The Obedience Test

Obligation to wear a mask and compulsory vaccinations enable the state to force citizens to submit


By Ralph T. Niemeyer 

“The one who is inconspicuous, the people are happy. The one who is intrusive, the people is broken.” So it was in a leaflet of the anti-NAZI-resistance movement “White Rose”.

The saying originally comes from the Chinese sage Laotse. Rulers who act on questionable ethical foundations and cannot be sure of the voluntary loyalty of their citizens tend to behave “intrusively”. Again and again they bother people and force them to make submission gestures.

This brings the majority of obedient to their knees, while the minority of “rebels” are easier to identify. In controlled facade democracies, however, these gestures of submission are ideologically clad with an acceptable narrative.

The urgent recommendation to wear a respirator mask – largely useless – in public serves this purpose perfectly. In contrast to the first phase of the abolition of our freedom rights, critics of the prevailing corona hysteria will be recognizable at first glance in the second.

“But the people have certain rights,” says Rudolf, stable master of Hermann Gessler, in Friedrich Schiller’s piece ‘Wilhelm Tell’ about the imperial bailiff of the cantons Schwyz and Uri. He replies laconically: “Now there is no time to weigh it up.”

Gessler, the administrator of the occupied districts of the Alpine region, planted a hat on a stick in the market square in Altdorf. Next to it is a guard who takes everyone away who doesn’t salute this pop. Gessler states:

“I didn’t put my hat on Altdorf
Because of the joke, or around the heart
To examine the people; I’ve known them for a long time.
I put it on her neck
Learn to bend, which you carry upright –
I planted the uncomfortable
On their way where they have to go,
That they come across it with their eyes and themselves
Reminding their master that they forget.”

The now proverbial Gessler hat in Friedrich Schiller’s drama ‘Wilhelm Tell’ was therefore not set up explicitly to test the true disposition of the people. Gessler assumes that this is known; he knows that people hate their oppressors.

Rather, the hat is an obedience test. Not warm approval is expected, but gritting teeth. So the “father of the country” reacts very ungraciously when the title hero refuses to greet the hat.

“Do you despise your emperor, Tell,
And me, who commands in his place here,
That you fail to honor the hat that I
Hung up to test obedience?
You betrayed your evil attire to me.”

“Evil” is therefore someone who refuses the gesture, which is completely absurd in terms of content, but symbolically meaningful. As a result, Tell has to shoot an apple from his son’s head and risk his life. Eventually he is arrested after threatening the Reichsvogt …

“Gessler hats” in Corona times

“Gessler hats” in the expanded meaning of the word always have two purposes: the official one, which provides a sham reason for the prohibitions and prohibitions, and an actual reason, which always consists of a symbolic act of submission or an obedience test. Gessler hats are practically everywhere where there is power.

They serve the dual purpose of disciplining and breaking the obedient majority and identifying a possibly stubborn minority.

On the occasion of the calls for disobedience in connection with the 1987 census in West-Germany, a magazine noted that the state now had a complete list of its opponents in its hands: the minority that did not fill out the questionnaires and sometimes accepted severe fines for them.

It is now not difficult to make a connection from here to the current state authority coercive measures “because of Corona”.

On April 9, 2020, the Austrian web magazine Profil headlined: “The new pleasure in punishment, spying and denouncing” and raised a violent charge against the authorities:

“Within a few weeks, Austria mutated into an operetta police state, in which harmless citizens are harassed at their discretion.”

If we leave the operetta aside, then there remains: police state. A practical example:

“Recently, a parking ticket was circulating on the Internet asking a Viennese to pay a fine of 500 euros. The rigorous official-traded offense in the wording: ‘You sat on a park bench for a long time and did not keep the necessary minimum distance of 1 meter from other people due to the high volume of pedestrians.’ ”

Further examples according to “Profile”: A fine of € 1,000 is imposed in Salzburg for the unauthorized use of a playground.

