Obedience implies canceling oneself according to rules, orders, or impositions. To obey is not simply to say yes or to follow. To obey is to incorporate what is requested by giving up any and all thoughts or personal contributions.
Obeying always requires annulment, which is why dictatorships and certain educational systems, before teaching, perform “brainwashing”: blank minds creating the basis for obedience.
Indeed, obedience should require participation. Before obeying, it would be necessary to discuss, to clarify, so that there would be agreement and thus obedience. It turns out that obeying is far from agreeing, as the previous stages of discussion and dilemma are not carried out. Etymologically, this idea is well expressed by the word obedience in the German language. In it, obedience is Gehorsam; Germans also use Kadavergehorsam to speak of blind obedience made possible by the abandonment of conscience thanks to the subordination of the corpse. It is interesting to resort to the etymology of the German language, as we find an accurate description of what obedience is: it is abandonment of conscience, a maximum situation in a cadaverous state.
There is no way to obey while maintaining individuality. This is exactly where we find the friction provoked when obedience is demanded, or the controlling mechanisms of dictatorships, or the maneuvers of politicians promising schools and hospitals to obtain obedience that will be expressed in ballots.
There is only obedience when one is denied as otherness, as an individual. To obey is to allow, to agree when orders and rules are configured and enacted regardless of one's own criteria.
Communities structured in obedience, in impositions, destroy individualities, root out possibilities, and fulfill needs by submitting them to orders that mitigate them. Psychologically and individually, nothing is worse than education, social and family systems, as well as relationships being maintained by structures of obedience. To be obedient for the convenience of maintaining established orders and for the realization of this convenience is to survive what depersonalizes and de-individualizes. In 1963, in the United States, Dr. Milgram performed an experiment on obedience and its dehumanizing implications which has become a much-cited classic in psychology.
This was the first study to emphasize the power of authority in obedience regardless of the individual differences of those who obey. Forty volunteers were recruited who knew they were part of an experimental learning study at Yale University. The volunteers were all American men, between 20 and 50 years old, with various occupations (post office workers, university professors, merchants, engineers, and workers). Everyone was told that this was an investigation into the effects of punishment on learning and, in particular, the different effects of different degrees of punishment and different types of teacher. Although there was a lottery among volunteers, it was already predetermined - for the researchers - that the volunteer would always be the teacher and the student (the “victim”) would be one of the researchers. The “victim” was tied to a device that resembled an electric chair with electrodes. The volunteer (in the role of teacher) was taken to an adjacent room in front of an instrument labeled “shock generator.” The volunteer-teacher was given a 45-volt shock to demonstrate the authenticity of the machine. This shock generator contained switches with numbers ranging from 15 to 450 volts, also labeled in groups from “mild shock” to “danger: intense shock.” The experiment consisted of the teacher asking the student questions and for each wrong answer he would administer a shock starting at 15 volts and increasing with each wrong answer. The volunteer-teacher was led to believe in the authenticity of the shocks. For every four questions, the student answered wrong to three of them. For each shock received, the student screamed (actually he was one of the researchers, simulating pain), asked to stop, and with the increase in voltage (when it reached 300 volts) he kicked the walls, simulating despair, until total inertia. The volunteer-teachers sought advice from the experiment supervisor, and he only told them to continue: “Please, go on.” The “student-victim” agonized. At this point in the experiment, the volunteer-teachers started to react in different ways, with nervous tics, stuttering, sweating... but they kept giving the shocks. Dr. Milgram claims that, against all expectations, 26 of the 40 subjects completed the series, eventually administering the 450 volts to the now silent "victim". Only five refused to proceed after the first vehement protest by the “victim” (at 300 volts). The volunteer-teachers often verbally expressed their interest in the “victim's” state, but controlled their own reactions and continued to follow orders, escalating the shocks to the maximum punishment. Three volunteer-teachers suffered uncontrollable attacks. The conflict these individuals faced in this experiment consisted of obeying an authority they trusted, and doing something they knew was wrong.
A summary and video about this experiment can be found here.