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

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Obedience to Authority
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. 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...
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