Civil disobedience is
nonviolent resistance manif...
Martin Luther King and Socrates on Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience is
nonviolent resistance manifested by an active, perceived refusal to obey
certain laws, demands, or commands of a government. It involves the symbolic
violation of a particular law and not a rejection of an entire system.
Individuals that engage in civil disobedience often than not found themselves
on the wrong end of the law. It is because, those in power feel threatened by
such acts and feel the need to enforce the law at all cost. It has led to the
branding of a civil disobedient individual as an enemy to the state and not the
hero and martyr they are to the society. It is a concept that has historically
led to controversy and hence the perceptions that we hold about it. However,
analyzing the arguments and the historical outcomes of the civil disobedience
movements, it is clear that it is an avenue that brings better than harm to the
society in the long run. The paper below is an analysis of arguments in support
of the justness of civil disobedience backed by the writings of Plato in the
Crito and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.
In most cases, civil
disobedience is the only option that individuals remain with to get the
attention of the government. We can be fast to judge the civil disobedient as
being radical and rush in making decisions. However, the changes that the civil
movements over the years have affected are not imaginable in any other way. In
most scenarios, the individuals left with no option following failed
negotiations for social change. It is widely known that an oppressor cannot
give up freedom to the oppressed on a silver platter. Historically, it has not
happened, and it is bound not to happen in the present. Martin Luther King, Jr
points out that the whole point of civil disobedience is to make it impossible
for the authorities to ignore the cries of the marginalized African Americans.
He even documents that all the negotiations and promises given to them in the
past were not fulfilled. In fact, the black people had waited for change for over
300 years, and none was forthcoming and hence the need for civil disobedience.
King states that the intention was to create a “Non-violent tension that is
constructive and necessary for growth.” An issue reiterated by Socrates when he
stated that there is a need to create tension in the minds of the people to
stir them to think and make creative appraisals learn the truth. It is the
social tension brought by disobedience that prompts the needed change in the
end since the authorities cannot ignore blocked streets and a direct threat to
their power and influence.
In some cases, the laws
that govern people are inconsistent with their beliefs and hence are wrong. It
is wrong to follow blindly laws just because we want peace. It is because;
human beings are social and moral beings, guided by our morals. At times, laws
are made to suit particular groups and their interests at the expense of the
common interests of the people which poses a threat to social order/. It is,
therefore, important not to follow laws blindly even when they conflict the
beliefs interests of the people. King states that it is worse to accept
negative peace just for the sake of avoiding social dissonance. Justice is more
on what is right regardless of what the outcomes are hence some laws are
unjust. The unjust laws need to be changed under all circumstances. In the
Crito, Socrates is willing to die for what he believes in and outwardly states
that he will continue to tell people the truth. He acknowledges the need to
follow laws, and that is why he did escape from prison even when he had a
chance. He insists on following laws that are just and not the wrong ones.
There is a need to engage in civil disobedience to be able to uncover such
hidden injustice in the laws that we follow.
Civil violence is an avenue
to avert a possible civil violence and even civil wars in some instances. In
the letter by King, he stated, “the oppressed cannot remain oppressed forever.”
It is a fact proved by history and in most cases, if people realize that nothing
is changing, they become frustrated and desperate resulting to violence. The
tension that exists because of unjust laws may be hidden with the government or
those in power suppressing any form of resistance. However, it gets to appoint
where individuals cannot watch the injustice any longer and may focus their
anger on violent acts against those they feel are oppressing them. Therefore,
the civil disobedience is a crucial way to unmask and offer people a way to
bring out their frustrations and anger nonviolently. King reports of the civil
movements that had come up with very violent ways as a way to revenge the
humiliation faced by the white people. He documents that with the civil
disobedience he offered an alternative to the people to let out their anger and
speak out. Similarly, Socrates insists on following the laws at all times but
not to accept the wrong ones, and he did not result in other alternatives such
as escaping from prison. Civil disobedience creates tension but in the
non-violent form to push those in power to offer audience and ultimately social
change that is far better and cheaper way to resolve the problem than if they
resulted in violence.
Civil disobedience in its
respect is not a crime at all. It is because, it involves the exercising of the
democratic rights of a citizen to demonstrate or speak out. What amounts to
crimes in civil disobedience are the acts that may be forbidden by law such as
blocking roads, trespassing, and disturbing peace. It makes even the judges not
to punish the disobedient the same way that they would punish another offender
that commits a similar crime such as disturbing peace or trespass. Breaking the
law is a clear signal of being contrary to the authority mostly in pursuit of
their audience for possible negotiation and resolution. King acknowledge the
fact that his acts would lead to some form of legal action against him, and
that is why he accepts his fate of ending up in jail as a result of his intense
campaign and disobedience. A case was accepted by Socrates when he chooses to
face the law with the jury sentencing him to death than dropping his course.
In conclusion, it is
imperative to accept that civil disobedience is one essential tool that the
public and the citizens hold against any form of oppression by their leaders.
It is because; a majority of those in power may make laws that suit personal
gains and those of the minority at the expense of the public. However, with
civil disobedience, it is a proven tool to bring about social change without
resulting in violence or further harm to the people. It may be a route that has
some price to pay for the disobedient but is an effective method of ensuring
social change and fostering justice for the people. Therefore, social
disobedience is a justifiable means to achieve change.