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He goes so far as to say that disobedience may be the thing that eventually saves the human race. His argument is that if people blindly follow the commands of the leaders of their nations, and the leaders of their nations have a reason to bomb one another, then the human race will be eradicated because those people obeyed the commands to push those bomb-sending buttons (Fromm). According to this argument, disobedience must at the very least be considered valuable and worth contemplation.
Fromm supports his claim regarding the value of disobedience with examples from two very popular myths. The first is the Hebrew myth of Adam and Eve, the first human beings to walk the earth. The story is told that Adam and Eve disobeyed a command to stay away from the fruit of one particular tree in their home, the Garden of Eden. When they disobeyed this command, they "broke the primary bond with nature and [it] made them individuals. 'Original sin,' far from corrupting man, set him free; it was the beginning of history. Man had to leave the Garden of Eden in order to learn to rely on his own powers and to become fully human" (Fromm). What Fromm is suggesting here is that a person is not fully a person until he or she learns to rely on his or her own powers. People must be decision-makers in order to be fully people; otherwise, they are more like robots and less like people.
The second myth Fromm employs to support his point is the Greek myth of Prometheus. The legend of Prometheus states that he stole fire from the gods and used the fire to lay the foundation of the world. He was punished for his disobedience, but did not ask forgiveness like Adam and Eve did. Instead, he says, "I would rather be chained to this rock than be the obedient servant of the gods" (Fromm). For Prometheus, it was more valuable to be imprisoned than to be an automaton, just blindly following the regulations of those in charge. Prometheus had the courage to withstand the punishment set before him for his disobedience. He had the courage to decide his own course of action, even in the face of a severe punishment.
Krista decided differently than both Prometheus and Adam and Eve. She decided to obey the commands she was given. While Adam and Eve's disobedience eventually led to them relying on their own powers, and Prometheus' disobedience eventually led to him deciding to be his own man, Krista's lack of disobedience led her into a career and lifestyle with which she was not satisfied.
3.2 Passage B: The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment offers further evidence of the potential value of disobedience. Zimbardo describes the level to which all of those involved in the Stanford Prison Experiment bought into the proceedings. On one occasion, a former prison chaplain visited and advised the prisoners to involve lawyers in their cases to negotiate bail for them. The next night, a parent of one of the prisoners gave the superintendent the name and phone number of her cousin who was a public defender. She had called him on the advice of the priest, whose suggestion to retain a lawyer she took to heart (Zimbardo). Of course, the presence of a lawyer in this situation would have been ridiculous because it was not a prison; it was a social experiment. But the concept of disobedience to the set order of the experiment was so far from the minds of those involved that immersed themselves completely in the roles they were playing in this experiment. As a result of the participants' failure to disobey, everyone involved in this experiment either experienced or witnessed some harrowing things.
For Krista, her refusal to disobey resulted in less dramatic experiences than the participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment, but Krista's results were perhaps longer lasting. While the people pretending to be prisoners, guards, and prison staff were able to go back to their normal lives after the two-week experiment concluded, Krista's refusal to disobey turned her unenviable career position into her normal life. Krista would have benefited greatly from disobeying Mr. Malone's commands regarding her career.
IV. Conclusion and Discussion
The conclusion that can be drawn from synthesizing these three essays with Krista Malone's experience is that the conventional wisdom stating obedience is a virtue and disobedience is a vice is not always true. There are certainly situations in which obedience is harmful and where disobedience is helpful. Krista's example has demonstrated this fact to be true. However, in Krista's case, disobedience would not have been the correct course of action in every instance. Her father was correct with some of the decisions he made for her. Krista married her fiancee and they live happily together with a brand new son. In one case, Krista was wise to follow the advice of her father; in another case she was unwise to follow his advice.
Taking this fact into consideration, it must be concluded that neither blind obedience nor blind disobedience is the way to happiness in life. It must be left up to the individual to determine the situations during which he or she will be obedient to the law of the majority and during which situations he or she will be disobedient.
Asch, Solomon E. Opinions and Social Pressure.
Fromm, Erich. Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral…[continue]
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