Obey Yourself

Analysis shows that conscience rules with a harshness as great as external authorities, and furthermore that frequently the contents of the orders issued by man's conscience are ultimately not governed by demands of the individual self but by social demands which have assumed the dignity of ethical norms.

The rulership of conscience can be even harsher than that of external authorities, since the individual feels its orders to be his own; how can he rebel against himself?

Instead of overt authority, "anonymous" authority reigns. It is disguised as common sense, science, psychic health, normality, public opinion. It does not demand anything except the self-evident. It seems to use no pressure but only mild persuasion.

Whether a mother says to her daughter, "I know you will not like to go out with that boy", or an advertisement suggests, "Smoke this brand of cigarettes - you will like their coolness", it is the same atmosphere of subtle suggestion which actually pervades our whole social life.

Anonymous authority is more effective than overt authority, since one never suspects that there is any order which one is expected to follow. In external authority it is clear that there is an order and who gives it; one can fight against the authority, and in this fight personal independence and moral courage can develop.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.143-4

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