A woman had to go through a pocket check at a drug store checkout and listen to a reprimand for having bought something “not essential”: a school notebook for her daughter. Niki Scherak, deputy club chairman of the NEOS party, stated on the strict excesses of law enforcement officers:

“It is really frightening for me that people have to ask what else they can do.”

In fact, the countries concerned seem to have turned into huge kindergartens, where the care-takers anxiously peek and humbly try to push the boundaries of what is allowed.

Most of the press organs have now completely abandoned their duty to provide objective or even critical reporting and have taken on the role of modern heralds.

In the virtual public places they announce the pronouncements of the “king”: unfiltered and uncommented: Hear you people and let them say: The following is forbidden from next Monday, the following is allowed …

If anyone feels degraded by what is happening here, then the person concerned is neither hypersensitive, nor is this degradation unintentionally done by the state power.

Many of the “corona measures” now in force have the character of Gessler hats – at least in part. State organs, attached to their unexpected increase in power, rarely resist the temptation to humiliate citizens and restrict behavioral control to senseless obedience tests.

Where a regulation does not already have this character, individual, especially eager police officers like to act out their lust for power on those subject to them.

There is nothing worse to fear than withdrawing an unjustified fine. Humiliations are always minor or moderate traumas, depending on the victim’s previous experience.

They often lead to feelings of drowsiness and numbness, feelings of shame that are suppressed and in many cases can only be “solved” by identifying with the aggressor.

Obedience tests with sham reasons

However, the degradation of citizens rarely occurs in a completely “naked” form. In the modern, “civilized” system of despotism, a sophisticated narrative is usually spun around the Gessler hat.

The pseudo justification with which obedience tests are cloaked generally appear to be more plausible than was the case with the original Gessler hat in Schiller’s “Wilhelm Tell”. Or a regulation represents a mixture of sensible regulation and a Gessler hat.

Mostly the subjects are given a “because” that helps them to make their peace with an order that violates dignity.

Women in parts of the Muslim world have to take to the streets fully veiled because of decency and religion. Christians have to dip their hands into the holy water basin and cross each other when entering a church because this requires respect for God.

Applicants for a job have to follow certain formalities to be shortlisted because this demonstrates the commitment of the job seeker. All citizens have to pay public TV broadcast license fees for first, ARD, and second German channel, ZDF, even if they do not watch these channels, because this ensures the financing of the public law system, which is so important for democracy.

Soldiers have to fold their clothes in a locker in a certain way and put them “on edge” so that the clothes can be easily found in the event of an alarm. Certain dress codes, greetings and rituals are obligatory in ideologically homogeneous groups. And so on.

In some cases the greeting in front of a Gessler hat is only controlled by more or less gentle group pressure; in other cases, refusal will result in the most severe sanctions, including killing.

Another very striking example of a conformity test was the obligation imposed on the Germans between 1933 and 1945 to greet each other with “Heil Hitler!” We know from history that this was a particularly perfidious control instrument.

The ideology or the respect for the “leader” permeated every little everyday encounter of people.

Anyone who refused to greet was easily recognized as an opponent of the regime. For citizens who could not muster any real enthusiasm for Hitler, the stay in public space was associated with constant discomfort.

Do I use a different greeting or do I say “Heil Hitler?” For the sake of peace, if at all, to whom can I dare to salute without paying homage to the Führer’s name?

Victim and support of the system

The poet and later Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Havel brilliantly outlined the two dimensions of behavior control in his essay “Trying to live in truth” in 1978.

Against the background of an Eastern Bloc totalitarianism that was still intact at the time, he presented the techniques of behavior control using a simple example.

“A manager of a vegetable shop placed the banner” Proletarians of all countries, unite in the shop window between onions and carrots! ”

Why did he do that? Because he was actually deeply convinced that the proletarians should unite? Rather because “everyone” did it and because it was expected of him. Also for fear of being accused of disloyalty.

