience because of a love of ease, laziness; some sort of a manifestation of greed: a selfish desire to lead an easy life, no matter how it will affect others.
If you are being obedient, you are either not questioning the consequences of your act, or not accepting your responsibility for those consequences. When things go wrong, you just hide behind the rules, set out by the one you are working for. 

So obedience has either fear or greed as its root. Destructive powers.
Let's stick to the civil servant's example, since it'll be on top of my list soon....
So, the civil servant sends home a person whom he denied financial compensation, because this person's situation did not fit the requirements. How the other person deals with it, has nothing to do with the civil servant's decision right? He acted according to the rules, so his hands are clean. Maybe he'll even get promoted for being such a skilled worker. Wrong! He was the one in the situation to help a desperate person and denied compassion, hope and breathing space. 

DISOBEDIENCE is usually considered bad behavior  but it is not. It is opening doors to other motivations, those that are good. Like obedience, disobedience is not an act. And other than obedience, it is not the motivation behind an act.
Now that is complicated.... another example:
Suppose I would tell my teen son one day that I don't want him to visit his friend after school but come home straight away. He decides to disobey.... It is four o'clock and he has just decided that he is not going home just because I told him so. That gives him options...
  • LOVE: he can go to his friends house because he wants to make his friend happy.
  • RESPONSIBILITY: He can go to his friend's house to study together, knowing that he or his friend would benefit and this benefit is worth risking my anger
  • EXPRESSION TO CLAIM HIS RIGHTS (called protest, which is a civil right): He can go with his friend in order to show me that he doesn't have to do what I say To emphasise that when he does what I say, he does it because he loves and / or respects me.
  • REVENGE: he could go with his friend to hurt me. This is not loving, not to me nor to his friend, but comes from sheer hunger for self determination, [ part of his human rights ]   A defect I caused by having been too strict for too long. My fault!! But if he gets the chance to satisfy his hunger, this disobedience can free him to act responsible or out of love next time.
Disobedience is simply taking responsibility into your own hands. It is a key that opens a treasure chest of many motivations. Mostly based on love, respect and responsibility.
Of course we can't always oversee the consequences when we have to make a choice. We are not omniscient. At such moments it is OK to rely on the ideas and decisions of authoritative figures. If you know them to be worthy of that position and if you know you can trust them and respect them. Then you're not being obedient, but consciously acting out of respect and faith in that person's integrity. And in no way is that an act of fear or greed.

  • Obedience is disempowerment.
  • Disobedience is empowering: a key unlocking other motivations and to a full life. 
Not an easy life, but a valuable one.
If you don't believe me, here are some more examples:
  • Saint Francis of Assisi

    As a protestant, I'm not into saints. But Francis of Assisi is dear to me.  It is he who showed Christians of his time that love is for everyone and there are no inferior creatures, in contrast to the general views of the leaders of that time: the Catholic Church. St Francis helped lepers, accepted women in his congregation and preached for animals. 
    He went along on the 5th crusade and became the first to talk with a Muslim leader instead of fighting him. He did not convert the Sultan to Christianity but concluded that followers of this religion are worthy of respect and that Christians and Muslims should find a way to live together peacefully.

Disobedience is the virtue. Virtus is Latin, stemming from Vis which means strength.

Alas, it takes a lot of strength to be disobedient. But don't let it stop you!

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