Civil Disobedience

Abstract

Civil disobedience is an act where people of a particular country fail to follow the laid down rules and regulations in order to force the government to give into their demands. In most cases, this kind of disobedience comes through organizing people to act in a nonviolent manner to force the government to heed to their demands. This is usually done in cases where the government takes a stand that contravenes the stand and will of the majority.

Although civil disobedience is mostly peaceful, it does not always mean that the people do not engage in activities meant to stop the government’s action. By closely examining civil disobedience, one realizes that the criteria used can make it work or fail. This research paper looks at the criteria under which civil disobedience can work and when it will fail to achieve its objective. The materials used in the research are mostly secondary sources from credible internet sites.

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Introduction

Civil disobedience is an act where people of a particular country fail to follow the laid down rules and regulations in order to force the government to give into their demands. In most cases, this kind of disobedience comes through organizing people to act in a nonviolent manner to force the government to heed to their demands.

This is usually done in cases where the government takes a stand that contravenes the stand and will of the majority. Although civil disobedience is mostly peaceful, it does not always mean that the people do not engage in activities meant to stop the government’s action. By closely examining civil disobedience, one realizes that the criteria used can make it work or fail. This research paper looks at the criteria under which civil disobedience can work and when it will fail to achieve its objective. (Civilliberties.org)

The concept of civil disobedience dates back to the fourth century. In fact, Socrates ranked civil disobedience higher than civil law. Apart from Socrates, majority of Greek tragedies uphold this notion. According to Socrates and the Greek tragedies, wherever civil law is placed at the same level with civil disobedience, people are allowed to obey the higher law and disobey the lesser one.

This concept has been developed further to state that unjust laws should not be allowed to cloud the conscience of good citizens. Scholars further claimed that since the people gave authority to the government, then the government was supposed to protect the human rights of the citizens. (Faucher)

According to John Locke, the people have a right to overthrow any government that fails to provide this right. In a situation where people decide to overthrow a government that is in power, this act of civil disobedience might not bear much fruit. In history, many governments have been known to do anything to maintain their power.

If citizens result to civil disobedience to force the government out of power, this might result to violence and hence make the civil disobedience lose its essence. It therefore follows that the criteria of using civil disobedience to overthrow a government might not present the expected results. In most cases, it degenerates to violence and makes the concept of civil disobedience lose its essence. (Thoreau)

The criterion that gives civil disobedience success is the one presented by Henry David Thoreau. This scholar gave a lecture titled “On the Relation of the Individual to the State” where he highlighted his ideas concerning the subject. According to Thoreau, the government cannot exist without the people. Since this is the case, Thoreau proposes that the citizens should approve whatever authority the government wields.

Secondly, he states that a government’s role to execute justice should be given preeminence over any other law that the government sets up. This gives every citizen the right to examine if the set laws respect and uphold their rights. If the citizen in any manner finds the law to deny him/her justice, then he/she has a right to disobey that particular law. In doing this, the citizen should be prepared to face the repercussions of breaking that particular law.

According to Thoreau, the citizen is supposed to do so without any acts of violence. Since the person disobeying this law is ready for any punitive measures, it makes this act of civil disobedience a workable one. This is much easier and workable than a situation where people are called upon to overthrow a government. (Thoreau)

Thoreau put this concept into practice when he refused to obey a law, which legalized slavery. Another law that he refused to obey was the one that legalized the Mexican War that lasted from 1846-1848. Because of his actions, he was forced to spend one night in a prison cell.

Thoreau’s concept of civil disobedience was also proved workable by great figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King encouraged black Americans clergy to rise and deal with the segregation laws but do so in a nonviolent manner.

This encouragement from King led to the changing of many laws that were viewed as unjust toward the African Americans. This also led to the acceptance of civil disobedience among political circles. This just shows that the concept of using civil disobedience to fight unjust laws as outlined by Henry Thoreau is capable of producing results. This is unlike the Greeks formula of civil disobedience that allows people to overthrow a government that they feel is not providing for their rights. (Pine)

Conclusion

The concept of civil disobedience is an olden policy that calls for the use of nonviolence by citizens to make their demands to be heard by the government. Depending on how it is applied, the concept can give results or fail to be effective. The situation where people are called to overthrow a government that fails to protect its rights might degenerate into violence and therefore fail the concept of civil violence.

However, the concept outlined by Thoreau that calls people to disobey laws that they feel are unjust has been found to bring about positive results.

Works Cited

Civilliberties.org. Civil Disobedience. Civil Disobedience Movement, 2010. Web. Oct 29. 2010.

