This is an argumentative essay based on the issue on whether civil disobedience is justified or not and under what circumstances. Therefore the essay will try to show the circumstances and situations under which civil disobedience is justified. The thesis of this essay will be: civil disobedience is justified when the law propagates inhuman activities. This essay is based on three articles namely Crito, by Plato, civil disobedience by Thoreau and letter from a Birmingham Jail by King Martin Luther junior.
People are governed by the set law and they are therefore supposed to fully respect and adhere to it. Refusal to adhere to the set law is a crime and worth heavy punishment though there are circumstances where civil disobedience is justified. The law which allows inhumane activities is not worth the respect of the people. For instance when the law allows slavery, denies people their civil and human rights, and when it promotes segregation and discrimination on the basis of race. People are supposed to give priority to their conscience and what they think is right than blindly following what the law dictates. For example Thoreau justified civil disobedience because of it allowed slavery and the Mexican-American war (Thoreau par 5).
Thoreau’s believes that incidences like slavery and human injustices paves way for civil disobedience because humans are equal and therefore have a right to equal treatment. In the essay civil disobedience, Thoreau strongly argues that governments are never helpful and even if they were they never prove so. Governments usually obtain their powers from the dominating group and not because they view things correctly but simply because they are the strong winning team. Therefore citizens ought to do that which their conscience perceive to be right and not what the law dictates. People are therefore allowed to disobey the law if whatever it dictates is not right or it is unreasonable. This is simply because many of the things that are passed to be law are what the majority prefer and rarely are all this things sensible or valuable to the common people. People are guided by their own believes and this beliefs help them to follow a certain way which may be against what the law requires. Therefore civil disobedience may not happen when what the law says is favorable and acceptable by the people subject to it (Thoreau par 4).
There are some actions that might be committed by the government which may allow the people to defile the law. For instance if the law allows the government to do unjust things like violation of human rights then the people are justified to rebel. On addition to rebelling they can also distance themselves from the government by refusing to support it through payment of tax. For example Thoreau refused to pay tax as a way of distancing from the oppressive government and as a result he was arrested. Civil disobedience is basically the refusal to abide by the law in place or refusal to adhere to some particular sections of the law, government commands and demands. It is a nonviolent form of disagreement or resistance. Many people term it as a respectful disagreement. Citizens or people usually rebel against laws which they consider to be unfair and for this reason one of the ways of rebelling is civil disobedience. Basing on this definition Thoreau emphasizes that people should not allow the government to take precedence of their consciences by using them as agents for injustice. Therefore it is the right of the people to stop the government from using them for their own selfish ambitions.
The two important occurrences that made Thoreau to write the essay was the disgustful Mexican-American war and slavery. Many times the government may enact laws that only benefit them at the expense of the well being of its people who are supposed to be given priority in all undertakings because it is this people who allow them to rule. Therefore when the government passes exploitive, unfair rules people are justified to rebel in order to end the unhealthy practices. On the contrary if the people decide to be silent and painfully adhere to the law they are the ones who will suffer and for these reason some circumstances calls for civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is justified when the government is working injustice (Thoreau par 4).
Civil disobedience is justified when it is aimed at bring social change. Laws can be unfair and unjust, others violate human rights therefore in such context refusal to adhere to that particular law is justified. Besides that when all attempts to change the unjust law has failed civil disobedience is allowed. Many times people may not be ready to reject the governing law but when the government assume or ignore their cry for justice the only option that remains is civil disobedience. The action of refusing to adhere to the set rules involves going against the law and it is punishable. For this reason when people engage in civil disobedience it means that they are ready to undergo any form of punishment as a way of making their plea or case known. Independence was speeded up using civil disobedience. Civil disobedience can be used to meet the human rights of the people and to bring happiness and prosperity.
Thoreau expressed civil disobedience through his essay “resistance to civil government.”The main idea of Thoreau was self reliance because in his own view people are morally upright therefore there is no need for fighting with the government when it is unjust because it is easy to walk away and not offer the needed support. For example he refused to pay tribute as way of expressing his objection against Mexican-American war and slavery. His action was not taken softly by the government because he was arrested therefore he was ready to make his discontentment known at whatever cost. Other ways that can be used to show discontentment of the people to the government is rioting though it may not be as peaceful as civil disobedience. Therefore there are many occurrences or incidents that can make the people to refuse to adhere to the set laws (Thoreau par 6).
Thoreau explains that the government which governs less is the best government. It is difficult to justify a government because they are not usually helpful. Therefore the conscience is never to be suppressed because of the law because a good nation needs people with clear rightful conscience. Many times voting for justice never yields the desired fruits therefore the best way is to act justly. People have an obligation to act in a just way and they are also not to support unjust acts. Thoreau refused to pay tax because he understood that such a move was directly supporting injustice like slave trade and supporting Mexican war. Political process in respect to the law does not usually bring justice unless action is done that calls for justice. Therefore laws that are unjust do not deserve the respect of the people because they are to be quickly done a way with.
Plato and Socrates are not totally against the government though they show two ways in which civil disobedience can be done. Socrates who is imprisoned is visited by his friend when it is still dawn and the main reason he comes is to give a solution to his friend who is about to be prosecuted. There are some reasons which cannot justify civil disobedience like escaping from the prison or bribery. These are some ways of civil disobedience because escaping from the prison is against the law and heavily punishable. At times people often think that not abiding by the set rules may attract mercy or may make the law to be merciful to the offender. Crito does not offer sufficient reasons for civil disobedience therefore in such situations refusal to abide by the set law should not be allowed. Escaping from prison is not a justifiable reason for breaking the law. That is a more personal reason in relation to disobedient because of violation of human and civil rights. Therefore there are some incidences that cannot justify civil disobedience (Plato par 5).
Civil disobedience violates the set laws and it is therefore punishable though there are situations and circumstances that justify this practice. For example when the law is unjust and out to exploit the human rights of its subject civil disobedience is justified. In the case of King Martin Luther Junior the black Americans were having a difficult time because of the law. They faced all forms of segregation on the basis of color and race and their plea was not listened to. For this reason boycotts were organized as a way of making there complain heard. Despite of the painful treatment that they underwent the people finally secured their freedom to vote. Therefore civil disobedience is justifiable under certain circumstances because it helps to bring the good of all.