An Indie film inspired by true events shows the destructive consequences of blind obedience.
Most children learn already at an early age to be obedient. Parents and later teachers reward children if they are “a good girl, or a good boy.” Later, people suck up to priests and political leaders by being obedient for the common good and truly sell their soul by doing so. Obedience necessarily implies that one does what one is told to do and not what one wants to do. Obedience means accepting and submitting to authority, giving up one’s power and integrity which, in other words, is a slave mentality.
This new movie is based on a prank caller convincing a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee. After an alarming ugly unfolding no-one is left unharmed.
Obedience is deeply rooted in society. In 1961, Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted a well-documented experiment to find out why many war-criminals claimed they were merely following orders and could not be held responsible for their actions, in the trials following World War 2. The aim behind the trial was to find out if this could happen to anyone or if it was merely the Germans being evil. The trial setting was make-believe with an authority figure in charge and the learner/victim was represented by an actor. The experimental subject was told to act as a teacher and to punish the learner each time he gave a wrong answer. The punishment was an electric shock, yet the victim never received such; a pre-taped audio with screams was triggered when the shock-switch was pressed.
The ‘teacher’ believed in the reality of the shocks and was told to increase the shock by 15 volts each time the learner gave a wrong answer. When the machine reached up to 150 volts, the teacher could hear the learner’s screams through the wall that separated them, but with a little prodding by the authority figure saying “You can’t stop now,” or “The experiment requires that you go on,” the teacher went on. The experiment concluded when the highest shock level was reached. Even as the screams became louder and more agonizing, two-thirds of the participants were willing to continue with increased electric shocks. Although some of the ‘teachers’ expressed concern, they continued to obey – and the screams stopped, in all probability because the learner died.
Milgram found that 65% of participants – so-called normal people – would trigger shock levels of 450 volts…in conclusion, the experiments showed that under the right set of circumstances, normal people are willing to knowingly cause pain and suffering to another person. Milgram also found the tendency of the teacher to devalue the learner, by saying such phrases as, “He is so dumb he deserves to get shocked,” which helped to internally justify the teacher’s behavior of continuing to administer shocks.
It is a wide-spread behavior pattern that it appears easier to be obedient than to confront those who abuse power, even when acting against one’s own better judgment. Obedience results in the general populace living under totalitarian democracies, trusting the authorities because it is more comfortable to refuse to believe there is an existing oppression. As Thomas Jefferson famously stated, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.” The idea that our existing democracies offer freedom to their subjects is a fata morgana. Each individual is responsible to liberate her/himself from such slavery to become truly human.
Bhagawati, Osho News