Faucher, Heather. What is the Meaning of Civil Disobedience? 2010. Web. Oct 21. 2010.

Pine, Chris. Does Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience Have Any Lessons to Teach us in Today’s World? 2010. Web. Oct 29. 2010.

Thoreau, Henry. Civil Disobedience. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, 2002. Web. Oct 29. 2010.

Civil disobedience

Civil Disobedience is a method of protest that is widely gaining universal support and recognition because of its peaceful and pure method. It is a movement that was originated by Mohandas Moramchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, an India icon of human rights activism.

He first moved to South African to protest the illegitimate apartheid rules and his methods of non violence have been greatly adopted in any meaningful protests all over the world. This mode of protest has been used successfully since then and it differs from ordinary protest in practice, belief and intention (Gandhi 137).

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Ordinary protests are usually riddled with self-interest, violence towards people and property and sometimes in extreme cases there is blood shed and loss of lives. The intention of ordinary protests is sometimes evident through hooliganism, and can lead to destruction through arson and looting of public and private property (143). Thus, ordinary protest is for the intetrst of the organizer and has no respect to the implications of the actions on the wider society.

Gandhi explains the conditions necessary for a protest to be classified as civil disobedience and develops this idea, what he called ‘Satyagraha’ around non-violence and love for the oppressor and belief in universal truth (Gods law) and morality as the basis for the foundation of human rights (137). He also proposed that ‘Satyagraha ‘respects legitimate and moral law. As such, civil disobedience is protest within the wider law.

It does not object to the entire system of laws but particular statute that are deemed immoral, unjust and illegitimate, and whose resolution would lead to benefit not only of the resister but to the entire society. Civil disobedience is thus the resisting immoral and unjust law in a civil manner (140). This paper thus, endeavors to highlight the conditions necessary for an action of protest to be termed as civil disobedience and its effectiveness.

According to the originator of this idea, civil disobedience exists within certain parameters and as such, any form of protest does not qualify to be termed as ‘Satyagraha.’ The principle idea behind civil disobedience is the notion of non-violence protests. Gandhi claims that “‘Satyagraha’ is like a banyan tree and that ‘ahimsa’, (non violence) is one of its many branches” (138).

Thus, it is not a movement that will cause any form of chaos, riot or upheaval and that any Satyagrahi (follower) is bound by duty to ensure that no lawless behavior or action takes place during civil resistance (137). As such, the follower must respect not only the authorities but also other laws that are deemed moral enough.

A follower must be disciplined enough and not perform any immoral act of indiscipline against any individual as well as the government. Resistance is only for those laws that are immoral. Still concerning the conduct of a Satyagrahi, Gandhi explains that a Satyagrahi should not have any ill feelings such as anger or ill temper towards the oppressor. When subjected to violence, a Satyagrahi is bound by duty to put up with any form of assault but never retaliate (141).

In case the authorities that be need to arrest and subject the follower to any form of punishment the followers must to submit themselves willingly and happily take the punishment (Gandhi 142; King paras 1, 20, 44, 45). In case of danger from the oppressor Gandhi explains that followers must never run away from the oppressor even in the face of death and when death occurs in such circumstances the follower would “have performed his duty” (143).

King adds that the purpose of non-violent action is to lead to a non-violent tension that will force for negotiation (King para 11). However, non-violence, direct action as king calls it, is always the last option in any civil disobedience. It is preceded by gathering of facts to determine whether the issue in contest is illegitimate or not.

Once sufficient proof ahs been gathered, negotiation with the oppressor is sought. This is combined with self-purification (defending the case) and if the oppressor does not repeal the unjust law, non violence is the final act (para 6). King adds that civil disobedience seeks positive peace and purification of societies and therefore ‘”any means to that end must be as pure as the end it justifies to seek” (para 47).

However, a new group of contemporary civil disobedience activists has neglected the spirit of non-violence in mass protest. Most of the contemporary civil disobedience movement participants have violated Gandhi’s provisions for the conduct of a Satyagrahi and are sometimes violent and harbor a lot of anger toward the oppressor and seek self righteousness.

These groups mainly include “gay rights, Critical Mass (environmental activists) and the archconservative Catholic League” (Lopach and Luckowski Para 2). The problem arises from the education system and as Lopach and Luckowski explains the curriculum does not instruct students properly on the real meaning of civil disobedience (para 2). Thus civil disobedience becomes uncivil.

