In the long history of human race, civil disobedience has established itself repeatedly. Most of the activists and philosophers who spearhead civil disobedience are conscientiously nonviolent, and they usually accept a legal code of conduct. Take an example of Henry David Thoreau, who according to him defined civil disobedience as the individual’s right to resist the state. He perceives civil disobedience as a responsibility, not a privilege. In his moral stance, he wondered why citizens tend to obey the governmental law even when they believe it to be unjust. He condemned the act of paying tax revenues since he compared that to slavery that is why he ended up in jail for a night because of being a tax rebel. For him, he believed the money collected through taxation was going to fund the Mexican War.
Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey the law in an attempt to call for attention from the government. Martin L. King and the SCLC relied on civil disobedience to obtain social changes (Murrin et al. 771). They believed the government would get their attention and start implementing change. King opposed racial discrimination which he carried his message of civil rights to most parts of the world including the United States. He urges citizens to look closely at the legal channels of change, which try to make civil disobedience unnecessary. However, he was jailed after he protested against the city’s racist segregation laws. King states that nonviolence is a powerful weapon that cuts without wounding and bestows the man who uses it with nobility.
Civil disobedience may lead to chaotic lawlessness, which is a big concern. Thoreau fervently loved all those who opposed slavery and would act on their convictions. He argued that people should start acting on what they feel is right to be done. I would not go with democracy under any circumstance, it does not mean the opinion of the majority is always rights, but citizens have the tendency of thinking that if they should rebel, the remedy is worse than the evil.
In his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ King says, “unjust and just laws do exist. If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey, but he is obligated to do so just the same way it is a legal and moral responsibility to obey just laws” (King) This is expressing the very highest respect for the law. I believe when a man tends to disobey a law, and then it is not a law anymore. King being a reverend he strongly argues that just laws are the ones that accord the laws of God.
Gandhi was also a civil disobedience activist whose ambition was to make the British people see the wrong they did to India through nonviolence movement. He also opposed paying taxes and protested against buying British goods. He came up with ten golden rules of changing the world and almost all of them revolved around making a personal decision. For example, he said, “man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men” (qtd. in Taneja 103).
Murrin, John, Paul E. Johnson, James M. McPherson, Alice Fahs, Gary Gerstle, Emily S. Rosenberg, Norman L. Rosenberg. Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the America People. New York: Cengage Learning. 2010. Print
Taneja, Taneja. Educational Thinkers. New York: Atlantic Publishers. 2006. Print.
King, Martin. Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Apr. 16 1963. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.