Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem

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To be human is to be disobedient. For good or evil. disobedience has been the one constant, universal trait that characterized human beings since the beginning of time. Behind every great human achievement is an act of disobedience, a rejection of the conventional wisdom, a defiance of authority, or a decision, a choice made to take the path less travelled. History is replete with men and women who by their disobedience changed history, often for the better, though sometimes for the worse. Galileo, Italian physicist, mathematician and astronomer, showed his humanity by rejecting Church teaching on the centrality of the Earth in the universe. Instead he championed Heliocentrism, the notion that placed the sun, and not the earth, at the center of the orbital paths of many observable bodies in outer space, a truth since validated by astronomers and mathematicians of his and later times. Galileo, by his disobedience, suffered ignominy for his beliefs; found guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition, he was sentenced to serve a prison term and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. But if not for Galileo and others like him, Neil Armstrong would not have been able to land on the moon, nor mechanical human proxies named Sojourner, Opportunity and Curiosity to survey the surface of Mars. Mahatma Gandhi, Indian nationalist, and the man credited with liberating India from British rule led a campaign of non-violent, civil disobedience that made the continued stay in the country by the British colonizers politically and morally untenable. Imprisoned by the British for fomenting unrest, Gandhi confronted the colonizers’ force of arms with the power of his ideas, and the rightness of his cause, and by his act of courageous disobedience prevailed gloriously over the British in the end. Today, India is a vibrant democracy of 1.2 billion people, free because of the disobedience of one frail, unprepossessing man, Mahatma Gandhi.

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