Obedience — CANVAS



“The most important single quality of any government, without which it would not exist, must be the obedience and submission of its subjects. Obedience is at the heart of political power”.

CANVAS Core Curriculum (2007, pp. 46), adapted from Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action

If people do not obey, a ruler cannot rule. This principle is the foundation on which nonviolent movements are built.

Why do people obey? Reasons include, habit, self-interest, fear of sanctions, indifference, an absence of self-confidence, moral obligations, psychological identification with the ruler, superhuman factors, helplessness, hopelessness, and simply following the majority. In order to bring change to a society, it is imperative that these reasons are broken, to incur loyalty shifts.

Habits can be changed through repetition and reenforcement. A lack of self-confidence or an indifference can be tackled with a process of motivation and a reassurance that there are good, realistic alternatives to the oppression situation. Furthermore, by analyzing the the people’s personal wants and goals, you can make it in these individuals’ own self-interest to get behind your movement. The Loyalty Pie exercise can be incredibly useful for uncovering where a population’s loyalties lie, so that they can be precisely targeted and used for recruitment.