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Warnings about Peak Oil have circulated widely in recent years, and if accurate, they are important. Peak oil, however, pales in comparison to something that’s happening right in front of us… and something that is a good deal more dangerous: Peak Obedience.
If that concept strikes you as odd, I can understand why: We’ve all been living inside of an obedience cult. (And I choose these words carefully.)
In our typical “scary cult” stories, we find people who have given up their own functions of choice and who then do crazy things because they are told to by some authority. While inside their cult, however, it all makes sense; it’s all self-reinforcing.
So, inside a cult of obedience, obedience would seem proper; it would seem righteous; and more than anything else, it would seem normal. And I think that very well describes the Western status quo.
Obedience, however, should not seem normal to us. Obedience holds our minds in a “child” state, and that is not fitting for any healthy person past their first few years of life. It also presupposes that the people we obey have complete and final knowledge; and in fact, they do not: politicians, central bankers, and the other lords of the age have been wrong – obviously and publicly wrong – over and over.
So, obedience is not a logical position to take. But we all know why we take it; and that reason is fear. The mass of humanity obeys because they are afraid to do otherwise. All the “philosophy of governance” explanations are merely attempts to distract us from the truth: people believe they’ll be hurt if they don’t obey.
We are taught not to think in such stark terms, of course. Those “philosophy of governance” explanations give us reasons to believe that obedience is the good and heroic thing to do. Still, we know the truth.
But that truth about fear, even though important, is not the point I’d like you to take away from this article. My primary point is this:
When we obey, we make ourselves less conscious; we make ourselves less alive.
Why Obedience Is Peaking
I covered this in far more depth in issue #40 of my subscription letter, but I would like to provide a brief explanation here.
Over the past two centuries, authority has benefitted from a perfect storm of influences. There was never such a time previously, and there probably will never be another. Briefly, here’s what happened:
Morality was broken
For better or worse, Western civilization had a consistent set of moral standards from about the 10th century through the 17th or 18th century. Then, through the 20th century, those standards were broken.
Note that I did not say morality was changed. The cultural morality of the West was not replaced, but broken. The West has endured a moral void ever since.
Previously, people routinely compared authority’s decrees to a separate standard (most often the Bible), to see if they held up. But with Western morals broken, authority was freed from restraint.
Economies of scale
Factories made it much cheaper to produce large numbers of goods than the old way, in individual workshops. Economists call this an economy of scale. Thus a cult of size began, making “obedience to the large” seem normal.
Fiat currency has allowed governments to spend money without consequences. It allowed politicians to wage war and to provide free food, free education, and free medicine… all without overtly raising taxes. Fiat currency made it seem that politics was magical.
Built on the factory model, massive government institutions undertook the education of the populace. And more important than their overt curriculum (math, reading, etc.) was their invisible curriculum: obedience to authority. Here, to illustrate, is a quote from the esteemed Bertrand Russell, who is himself quoting Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the founding father of public schooling:
Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished.
Mass media turbocharged authority and obedience in the 20th century. It was authority’s dream technology.
All of these things, and others, created an unnatural peak for authority. But now, this perfect storm is receding.
Peak Obedience Is Brittle
Through the 20th century, the people of the West built up a very high compliance inertia. They complied with the demands of authority and taught their children to do the same, until it became automatic. People obeyed simply because they had obeyed in the past.
Authority quickly became addicted to this situation, basing their plans on receiving every benefit of the doubt.
Automatic obedience, however, is a brittle thing. Economies of scale are failing, the money cartel has been exposed, government schools have lost respect, mass media is fading away, and the game continues because the populace is distracted and afraid. And that will not last forever.
The ‘walls’ of reflexive compliance are growing thinner. Any serious break may ruin the structure.
It has long been understood that complex systems breed more complexity, and eventually break themselves. As central authorities try to solve each problem they face, they inevitably create others. Eventually the system becomes so complex, and its costs so much, that new challenges cannot be solved. Then the system and its authority fail, as they did recently in the Soviet Union.
Sooner or later, this is going to happen here. (If that seems impossible to you, please reflect on the current state of the mighty Roman Empire.) But again, that’s not my primary point. Obedience matters to you right now: today and every other day.
Obedience turns the best parts of you off. It degrades and kills your creativity; it undercuts your effectiveness and especially your sense of satisfaction.
Don’t sign away your life, no matter how many others do. Live consciously.