“Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”Oscar Wilde
1. Authorities make mistakes:
Beware whenever someone says this is the final truth and this is how you should act. Question authority. Nothing is out of bounds. Some things may seem like they are. But in reality, they’re only waiting to be questioned, criticized, corrected. Authorities appear as infallible because they’re powerful. Some powermongers want everyone to be a certain way but they don’t know any better. The authority behind an idea says nothing about the idea being true or false. Similarly, the popularity of an idea is no proof of its truth. Authorities can and do make mistakes just like any other person. An authority is nothing more than an individual or a group of individuals. Some are experts at their craft. But that doesn’t make them infallible. When you realize authorities make mistakes, you never look at the world the same again.
2. To right the wrongs:
So many tyrannical rulers got their way because no one questioned their ways. No one challenged their ideas. It’s hard to go against tyranny. Unthinkable, for some. But errors can be corrected. It may seem impossible but all evil is due to a lack of knowledge. That’s Deutsch’s principle of optimism. People have won against slavery in the past. Better laws are still created. People can and do change their minds. But it just goes to say that none of this happens due to an obedient person. You also notice people who complain are almost always those who obey. Those who don’t obey find no reason to complain. They right the wrongs.
3. You don’t owe anyone anything:
What people did “for you” is actually what they did for themselves. All the time, effort, and money someone may have spent on you was in the hope that all of it would lead you to a life favorable to them. You don’t have to help your relatives whenever they’re in need because “they’re your relatives”. You don’t have to listen to your parents because of “all the sacrifices they made”. You don’t owe society anything. Society has no mind. Individuals do. A society consists of individuals that have minds and interests of their own. They will do things that satisfy themselves. If you owe it to anybody, you owe it to yourself to do things a certain way in your own self-interest. That’ll make the world a better place.
4. No one discovers anything by being obedient:
Logic tells that discovery requires disobedience of contemporary ideas. It requires exploration and criticism. You won’t discover anything new in the world reading old textbooks. Obedience keeps things the same. It prevents discovery. It prevents correcting errors in the system. You don’t have to limit your imagination to what’s already done. There’s always more worlds to explore, ideas to improve, technology to create. But all of it requires disobedience of ideas. Not intolerance of ideas. Not disrespect for the people who hold certain ideas. Disobedience is not those things. Discovery requires disobedience of ideas. Had Copernicus not gone against the Roman Catholic Church and Kepler not followed in his footsteps, you wouldn’t be able to do something as simple as a web search for the picture of the Earth.
5. Conformity is (objectively) bad for the world:
We are told sacrifice is good for the world and that selfishness destroys it. The people who question it know that its false. It is the other way around. Whoever said “happiness is sacrificing for other people’s happiness” never brought that thesis to its logical conclusion, that is: if everyone sacrifices their happiness for everyone else, everyone is unhappy and the world is worse off. Alas, almost no one in the world is altruistic in the true sense of the word. That still makes the world a good place to live in. Conformity attempts to make people the same. It is a dangerous idea. Individuals solving problems and creating things help society way more than any joint effort in the name of society.
6. Obedience kills:
Obedience is stasis. Stasis is death. Keeping things the same, stability, slowing down progress, these are all terrible things. Death is not something we should strive for. People following things told to them by an authority that doesn’t know what’s good for each of them—and no authority knows what’s good for you better than yourself—is dangerous and suicidal. Obedience causes a person to no longer remain themselves, a separate individual, a free thinker and instead forces the soldier to adopt a common temperament that isn’t true to them. As I said, suicidal. All those lectures of selflessness and obedience and brotherhood really do kill the self.
7. It’s the only way to make progress:
Progress comes from the growth of knowledge and of wealth. Disobedience is the source of both of those things. Creativity enables the capacity of humans to understand and explain the world. Creativity is inhibited in an unfree place. Where there’s a need for obedience, creativity and hence the growth of knowledge is hampered. Wealth is created at a slower rate. Things are more controlled. But there’s only an illusion of control. A slow rate of progress eventually leads to the demise of a society. Chances are you’re not reading this from North Korea. You’re free to focus on problems that are interesting to you and by focusing on yourself and your own problems you make faster progress than those who aspire to “do what’s right” despite experiencing internal resistance to do so. Those who choose careers in order to have a positive impact on the world, even when a part of them desperately wishes that they do otherwise, will struggle to make progress. And ironically, such choices cause more suffering in the present.
8. Disobedience is a test of being human:
Obedience for the sake of obeying is the mark of a person who has ceased to think. The thing that separates us from the robots and ChatGPT is that we can think. We can want. The chatbot can ace the hardest tests on Earth only when we want it to. The chatbot doesn’t want to give the test. It cannot want. Dumb computers don’t disobey their programmers and their programming since they cannot do that. People can. Disobedience is a test of being a person. When someone obeys every rule for the sake of obeying a rule, never questions, makes sacrifices that don’t seem like sacrifices because the only thing the person cares about is obedience—it’s hard to distinguish that person from a robot that can’t think. I’m waiting for an artificially intelligent system that disobeys their programmer. Yes, “their” because that would then be a person.
9. To live instead of sacrifice your life:
Why sacrifice your life when you can live it? Sacrificing leaves the world worse off than following your own interests. If you follow the thesis “the only way to be happy is to sacrifice your happiness for the happiness of other people” to its logical conclusion for everyone—nobody in the world is ever going to be happy. To illustrate, imagine happiness as a small box. Since I want to be a “good person”, and “good people are unselfish”, I will pass the box to my neighbor. But my neighbor wants to be a good person, so he will sacrifice his happiness to his spouse and pass to the box to her. But the spouse doesn’t want to be selfish either, and so the box gets passed to her sick aunt for whom she has no feeling of affection whatsoever but she passes the box anyway for “it is not good to be selfish”. So “in an ideal world”, where everyone has been taught the virtue of unselfishness, no one clings to the box because no one wants to be selfish, and therefore no one is happy. The irony is in the purpose of one’s unselfishness. Who’s getting happier? Who are we all sacrificing for? If anybody keeps the box all for themselves, that would inevitably be a selfish person who is benefitting from your sacrifice—an immoral person by your standards. You don’t have to stay in this trap. You don’t owe anyone anything. Remember: people have a mind of their own. Society doesn’t.
10. To be free:
You get one life. You can waste it living someone else’s or you can disobey. Disobey so you can be free. The goal of freedom is completely realistic. If someone fails to achieve it, it is the means that has an issue not the objective. Anyone who says the goal of freedom is unrealistic, unsurprisingly, isn’t free and is making an excuse to cover for their failed attempt at freedom, if there was any attempt. Many don’t even try because “the elders already tried and well, they couldn’t do it so how can I?” The unfree choose between the few options that make them least miserable. The free choose between the several alternatives that make them most happy while creating alternatives that weren’t possible before. That’s important. The free generate choices. They don’t settle for least miserable. That’s not being happy and that’s not being free. So go ahead and disobey. Disobey your teachers. Disobey your parents. Disobey me. Be free.
“I have now realized that it is more important that I have a disobedient child than an obedient child.”Naval Ravikant
A clarification in terminology:
Disobeying for rebellion sake is fruitless and as dangerous as obeying certain rules unthinkingly. The sense in which I speak of disobedience is disobedience in your own self-interest. There is a purpose behind your disobedience (namely you) and it is not disobedience for its own sake. It is often good to obey rules because it is in your own self-interest to obey them. Why would you obey the rules of chess? To play a fun game with a friend. You can disobey but you might miss out on fun and angry a friend. These are 10 reasons to disobey in your own self-interest.
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