Are You Blinded by Obedience?

power

… if so, I want to sell you the Eiffel Tower. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

subject: How Authorities Have Failed You (and What You Can Do About It)



I may have been called to the dean’s office more than anyone else in my medical school class. Meeting with the dean isn’t something you should boast about. She meets with you when there’s a problem or an issue.

The issue with me is that I am not very good at following authority. I like to push my boundaries. I don’t ask for permission, I ask for forgiveness. Scratch that. I don’t ask for forgiveness. Instead, I argue why I am right.

I wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t so independent nor so “rebellious.” Authorities used to love me because I was so obedient. But that all changed. After 20+ years of obedience, I realized that I have been fooled. Most people in authority have failed me. And most likely, they have failed you too. They don’t have your best interest in mind. Rather, they’re out to help themselves.

Lemme give you a few examples …

Education

I still remember my first day in college. It was 8:00 AM, on a warm September morning in Boston, MA. My first class was in Boston University’s School of Management, or SMG for short. (Among the students, SMG also stood for sex, money, and greed … which is actually not too far off the mark.)

My business teacher was a middle-aged, Caucasian woman with short, blond, curly hair. She confessed that she previously taught English, and therefore, has no experience in business. So basically, I paid a whole lotta money for an English professor to teach me something she has no clue about. She is an authority, who has no right to be one.

This happens a lot more than you may think, especially if colleges and universities can get away with it.

After a year and a half, I transferred to one of the top business schools in the US. Goodbye sex, money, and greed. Hello cornfields.

(If you want to read more about how schools have failed you, I have written about it in much depth here.)

Law

When I was a child, I used to wanna be a cop. As a protector in blue, you’re one of the good guys. You get to catch bad guys and make the world a safer place.

Now, I’m not so sure if that is the case anymore. It seems like they are serving the government, instead of serving society. Whenever I see cops these days, at least half of them are giving out speeding tickets.

When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.
- Michael Reaves, police chief

Between the officers and the traffic light cameras, the revenue generated by tickets skyrocketing higher and higher each year. According to Car and Driver

Take, for example, the metropolitan Detroit area, which has been reeling economically much longer than has the rest of the country. The number of moving violations issued has increased by at least 50 percent in 18 communities in the metro area since 2002 — and 11 of those municipalities have seen ticketing increases of 90 percent or more.

Speeding tickets are a huge source of revenue, especially for municipalities and cities drowning in debt. Authorities have warped the motto of “to serve and to protect” to “to take and to ticket.” Law enforcers have changed to mob enforcers … pay up or face the consequences.

As you make your way up the law chain, you come across the courts. The original intention for courts is to interpret and to uphold the law. But now, judges, lawyers, and everyone else involved aim to make money rather than dispense justice. This causes the fabric that holds society together to unravel.

For example …

Jailing someone because he cannot pay violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. But cash-strapped towns and cities have resorted to jailing debtors, in an effort to draw “blood from a stone.” The choice is to pay the debt or to go to jail. And of course, throwing people into jail costs money. In total, municipalities lose more money from jailing people than from the debt they can collect — which costs taxpayers even more money in the long run.

Don’t even get me started on family courts. They can forcibly remove fathers from their children, home, and assets. They can then force fathers to pay alimony and child support. And if the fathers cannot come up with the money — say from losing his job — he could be thrown into jail. (Again, jails cost money.) So instead of allowing the man to work and to add to society, he is forced to idle and to burden it instead.

Religion

When I was in high school, I was a good kid (in my opinion, at least). I went to church and pretty much sat in the front pew every Sunday. As a self-proclaimed good kid, I cannot help but fall asleep … right in front of the speaker.

One Sunday, there was a guest speaker. He was an elderly gentleman, a bit rotund, with a head full of white hair. And of course, I fell asleep in front of his face. There was nowhere to hide. I really tried to stay awake but I couldn’t. I tried to open my eyelids, but they were too heavy.

