The greatest atrocities in history are carried out by the obedient

I teach my son to question everything; that not one person, institution or philosophy has a monopoly on knowledge or morality. That there are no silver bullet solutions to any of life’s questions and anybody whose philosophy starts with an answer rather than with a question is not to be entirely trusted.

When one people subjugates another, it is the obedient that carry it out.

When you drink from the proverbial corporate, political or religious Kool-aid, you need to ask ‘why’, and more importantly, you need to ask, ‘to what end?’.  Few enterprises in the human experience are entirely altruistic simply because economics demands pragmatism and only a buffoon sees humanity through the lens of absolute good and absolute evil.  Winners write the history books and Alexander wasn’t ‘The Great’ to the Persians he conquered nor did the Mongols see themselves as barbarians.

Those who follow the edicts of their leaders without question, risk themselves being branded as the thieves they wish to catch.  Every witch hunt in history started with some guy convincing another guy that witches live among them.  “Proof?  Bah!  Are you with me or against me?”   Leaders exert their influence on the most basic human need for tribal belonging to ensure willing complicity.  Dissent means ostracism and ostracism mean banishment from choice foraging grounds.  Replace foraging grounds with a job title and has anything changed since before we were even bipeds?  We all need to belong because that’s what keeps us fed.  And most of us will willingly comply with what our corporate/political/spiritual leaders tell us as long as we get our piece.  Look no further than China for an obvious example.  The social contract is simple – keep GDP growth robust and we’ll keep our 1.6 billion mouths shut about the one-party system.  How do you tell people they are victims of oppression when they don’t feel they are being oppressed?  3rd party morality is the gossip of those who don’t have skin in the game.

I cringe whenever my son’s teachers tell me he is a good and obedient kid.  I don’t want that.  I want him to ask and I want him to challenge.  I want him to demand proof and evidence and call them out if they are wrong.  Fear of authority is the greatest hindrance to greatness and I remind him that people only know what experience has taught them and what they know is minuscule compared to what there is to know.  I tell him that he can entertain ideas without having to believe them.  If things don’t make sense, question them.  A stupid person is not someone who doesn’t know what is right from wrong.  A stupid person is someone who doesn’t want to know what is wrong so he can continue to be right.

I also told him today was November 11, Remembrance Day.  And this is what blind obedience to authority results in.

Lest we forget.