“He did it because it ‘is part of it’ if you want to get through in life; because that’s one of thousands of “little things” that ensure a relatively quiet life “in harmony with society”. ”

By putting up the sign, the greengrocer himself becomes part of the conformity backdrop that motivates other people to put up a “proletarian” sign. Havel explains that in a dictatorship of a modern style, one can no longer clearly differentiate between rulers and rulers, perpetrators and victims.

“In the post-totalitarian system, this line actually runs through every human being, because everyone is their victim and support in their own way.”

All members of an equivalent society exert group pressure on one another. The greengrocer puts up his sign because the butcher did it – and vice versa.

The aspect of the moral relief of fellow travelers is now important in Havel’s treatise. The author writes about the proletarian shield:

“This slogan has the function of a sign.”

In plain text, the associated message could be:

“I, the greengrocer XY, am here and I know what to do; I behave as I am expected to do; you can rely on me and you can’t blame me; I am obedient and therefore have the right to a quiet life. ”

Basically, Havel says, one could just as easily force the retailer to put a sign saying “I’m afraid and therefore unconditionally obedient” in his shop window. In essence, both messages mean the same thing.

The second shield, of course, would be a humiliating admission of cowardice. It would hurt his sense of dignity.

“You have to give the greengrocer the opportunity to say: ‘Why shouldn’t the proletarians of all countries unite?’ (…) So the sign helps, the ‘low’ foundations of his obedience and thus the ‘low’ Hiding foundations of power from people. He hides them behind the ‘higher’ facade. This ‘higher’ is the ideology.”

In my own words, any member of a totalitarian structured society, if it has the ability to deceive itself, can feel like a hero of conscience at the stage of latency. If state ideology were to contradict his innermost belief, he believes he would bravely resist.

“Accidentally”, however, matches what he wants with what the state wants – that it would be great if the proletarians of all countries were to unite. In this way, his character disposition to the courageous resistance fighter is never put to the test. The world is full of hindered Hitler-resistance fighters such as Hans and Sophie Scholl.

The essence of power

Now it is generally difficult to put yourself in the position of those in power if you yourself have too little experience in this regard. It is even more difficult to recognize their “secret” intentions with absolute certainty, as long as no clear leaked documents reveal them.

However, I am convinced that we cannot realistically assess the behavior of power – that is, of the governing bodies and their executive bodies – if we generally assume positive and benevolent motives.

If we do that, we will overlook essential dimensions of the exercise of power. Just as benevolent motives cannot, of course, be completely ruled out.

In my opinion and experience, the exercise of power has at least the following characteristics, which can be applied to “cases” such as the current Corona regime and others known from history:

Power demands expanding and penetrating as many areas of the lives of citizens as possible.
Power is addictive. Sufferers rarely settle for what they already have.

Exercising power is lustful.
Power wants to draw attention to itself and does not like to go unnoticed. (See the statement of the Reichsvogts Geßler: “… and remember their master, whom they forget.”)

Power always wants to test itself through confrontation with the ruled, otherwise it cannot be sure of itself.

Power derives its sense of identity from asserting itself against the will of its subjects. Otherwise it would not be power, just persuasion.

To further deepen the last point: Power uses three graded strategies of self-assertion:

1. persuasion and propaganda,

2. threat,

3. use of coercion.

From the perspective of the powerful, it only seems unthinkable that people act as they see fit. Usually, the earlier and more harmless escalation levels are applied first, but the more advanced levels remain in the background as a threatening backdrop.

Most citizens try to avoid phase 3 and, if possible, phase 2, and are already adapting to work in phase 1 (propaganda). “Civilized”, reasonably pacified societies almost only work in phase 1 and thus avoid showing the ugly face of violence openly.

However, in epochs of the progressive dissolution of freedom rights and the transition to dictatorship, threats, coercion and violence come to the fore.

The experience of “being subjected” is no longer reserved for the criminal milieu, it becomes the general experience of almost all citizens.

The breathing mask as a Gessler hat

Finally, I would like to go into one topic that is currently very much on my mind and was the original reason for my article: the obligation to wear a mask. There is a lot of talk these days (as of April 15, 2020) about easing the “corona measures” imposed by the government.