I remember going into and out of dreamland. In the brief moments I came out of dreamland, I heard the speaker trying to cast the devil out of me. He looked straight at me, pointed at me as if to warn me sternly, and said, “In the name of Jesus, get out! Devil, get out!”

The “exorcism” didn’t quite work, as I went back to sleep. My parents were mortified.

So when a sleep-deprived teen cannot stay awake for a sleep-inducing sermon, blame the devil and embarrass the poor boy’s family.

This is a very silly story. But worse things have happened in the name of Jesus. When trivialization of divorce, sexual abuse (think Catholic priests and altar boys), or financial abuse takes place, it is certainly no laughing matter.

(The good thing about my childhood church was that the teachers urged you to read the Bible and find out the truth for yourself. This way, you won’t be led astray.)

Work

Ever since you were young, authorities told you that if you studied hard in school, got good grades, and graduated from college … you’ll get a nice, stable job with a deep-pocketed employer. But when you leave school and enter the real world, your degrees and plastic trophies mean nothing. Even if all you want is an entry-level job, you aren’t qualified for it (at least according to some ditz in the human resources department). Your resume doesn’t have the right keywords, and you don’t have a master’s degree.

If you’re a bit older, you got your job during an era that measures your capabilities, not on how many hoops you can jump through. The big boss tells you that if you dedicate your life to the good of the company, it will take care of you.

But when the company falls short of Wall Street’s expectations, and when big boss needs to make his bonus, he will sack you without a second though. He tells you, “Thank you for your 20 years of service, but you are no longer required. Here is your gold watch and severance pay.”

In Bachelor Pad Economics, Clarey wrote about how employers wanted the password to your Facebook account before hiring you. If you post anything that they disagreed with, you will get fired. That brings me to my latest visit to the dean’s office. My school’s authorities did not like my speech — one that was posted on my personal Facebook account, on my personal time, using my personal computer. I was threatened to remove it or face the consequences. Let’s just say I don’t respond well to threats, especially one that violates my freedom of speech.

Authority Must Be Earned, Not Given

Do not jump to trust authority. Trust must be earned. Authority must be earned.

Now I’m not telling you to rebel for the sake of being a contrarian. Everything you do must have a purpose. But as you can see, authorities will fail you. And when they continue to fail you and refuse to change, it is time to reject them.

Spectators, lemmings, and timid men will accept authority without question. They will follow authority to their demise. But they are not the ones who shape the world. Rather, the catalysts for change are gladiators, bosses, and power players — who all do what is right by them.

Be the gladiator. Be the boss, Be the power player. And do as the wise men in my childhood church instruct:

Cultivate your desire for truth. Find out what’s real for yourself. Teach yourself. Live and die with purpose. And throw out the false teachers and wayward “leaders.”

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article. Well-written and very true, I feel.

  2. Great Post Alex!
    For me the word “Obedience” every time i hear it i see pictures of people on their knees shackled by chains and not having the chance to answer for yourself instead you answer to someone else. I’m my own man i do not need to “Obey” as i know what i need to do!

    Why should we have to “Obey” someone who is just as imperfect as i am? What makes them better then me?

    I learned a long time ago that all those Authority figures are not here to protect us but to control us. It does not matter if its a police officer, politician, Priest or teacher they are not there to look out for our best interest! If that was the case then society would probably be better than it is now.

    All we got when we need help is ourselves and that is it! Dependance on others to help you do things you can do your self will only get you killed as you can read through the events in history! Luck favors those who take upon themselves to do what they need to do!

    We are all alone out here!

    Again Alex great post!

    • Alex Ding says:

      It’s funny to hear you say this, bro, because you’re from the military — where it is all about chain of command. But still, you’re totally right. Depending on others is risky. That is why we all should seek independence.

      • i do believe in the chain of command! When everyone believes in accomplishing one goal! It works in the military but in the civilian world it does not. Out here there is no control while in the military they can control the situation.

  3. Hi Alex,

    This was a pleasure to read. It reminded me of two lines of my favorite short story “A & P” by John Updike:

    “Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.”

