culture of obedience

Don_signs-376x174The saga of Don Siegelman, the former popular democratic Governor of Alabama, who was convicted and imprisoned on largely trumped up bribery charges and whose prosecution has been, so far unsuccessfully, appealed continues to befuddle his supporters. That’s because, I would argue, Siegelman having supporters, who believe in his innocence, does not carry the weight with the judicial system they might think. Rather, it’s because he has supporters, who are likely to be impressed and depressed by the effort to break him and grind him down, that his persecution seems worth while. It’s not senseless at all.

To see the sense, one just has to start from the right predicate or preconceived notion. Which just happens to be that the culture of obedience, by which the U.S. has been hijacked and which has just one objective, power — the culture of obedience demands it. Because, power, to be felt, not only has to hurt, but, if obedience, a natural virtue based on imitation, is to be exacted or coerced, its dictates have to be irrational. The culture of obedience not only feeds on innocents, but irrationality is its hallmark.

That’s how we ended up with dozens of innocent people convicted of murder and sent to death row, where they languished not to assure their eventual release, but to serve as a continuous reminder to other innocents that they’d better follow the directives of the culture of obedience, if they didn’t want to end up the same way — or actually dead.

We like to think that virtue is rewarded because, of course, nobody wants to be punished. However, that’s not how it works when the lust for power rears its head. Lust is out for blood and its victims suffer. Mosquito or man, for the lust to be satisfied somebody’s got to be victimized. Makes perfect sense.

Can it be avoided? Sure. Humans lusting for power and making irrational demands have to be restrained. Indeed, that’s mostly what we institute governments for. Perhaps it’s harder to see that when so many of our affairs are conducted on a symbolic level. Perhaps our super-sophistication, relying increasingly on mediated transactions, makes the lust for power harder to identify.

If Don Siegelman were a rich man, perhaps those lusting for power would have been content to strip him/defraud him of his wealth. Stripping him of his popularity has proved a continuing challenge, especially since, unlike many innocents, he hasn’t been convinced to confess. It could be worse. He could have been found with a dead girl in his bed and convicted of murder.

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Editor's note: This story originally appeared at Hannah's Blog. Image of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman from DonSiegelman.org (promotional/fair use).

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."