The Dangers of Obedience to Authority: Writing and Reading Across the Cirriculum

As a child growing up, everyone was told “respect your elders” or “listen and obey”.As children grow into teenagers, they start pushing the boundaries to see who they really need to obey.Throughout adulthood, though people have fewer and fewer authority figures as the years go by, everyone must obey someone.

Though we all have someone to obey, when does the respectful obedience cross the line into dangerous territory? Obedience becomes dangerous when it becomes physically or mentally harmful to one’s self or society.Physical abuse to one’s self or another person is dangerous, period. What is even more frightening is when someone hurts themselves or others due to an authority figure’s direct influence on them.

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In the infamous psychologist, Stanley Milgram’s, experiment, people were told to administer shock to a peer for not answering a question correctly. This experiment shows the dangers of obeying authority. Though the “peers” were acting, the subjects fully believed they were truly administering shock to another human being.This shows that the line between respectful obedience to an authority figure and a dangerous subservience to a fear striking leader is crossed when one person begins or attempts to injure one’s self or another because of a fearful obligation placed upon them. Some may argue that police officers cross the line when they use “excessive force” on a perpetrator because they are hurting another person due to the description of their job by the local government. While this is a valid point, if an officer is forced to cause physical harm to someone, he or she has been provoked by the offender and are simply doing their job.Mental or emotional abuse is generally not the first thing most people think of when they hear the word obedience.

Though it is not often spoken of, mental abuse occurs often when an authority figure abuses their power to break down the psychological barriers that one may have in order to get the person to obey. This tactic was used in the “Stanford Prison Experiment” when the “guards” began calling the “prisoners” by their numbers instead of names and granted admission to the “privileged cell” in order to maintain control over the prisoners. Because of the psychological games played by ome authority figures, the line between obedience and danger is crossed and can become harmful to a person’s incredibly fragile mental health, causing them to have thoughts of suicide or murder. Some may argue that mind games are the safest and easiest way to keep structure and order when dealing with a person of lesser authority. However, psychological warfare, such as the mind games that were used in the “Stanford Prison Experiment”, can leave some of the worst scars on a person due to post traumatic stress disorder as well as depression which can lead to suicide.Obedience to society is not often thought of when dealing with this particular topic. The power of a majority is usually far underestimated.

Just as shown in the article “The Power of Situations” with the line test, most people will override their own eyes to believe what they are told the majority believes or thinks. Society can be a very harmful entity when trying to influence the masses. This statement especially applies when dealing with teenagers. For example, when most teenagers are in a situation where they feel everyone else is doing something they know is wrong, they will usually “go with the flow” and follow what the crowd does.In a study conducted by the “D. A. R.

E. ” group showed that, while people who try to pressure teens to smoke say “everyone does it”, in fact only 11% percent of teens actually smoke. Though teen smoking at all is not good, 11% is much better than everyone. Some may say that obedience to society is promoting conformity which is good for our justice system as well as the status quo. However, the idea that everyone must be the same, think the same, and have the same emotions is not only sad, but also nips creative thinking in the bud.Without creative thinkers, how would our world see in the dark? Conformity is alright to an extent, but when it impedes progress, it becomes a danger to society and future generations. While a due respect and obedience should be given to authority figures, obedience that becomes harmful, psychologically or physically, to oneself or society in general, crosses the line into the danger zone where it could harm an actual human being or the creative thoughts inside that person.

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