October 28, 2014
“The man who can face vilification and disgrace, who can stand up against the popular current, even against his friends and his country when he knows he is right, who can defy those in authority over him, who can take punishment and prison and remain steadfast—that is a man of courage. But do you need much courage just to obey orders, to do as you are told and to fall in line with thousands of others to the tune of general approval and the Star Spangled Banner?” — Alexander Berkman.
The chain of obedience has always existed. For instance, people have always been told, “because I said so,” or “because it’s the law,” or “it’s just the way it is.” These simple words contain remarkably many themes of false and bad reasoning. Paraphrasing David Deutsche, the author of The beginning of infinity:
“First, it is a perfect example of bad explanation: it could be used to ‘explain’ anything a so called authority can put a law on.
Second, it is about who declared such-and-such in the past, not necessarily what reality portrays (which is the opposite of truth-seeking). Third, it reinterprets a rescue from true explanation as a request for justification, which is the justified-true-belief fallacy. Fourth, it confuses the nonexistent authority from ideas with human authority. And, fifth, it claims by this means to be outside the jurisdiction of normal criticism.”
It is not, nor has it ever been, outside the jurisdiction of normal criticism.
Alas, we have devolved into what Alexis de Tocqueville feared — “democratic despotism.” We’ve been conditioned to think that this is okay. It is not okay. And once we’ve woken up to our conditioning, we have nobody else to blame but ourselves. There is no true authority to turn to. The only authority that can make a difference is you. Do not look to the plutocratic mandarins for assistance, or expect anything but vaudevillian smoke and mirrors from the billion-dollar corporate circus that’s rampaging across the globe like a retarded elephant on steroids flinging Monsanto seeds with nuclear weapons strapped to its back.
The local killers want us distracted by foreign killers so they can rob us blind, and so that we can slip further and further into slavery. You must become your own authority. Like the hip-hop artist Immortal Technique said, “The purpose of life is a life with a purpose, so I’d rather die for a cause than live a life that is worthless. I don’t need the circus or a day of national observance, I need you to think for you and stop being a servant.”
It’s time to wake up. This is your life, and its value is being sucked dry every second you waste allowing the atrocities committed by the ruthless chain of obedience to continue. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Well, these things matter. It’s time to end the blind march of the living dead and to begin instead the wide-awake journey of being truly alive. It’s time to end the rank and file of ignorance and to begin the courage and honor of awareness. This means questioning the status quo and the people who blindly uphold it.
This means holding the power-that-be accountable for their actions. This is our call to adventure. Mother Nature is screaming at us using a language older than words. It echoes in our bones. It resonates in our souls. We can all feel it. Some of us are confused by it, and are suffering from cognitive dissonance, but she is still there singing her harsh Truth. And it is high time we listened. It’s time we made some noise. It is time her voice became our voice. It is time to replace “their unhealthy unsustainable way” with “our healthy sustainable way.”
“The secret of freedom lies in educating people,” wrote Maximilien Robespierre, “whereas the secret in tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” So ask yourself: am I an agent of liberty, intent upon freeing and empowering people; or an agent of tyranny, intent upon keeping people suppressed and ignorant. If it’s the latter, by all means keep the chain of obedience intact and live out your unexceptionally ordinary life. But if it’s the former, by all means break the chain of obedience and educate people.
Wake up and smell the collateral damage. Question the so-called authority of your chain of command. Think for yourself. Question your orders, whether they seem immoral or not. Like Einstein said, “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Don’t have unthinking respect for authority. Have thoughtful vigilance toward authority instead.
Be a thorn in the side of all immoral movers, be they the president or a peasant – People first, rank second. Be the bee buzzing in the ear of all xenophobic peddlers peddling war, be they democratic or republican. The war machine begins and ends with you either blindly obeying the vicious chain of obedience or having the courage to disobey when you feel the actions of the chain of obedience are immoral. It won’t be easy. Hell, it will probably be the hardest thing you will ever do, and you may have to face “vilification and disgrace” because of it, but sometimes that’s the price you have to pay for being a moral agent in an immoral world. That’s the price you pay for courage. That’s the price you pay for liberty.
Civilians, a message to you: extract from your veins the culturally prescribed IV drip (TV drip) that has been pumping close-minded diatribes and pithy platitudes into your system for the better part of your life. Wake up and smell the propaganda. Question all platforms of presumed power (especially police and military). Question all media. Be circumspect against political disinformation, especially if it’s coming from the vampiric two-headed monster known as bipartisanship.
Remain vigilant against the saturation of information. Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Take it all into consideration, but then use probability to assess validity. Use the secret of open-mindedness and question reality tothe nth degree. Don’t seek rigid one-right-way answers. Seek instead for skeptical truth that is adaptable. By doing so, you will discover that people are far more alike than you originally assumed. You may even be able to find your soul tribe along the way.
At the end of the day, if you still feel like it’s all for naught and that you cannot possibly make a difference, consider the words of Thomas Edison, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” The problem isn’t the chain of command. The problem is the chain of obedience.
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.