Civil disobedience is a non violent and conscientious decision to break a law with the aim of introducing change in government laws and policies so can be politically motivated and have public origins. Sometimes we are not left with many options and disobedience seems to be the only way out especially when rules fail us. It’s something just like hacking which one resorts to express dissatisfaction regarding some mechanism. Martin Luther King jr says:“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” The aim of this paper is to prove why Civil disobedience is justified under all forms of governments and a must to look forward to when things are not being governed in an ideal manner.
History provides us with numerous examples of civil disobedience and the benefits they had starting from Gandhi who initiated a campaign to get independence from the British to Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. These movements present us with some kind of general pattern in which oppression and disobedience seem to have some kind of correlation between them. If we look back in history to understand this correlation we find the case of Germany as the most suitable option where Nazi party rose to power because of civil unrest. If we are to label one thing which contributed significantly in Hitler’s rise to power it would be disobedience. The idea of disobedience came to the scene for the first time in 19th century when Henry David Thoreau used it for the first time in his essay in 1848. Wikipedia has summarized his thesis nicely in the following words:
“It argues that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.”
Having got all the background knowledge we are in position now to justify the Civil disobedience movement and why this track should be opted. Let us contemplate over all the points that have directed us towards taking this particular stance of defending this concept.
The first and most important thing to have aroused because of civil disobedience is that governments have been made more accountable as before it was found that even in some forms of democracies the government tends to hegemonic taking the concerns of people out of equation and doing things the way they feel is right. The sole reason behind breaking the rules comes out that people will always have an opinion which would mean refraining from evil which is not possible if there is only one dimensional approach. The man himself Henry David Thoreau said:
“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
Another reason of resorting to this phenomenon is that sometimes it seems to be the only option one is left with. The greatest exponents of Civil Disobedience in history have been reformers with the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther king jr. They changed the complete scenario of things they took responsibility of and there is no other way such a change could have been initiated or at least in that time frame. The movements which they launched corrected the basic things like provision of justice, equity and protection of fundamental rights which need to be in right order for the state to function effectively. It should also be accepted that an unjust law should never come under the category of law.
“In such a world, the rule of law maintains things as they are. Therefore, to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern black did, as antiwar protesters did.” Howard Zinn
Similarly Civil disobedience can be justified as sometimes it is the only way to publicize an issue as other alternatives like marches have been somewhat fruitless in making right kind of impact. The march carried out in Iraq against the war was one such example where nothing substantial could be achieved. People notice a great deal when some famous personality is taken to task or arrested and the outcome of Civil disobedience is similar as publicity is achieved in the process.
Furthermore civil disobedience can be justified as the law is wrong sometimes and needs reforms. The laws are usually formulated by a specific segment of society to meet their requirements and interests and when the situation is such the law or rule is hardly legitimate and people oriented. When it goes against the larger interests of society and people why not transform them? It’s not a heinous crime as the focus should be on word civil as this act is not at all meant to use any violent means to achieve the objectives. Laws is something not that sacred as they have been crafted by humans which can have a degree of error in it as the humans supposed them and implemented them according to their discretion which could be wrong as well so there should be no harm in correcting them.
“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of nonviolence says that violence should be resisted not by counter-violence but by nonviolence. This I do by breaking the law and by peacefully submitting to arrest and imprisonment.”
Mahatma Gandhi, Non-violence in Peace and War 1942-49
In the same way there is a need to define Civil disobedience as there is no agreement over this phenomenon. Although there is some understanding regarding it but in specific cases they don’t seem to agree as according to one stance civil disobedience is just like a boycott which includes peaceful non violent activities. The majority of population in US thinks burning US flag is an act done to start a fight but some minorities claim it to be practice of free speech. The Civil disobedience can be justified as all forms of governments including democracy have got some loop holes in them. There is certainly no doubt about dictatorship being biased and one dimensional in nature but to a certain extent democracy has also been a flawed system
It is natural for humans that they always look for change which can work to make their lives easier but the ruling class is usually hesitant in this regard as they don’t encourage such an approach. It is difficult to bring in that change without breaking the law, although it looks a bad option apparently but sometimes in order to achieve overall good for the society we have to taste this flavor which brings in a new beginning and completely new era as it tends to end that long period of oppression which was installed to serve a specific segment of society. There should be insurance of the fact that Civil disobedience would be non violent which if the case society suffers from inconvenience only which is a small price in comparison to the benefit it offers in shape of correcting the system.
There is no doubt about the fact that constitution of the country has the highest status as it is the charter of governance and a manual prepared to guide the caravan of the state. Thoreau considered Bible and Constitution to be the purest form of truth but he certainly had doubts over the ruling class which he considered to be somewhat incapable and not up to the mark. He thought they do not possess the innovation and flair to devise the basic form of legislation so this is where movements like Civil disobedience come good. It is the moral and legal duty of State to recognize the basic rights and freedom of an individual but there is no such State found anywhere which can be fit into frame of this idealism.
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