GENERAL REVIEW OF DISCIPLINE 3G3
is to order him to do it. We pretend that this phenomenon of a forced voluntary action exists, and we call this pretext, " the obedience of the child." We find little children specially disobedient, or rather their resistance, by the time they are four or five years old, has become so great that we are in despair and are almost tempted to give up trying to make them obey. We force ourselves to praise to little children " the virtue of obedience " a virtue which, according to our accepted prejudices, should belong specially to infancy, should be the " infantile virtue " yet we fail to learn anything from the fact that we are led to emphasize it so strongly because we can only with the greatest difficulty make children practise it.
It is a very common mistake, this of trying to obtain by means of prayers, or orders, or violence, what is difficult, or impossible to get. Thus, for instance, we ask little children to be obedient, and little children in their turn ask for the moon.
We need only reflect that this " obedience " which we treat so lightly, occurs later, as a natural tendency in older children, and then as an instinct in the adult to realise that it springs spontaneously into being, and that it is one of the strongest instincts of humanity. We find that society rests on a foundation of marvellous obedience, and that civilisation goes forward on a road made by obedience. Human organisations are often founded on an abuse of obedience, associations of criminals have obedience as their key-stone.
How many times social problems centre about the necessity of rousing man from a state of " obedience " which has led him to be exploited and brutalised!
Obedience naturally is sacrifice. We are so accustomed to an infinity of obedience in the world, to a condi-