Direct action is the defense of just/moral laws while rejecting unjust/illegitimate law and the “insistent on truth” (Lopach and Luckowski para 3; King para 16; Gandhi 140, 141). Lopach and Luckowski adds that traditional Satyagraha had a deeply ingrained religious inspiration that was the basis of their definition of moral laws (para 3) and explains, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.

An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law” (para 4). Thus king concludes that no violence action is a very effective way of creating positive peace and coexistence by forcing negotiation with the oppressor (para 24) while Gandhi explains that the respect for such universal and religiously inspired moral norms does not accommodate violence but love for one another including the oppressor (141).

Civil disobedience is a pure means for the search for universal and positive peace created by understanding and respecting each other’s rights. Its intention is the elimination of oppressive laws the isolate and discriminate certain sections of the society. It is usually the last action and the purpose of direct action is drawing the attention of authorities towards certain laws that are deemed to contravene universal rules and truths on morality.

Followers of this movement adherer to discipline and respect to other laws and do not seek revenge from the oppressor. Unlike other forms of violence where the participants exhibit negative feelings such as anger for the oppressor, civil resistance propagates love for all including the oppressor. As such it is an effective way of spreading love, peace and understanding amidst major differences and misunderstanding amongst certain parts of the society.

Works Cited

Gandhi, Mohandas. On Satyagraha, Nonviolence, and Civil Disobedience. In Walsh, Sharon, and Asch, Evelyn. “Civil Disobedience: A Wadsworth Casebook in Argument, 1st Ed. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. Print

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” MLK online, 1963. 10, Mar. 2011
http://www.mlkonline.net/jail.html

Lopach, James, and Luckowski, Jean . “Uncivil Disobedience: Violating the Rules For Breaking the Law.” Vol. 4, No. 2, 2005, Education Next. 10, Mar. 2011 http://educationnext.org/uncivil-disobedience/

Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience, Where’s The Line Drawn?
In order to properly characterize and understand all aspects of civil disobedience we must look at where the line of disobedience stands and who crosses it. This country was founded on the idea of democracy. Our proud and dedicated fore fathers of the Constitution created this nation on a basis of morality and true freedom. Unfortunately, this dream has been contorted. Twisted to fit the ever growing greed and power thirsty idealisms of the powerful and wealthy politician. Our country has been raped of it’s true seed that it started from.

I believe that this country’s main problem is that it’s run by a majority of white males, and of these men, not many younger than their forties. Where’s our equal representation of every populous? These people have lost touch with what they call, their number one resource, it’s youth. Yes, they were all young at one time as well, but times rapidly change. These quick changes can easily cause confusion among our leaders, and this results in poor decisions based on lack of current knowledge and direct involvement. Unfortunately, these people don’t understand what today’s youth goes through, and who’s there to represent my population? The legal voting age in this country is eighteen
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years old, a population that has already been thrown into the busy world of work and many of whom have already lost the essence of their youth. We need a change, a new policy of understanding.

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The line of civil disobedience is drawn by our nation’s leaders and it’s their line and they mark it. The line’s they make are the illusions they see, they don’t look at the whole picture, our nation has a severe case of tunnel vision. Truthfully, laws are passed
to protect our “Christian” morality, and notable standing among the Earth’s other great powers. It seems America’s main concern is how we project ourselves to others, and what we can get out of it. In this movement and idea, the young are lost in it’s deep cracks of political separation.

Our nation needs a voice, a voice of youth and honesty. Over half of our nation is comprised of young adults, but we have no say in how our lives are run. What may be small and seemingly harmless to a youth, may land him in jail for a few years. Policies on things such as drugs are very harsh on today’s children, but the real question is, is who is the punishment benefiting? Are drug policies strict because drugs are an un-taxable product to the government, or do they really care what we do on our weekends? Or do they not like how other similar nations will percieve us if we are too liberal on our policies. Does this nation care about it’s youth, or is Uncle Sam worried he’s not getting his fair cut?
The only true solution that I see to helping this ever growing problem, is for politicians to stop concentrating on foreign affairs so much, and concentrate on today’s children. We are the future, and we know the path that we want to lead. We should have
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a voice, and our civil rights should be in our own hands. I’m not saying we should be electing seventeen year old state represenitives, but we should be heard. These problems should have a proper represenative. These problems trace all the way down into our public education systems even, where the powers of the administration and security forces control the students like the government controls all of it’s children; unjust, and unheard. In order to make a change though, we can’t start in the school system, we must get to the root of the problem, we must see the big picture. And that scene starts with the government. We don’t have to take the abuse, we can change and a social revolution is always on the horizon, we just need to get there. Our journey starts now

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