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ObedienceI think the culture of obedience is to blame for America’s descent into mediocrity and stultification. The culture of obedience, flying under a banner of virtue, aims at subjugation and domination. Not a virtue at all, obedience is the handmaiden of abuse, whether on an individual, familial, national or international scale. The culture of obedience assumes the right to tell other people what to do. So, really, obedience is the antithesis of individual freedom and conscience.

On a more practical level, it leads to the dumbing down of society. Because, in the culture of obedience, the hiring function, the delegation of responsibility from one generation to the next, is done on the basis of subservience and ass-kissing, not technical skill, competence and quality performance. Our brightest youth are unemployed (as are many of our early retirees) because they can’t get hired by a managerial class that’s fixated on obedience. The result is that we’ve got failing enterprises everywhere and qualified people struggling to survive.

The zombie cops, as they are marched up and down our streets in riot gear, are just the most visible evidence of the culture of obedience. What I’ve been struck with is how young they are. And then I realized they’re the product of our schools, which have been fixated on discipline for decades. The demise of the middle class represents the destruction of competence.

“First comes the discipline; then comes the learning.” But, when discipline is the prime objective, no real learning can occur. Discipline, another word for obedience, is abusive and it’s victims have no choice but to leave or take on a protective stance.

Discipline proceeds by instilling fear and the response to fear is not necessarily fight or flight. Fear can also be met by fright, a freezing of activity. Organisms shut down their physical responses and intellectual functions and go into a sort of mental hibernation. The results can be seen in our sluggish, overweight population.

Convincing people that virtue is vice is going to be tricky. Look how long it takes for people to come to terms with having been sexually abused as children. The culture of obedience corrodes the human spirit and it’s going to take a long time healing. If obedient people resist being told they’re wrong, it’s because the recognition that obedience is wrong is a soul-searing experience.

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Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."