Copyright 2006 TOM PLONSKI

by Tom Plonski

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                                                    by Tom Plonski

             Obedience means we must do what someone else
         tells us to do.  Obedience means we must do what
         someone else tells us to do instead of what we want
         to do.  Obedience is about rights and duties.

            Obedience recognizes who has the right to make a
         decision and who must follow orders. When a person
         has been given the right to make a decision, we say
         that person has the "authority" to make the decision.
         When we say,  "Speak to the proper authorities" we
         mean to speak  to the persons who have the right to
         make the decision in the matter. 
             The idea of subordination is related to the idea of  
         obedience.  In the army subordination  is made very
          clear. In the army  this idea of subordination  is called
         "chain of command." A private must obey all soldiers
         of higher rank. A sergeant must obey a lieutenant but
         the sergeant need not obey the private. In the USA a
         general must obey the president. The president does
         not have to obey anyone in the army.  In the USA, if
         the people  no longer  want to  obey  the president, 
         they may impeach him or elect a different man to be
         president. But the people still must continue to obey
         the current president until he is properly replaced. 
             Obedience presupposes subordination. 

             Obedience  and  subordination  are  not  goals  in
         themselves. Obedience and subordination are recog-
         nized as necessary in order to accomplish a goal. For
         example,  in a football game,  someone has to decide
         which play to run next. The players huddle, one
         member makes the clear  decision  of  which  play  to
        run  next.  Then  the  other players  all obey  and run
        the play.  It would be impossible to win the game
        unless the team members subordinate.

             In all societies  there is  this idea  of obedience
         and subordination. Without obedience and subor-
         dination  there is chaos. It is very important  for  a
         peaceful society  to have each person understand
         and  accept  his  responsibilities  in  this  chain  of
         command.  In a country the citizens must obey the
         law.  If a country allows its citizens  to persistently
         disobey the laws,  that country will lose its right to
         govern itself  and there  will be chaos.  Persistent
         disobedience of the laws requires consequences.
         In the USA  persons who persistently  disobey the
         laws are put in jail. In some countries persons who
         disobey the laws are executed.
             Sometimes  we do not want to obey  because we
         do not like the order,  or it is inconvenient,  or it is
         uncomfortable,  or we do  not  like  the  person  in
         authority.  But  none  of  these reasons  give us the
         right to disobey.  For  example,  Democrats  might
         not like having a Republican as president but they
         still have  the duty  to obey him  while he remains
         in authority. 
             Do we ever have  the right  to disobey  someone
         in authority  over us?  Yes,  sometimes we do have
         that right. We have the right to disobey if the person
         in authority over us  has ordered us to do something
         that is immoral  or illegal.  That is  the only time we
         have the right to disobey. 
             The idea  of  obedience  and  subordination  also
         include the idea of rights and duties. There is never
         a  duty  without  a  right  and  there is  never  a right
         without a duty.  If we  want  the  right,  then we must
         also  accept  the  duty  that  comes  with that right.
         For example,  if  we  want  to  keep  a job,  then we
         must obey the boss. 
             In a public school the teachers and staff members
         must  obey  the  principal  and  vice-principal.  The
         principal  must  obey  the  superintendent.   The
         superintendent must obey the school board.  If people
         no longer want to obey a school board member, then
         they elect someone else for the position. If a teacher
         no longer wants to obey the principal, then the teacher
         may resign.  If a teacher  persistently  disobeys  the
         principal,  then the teacher can be fired.  If a student
         does not want to obey the teacher,  then the student
         may ask his parents to place him in a different school
         but in the meantime the student must continue to obey
         the teacher.  If  a  student  persistently  disobeys  the
         teacher,  then  the  teacher  may  ask  that the student
         be  expelled.  If  the  teacher  has  the  duty  to teach,
         then the teacher has the right  to expect  obedience
         from the student.
             Without obedience and subordination, civilization
         would be  impossible.  The world  remains civilized,
         safe,  and orderly only because so very many people
         have agreed to subordinate and obey.
                                                                   Tom Plonski
                                                                January 17, 2003


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Last modified: July 22, 2012