Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Unquestioning Obedience: A Conversation

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons. 
                                                                                                       ----Bertrand Russell


I don't know about others but I feel that unquestioning obedience in military if it's also known as 'patriotism' doesn't impress me much. Fighting in a war doesn't eradicate any problems. Unquestioning obedience is almost always forced, either by conspicuous use of force or by subtle subliminal programming.

"What use 'unquestioning obedience' has in world anyway?" A fellow interlocutor asked me. She was pointing towards wonders of the world and asking if unquestioning obedience really played role in the creation of those marvellous architectures. To take an example- as far as Taj Mahal is concerned people were forced and the chief artisan was killed after the completion of the project( or so I am told.)

Is there a role played by large group of people having faith in bigger picture? In my opinion large groups of people having faith in the bigger picture, without any questioning, give rise to Fascism, Nazism, Proselytizing and so and so on. 

In my opinion, Socrates, Galileo and countless others died because of questioning for truth. Socrates tried to inculcate honest questioning in all of the people he met along as a way to know the self.Unquestioning obedience is merely a meme helping some 'isms' thrive. More this 'unquestioning obedience' factor a religion has more and quicker it seems to proliferate and thrive, creating a force of fanatics which is hell-bent on killing sanity.

"What about a scenario where a group of people is equally inspired to do something?" She asked. If it is an act of 'group inspiration,' as you call it, I don't feel that there is any need of 'coercion' or 'unquestioning obedience.' If the whole group is equally inspired there is no need of anyone telling anyone else about 'what to do.' I answered.

This gives rise to another question: What if a group of people is equally inspired to follow someone? Then it's not any coercion but it might give rise to unquestioning obedience. Yes, It's a possibility and you can observe many cults around you to find out what happens to such groups and I don't mean that it's necessarily evil.

Even in case of pyramids, you might like to speculate that these wonders of the world were created because there was 'unquestioning obedience.' But I would very well speculate that masses did rebel. Slaves used to rebel but only some of them could ever got converted into mutiny. If you have read or watched movies about Moses, you would know that in Egypt there were so many slaves and many of them were driven away in exodus by Moses. It was a rebellion in my opinion.

As far as army being forced to do heinous acts is concerned, you need not go far in history, USA army has done some really marvellous things in recent past and almost everyone is aware of such hierarchies in other eras. For example: You might question how Hitler commanded such a vehement force to carry out his plans of world domination at cost of millions of humans.

My friend also pointed towards the peaceful cabal of some Taoists. I don't say that there cannot be peaceful coexistence and that too accompanied with unquestioning obedience; but it should sustain for enough long, which is rarely the case, because it's against the very nature of truth in my opinion. If you carefully look into the nature of Taoism or Buddhism or Zen: None of these would really make one an individual having great faith in unquestioning obedience or group ideologies. This I would say despite what you have observed in world as Buddhism Zen or Taoism. And I say so because they ask you to enquire and question everything until your mind disappears. 

A flowering of consciousness, like Buddha, Laozi or Gorakhnath is never really interested in creating groups but rather in imparting wisdom to individuals, but as soon as they depart, a flag appears and appears an umbrella, people start gathering under these flags and umbrellas and everything which was started with an intention to achieve blooming of consciousness starts rotting and groups are almost always as a rule, cause of deterioration, especially when power hungry leaders start asking for unquestioning obedience. That is what happened to much of Zen which was considered purest of Buddhism.

"What about the country where military is needed just for self-defence? Is unquestioning obedience needed in such a scenario or not?" She asked.

I know if I say yes: You would say that in such case 'unquestioning obedience' is needed part of soldiers in order to serve their country. I agree, but it's because we're looking at the fragment of the 'whole' problem. This unquestioning obedience in certain fraction of soldiers calls for the same in hundreds of other groups. What if, in the first place there is no attack by any country on any other country? There would be no need of 'unquestioning obedience.' I know what I am talking about is not reflected in history. But that is what I am trying to say. If these soldiers start thinking and all of them, then they would ask questions and if all of them ask questions the critical mass reached will lead to passive resistance and if it continues for enough long there will be no violence.

If all soldiers in the world started rejecting unquestioning obedience, the world would soon be a less violent and more peaceful place. Though, I could also not be too sure about implications but mass killings in world wars and civil wars have heavily outnumbered sadistic killings. It takes much more than just disarmament to see a really peaceful world.

This conversation is an excerpt from my discussion with libertygrl on The Couch discussion forum. In order to access full thread and in order to participate in such discussions, if you will, please visit: The Couch

image sources: 
1. Bertrand Russel
2. Osho 
3. Socrates 
4 Laozi