The following “compromise solution” always comes into play: Many of the restrictions could be lifted, but in return a general mask requirement would have to be introduced.

We have known since Wednesday that in Germany there is initially only an “urgent recommendation” to wear the mask.

At least in places where a high density of people can be expected, such as supermarkets and subways.

The current “King of Germany”, Professor Christian Drosten, whose laboratory received donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, kind of the Dr. Fauci this side of the big pond, spoke out clearly in an interview: “This presupposes that everyone, everyone, everyone in society, must wear these masks in public life,” said Drosten.

This statement alone (“everyone, everyone, everyone”) reveals a worrying tendency towards totalitarianism. It does not allow exceptions or even gradations of the mask requirement.

Since the police are not even bothering people in Austria who are repressive and who are walking alone in the forest without a respirator, I do not assume that an absolute mask requirement will soon be decided in Germany. However, a de facto mask requirement in grocery stores raises some explosive questions:

Will the state or the business owners, as its extended arm, refuse food to people, so in extreme cases let them go hungry because they do not wear a face mask – even though this has been completely legal up to now and the shops are anyway going through all sorts of security measures (shopping trolleys, clearance requirements) , Plexiglass panes at the checkout)?

Who will be held responsible if there are not enough face masks?

Wouldn’t a mask requirement now expose the previous regulation (no mask obligation) as a completely irresponsible risk to human health?

I was able to think about this topic extensively for a few weeks now. On the street and in shops, I kept observing mask wearers – by the way, also when walking alone, on a bike or even in closed cars.

However, these have remained a rarity in my area – in a small rural town in southern Baden Würrtemberg.

My dreadful vision that these would spread over time, like in certain science fiction films in which extraterrestrials gradually take control of the earth, did not become a reality. The fellow citizens in my neighborhood remain calm. Until now.

In the case of a legal or de facto mask requirement, however, there would be a fear of a dynamic as Vaclav Havel has shown clairvoyantly.

The obligation to wear a mask would create a high pressure of conformity, since the obedience or disobedience of a person would be controllable at first glance and from a distance by everyone. Dissidents could easily be identified and held accountable.

Let us remember the story Havel told about the greengrocer, who placed a sign “Proletarians of all countries, unite” in his shop window. Based on this, the wearer of a respirator could send the following message in the next few weeks:

“I (…) am here and I know what to do; I behave as I am expected to do; you can rely on me and you can’t blame me; I am obedient and therefore have the right to a quiet life. “Actually also: I am afraid and therefore I am unconditionally obedient.”

The marking of deviating worldviews

In the case of Corona, however, those willing to submit would have been given a particularly seductive glossing over narrative: “I do it to protect myself and others.” it doesn’t matter. ”This doesn’t have to be the case.

“Dissidents” may not only assess the danger situation as dramatically. In a country in which “actually” freedom of belief prevails, you are simply a supporter of a different political belief and a medical ideology that deviates from the majority.

Reminder: Most politicians, the media and embedded scientists are currently saying the slogan: “The corona virus is extremely dangerous. If democracy and rights to liberty can cost lives, they have to be sacrificed, at least temporarily.”

On the other hand, I take the position with other “Corona skeptics”: “The Corona virus is not exceptionally dangerous. The disadvantages of shutdown and exit restriction outweigh.

Democracy and freedoms are so vitally important that everything that happens now can only be done within the framework that they dictate – that is, without violating these fundamental rights.”

The following situation arises – or would result especially in the case of a general mask constraint: I may continue to think and even write all of this. Still. But I must not express my worldview through my everyday behavior.

I have to salute the Gessler hat, which a different but dominant worldview has planted in front of me. In the event of refusal, there is a risk of extensive social isolation and punishment, perhaps even making food shopping impossible.

This process is or would be extremely questionable. So far, there have been alternative strategies to avoid “kowtowing”.

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