Sunday, October 29, 2006


Picked up John Dean's "Conservatives Without Conscience" from the library. It's very enlightening and somewhat frightening. The authoritarian impulse is strong in modern conservatism, and Dean refers to the groundbreaking work of Stanley Milgram and of Bob Altemeyer to shed light of how this authoritarianism threatens American democracy.

Which, by the way, Dean and other conservative thinkers he quotes admits that American democracy grew out of liberal, not conservative values.

But the main point he seems to be making so far is that obedience is not necessarily a good thing. More specifically, obedience to authority is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, I guess one could say that the only thing to which one should give unquestioning obedience is morality.

And that's why the Golden Rule is so important. If one is unfailingly obedient to the command "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (and you're not a psychopath), you can't really go wrong.

I've been reading about obedience and its relation to child-rearing over at Arthur Silber's blog "Power Of Narrative." And he has done a series of essays on the work of Alice Miller, a Swedish psychologist who teaches that corporal punishment is cruel and ultimately breeds unthinking obedience through violence. Very chilling yet accurate stuff.

And I love that Howard Zinn quote about obedience (that I first read on "Historically, the most terrible things--war, genocide and slavery--have resulted from obedience, not disobedience."

OK, I'm rambling...I was gonna quote from Dean's book, but maybe later...

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