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Human beings are basically good and decent. We are born with an internal moral compass that leads us to behave properly and treat our fellow man with respect.
It is clear from my reading of history that people are not driven by a moral compass. We follow orders.
What we consider right and wrong was taught to us as children. And what we consider wrong hardly matters when we are being ordered to commit evil acts.
War wouldn’t be possible if this were not true. When a platoon is ordered to attack, the soldiers attack. A soldier doesn’t stand up and say: “Whoa! Hold on, Lieutenant: I don’t know if you are aware of this, but your order might force us to break the 6th Commandment. So of course I am going to have to disobey you.”
We aren’t rebels by nature.
History proves that people are willing to commit unforgivably despicable acts in the name of following orders. The movie “Compliance” explores this ugly truth about humanity.
The film begins on a normal day at an Ohio fast food restaurant called Chickwich.
The phone rings. It’s a man claiming to be Officer Daniels from the local police department. He informs Sandra - the manager on duty - that the girl working the front desk - Becki - stole some cash out of a customer’s purse.
When Officer Daniels tells Sandra to drag Becki into the back room for interrogation, Sandra gladly complies. When he tells her to rifle through the teen’s purse looking for the supposed stolen cash, Sandra gladly complies.
When the officer tells the manager to perform a rigorous strip search, Sandra balks. The cop calmly explains that they have video evidence that implicates Becki in this and other crimes. And if he is wrong and it turns out the girl is innocent, he will take the heat for what happens. That’s all Sandra needs to hear.
So begins an uncomfortable hour where Becki is essentially kidnapped, shamed, and humiliated by her co-workers. All because of the orders given by a voice on a phone.
“Compliance” is a disturbing film. It’s disturbing because it is based on a true story. Actually, it is inspired by 70 known cases of criminal incidents caused by a prank caller claiming to be a Police Officer.
And it’s doubly disturbing because the only person in the movie who never questions the demands of the fake cop is Becki. Even though she knows that she’s innocent, Becki willingly submits to everything Officer Daniels demands due to her respect for authority and fear of prison.
“Compliance” reminds us that all of the rights we think we have mean nothing if a local authority figure wants to take them away from us.
This is an ugly truth about life, but there isn’t much we can do about it. Because we follow orders. And we aren’t rebels by nature.
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