Why are People so Obedient? In the privacy of our minds many of us disagree with the ideologies, political agendas, and government mandates of our day, yet in public we comply. We do what we are told, say what is politically correct, and justify our hypocrisy by telling ourselves that we are powerless to change society, and so we might as well blend in with the crowd. Our inclination to go along with what we think is the consensus makes us vulnerable to propaganda and easily manipulated. One of the primary ways that governments, corporations, and global institutions influence public opinion and shape mass behavior is by manufacturing illusions of consensus. The dangers of conformity reach pathological levels when, as in our day, a society becomes infected with lies. Politicians lie almost as frequently as they open their mouths. A degenerate education system teaches lies on topics ranging from science, to history, ethics, economics, and politics. The media lies about world events. While corporations lie to us about the value, or safety, of their products. With no shortage of lies percolating throughout society, the modern path of conformity leads in errant ways. It encourages us to go into debt to buy things we don’t need, to consume unhealthy foods, to be obedient to those in power, to take pharmaceutical drugs that do more harm than good, to eschew our passion in favor of money or social status, and if we ever feel anxious or depressed, the conformist way is to distract ourselves with screens or to numb ourselves with psychotropic drugs.
To be a non-conformist, in the modern world, is to renounce the lies that shape our society and to renounce the self that has been shaped by these lies. This act of renunciation paves the way for self-transformation, or as Emerson writes: “The man who renounces himself, comes to himself.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lecture to Divinity Students). When we abandon the habits of conformity and stop pursuing its ideals, we clear the way for the emergence of a more authentic state of being. We take off the false mask of conformity and permit our individual personalities to shine through. But our renunciation should not be limited to self-renunciation, we should also renounce affiliation with organizations and institutions that are infiltrated by the lies of our society.