    Moreover, I’d like to say or word or two about college education:

    You, like many others, keep bashing college, and with good reason. The cost of an education is insanely expensive; however, if one plays their cards right they can get a formal education fairly cheap. For example, most people will go to a famous university to get their degree because of the prestige. This is silly. They will end of paying huge costs, with only a fraction of those costs actually applying to the actual learning experience. What they are actually paying for is the athletic departments, accessory upkeep, and whatnot that has nothing to do with their particular field of study.

    What makes it worse is that the cheap community colleges use the same textbooks and teach the same stuff as the more expensive universities.

    In the end, we are just paying for a name that looks good on our resume or diploma. Everyone oohs and ahs when they see Harvard, Yale, or whatever, but no one cares about XYZ community college, even though they teach the same exact thing.

    Eh, but what do I know? On second thought, the real reason rich people send their kids off to nice universities is not necessarily because they are known for their “quality” education but for the networking opportunities they provide (something that is seriously lacking in community colleges). As I am sure you know already, it’s not what we know that really matters, but who we know that counts in this world (and it sucks!).

    Again, great post. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Sincerely,
    Top Dog

    • Top Dog! That is a great comment! I went to a community college and its true that networking opportunities are somewhat slim unlike those colleges with prestige. I have gotten a lot of the jobs in the technology field due to networking with others int he field.

      Many people say such negative things about networking with others, but for me it works! i put myself out there and meet people its what we are supposed to do as a community!

      Again Top Dog great comment!

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Top Dog,

      I totally agree that rules favor the incumbents. (Heck, they’re the ones who make up the rules.)

      Yeah, I hate the higher education institution with a passion. Going there is getting an insane amount of debt is one of the few things in life I regret. That is why I want to warn others not to make my mistake. (If you must go to college, choose community college instead. At $100+ a credit, it is not as cheap as educating yourself or taking online courses like Udemy.)

      Instead of paying for a name that adds to the resume, why not start your own project or find your own experience — which is what I advise here:

      http://alex-ding.com/what-should-i-do-with-my-life/

      Who knows? Maybe you’ll get paid instead.

      If you are valuable enough, you’ll build up a network. In the future, I’m going to talk about effective networking. And you don’t have to pay six-figures to do it.

  4. Alex, a well written article indeed. I had a slight laugh at the ‘hello cornfield’ liner. It’s nothing further from the truth. Our cubicles are just electronic version of crops and the drone is just a blind a fruit picker, sorting out good forms from bad ones.

    I, too, was handed a bucket of shit on my first orientation day of university/college, it wasnt until I got out that I realised this. However there is no shame in being led. There is only shame in being led after you have seen the truth.

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Hugo,

      I remember my last year of business school, some smooth-talking guy came in and told us soon-to-be graduates that we are an asset to the company. Well, last time I checked, salaries are considered an expense to investors. You get so much dressed-up lies in schools, it makes politicians seem like boy scouts.

      You’re right though. Now that we know better, what will we do?

  5. Oh the irony of being in a business school and being swindled by a businessman. That’s rough.

    Alex, now that we know better, we should aim to take care of ourselves – be self made and refuse to be corn fed in a factory by a farmer.

  6. Hey Alex.
    I think it’s funny when people consider themselves authories and want to give you advice. And they’re not even good at what they’re advising, but they think they’ve got it made. And they want you to follow their footsteps to make themselves feel better about their situation.

    Typical examples of this would be police officers, bouncers, or other wannabes. But at the end of the day, they’re kissing the ass of the person who’s employing them.

    • Alex Ding says:

      Hey Ludvig

      That is absolutely true. One of the worst “authorities” are administrators. They are people who are over-educated, over-paid, but under-productive. All they are good for is telling you what to do — telling you to follow some bullcrap guidelines they made up — without having the experience of actually working from the trenches.

      There are a lot of these people in my school, in the hospital, and in big dumb businesses. Ughh… utterly worthless.

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