The active and professed disobedience
of some law...
Civil Disobedience: Is breaking of bad laws Justifiable?
The active and professed disobedience
of some laws is what is referred to as the Civil disobedience in the present
past. However, Socrates in the Crito was categorical that it is still breaking
the law. Civil disobedience has been linked with non-violent demands by the
majority of the people against any form of oppression or denial of what the
majority feel is their right. Civil disobedience is a classic symbol of
violation of the law and not objection f the system in its entirety but rather
by certain laws. It is an issue that Socrates in the Crito refuses to submit to
since he believes that one should never break the laws regardless whether the
law is right or bad. It is an issue that also presented increased controversy
with other philosophers and also leaders over the course of time insinuating
that some laws are wrong and need to be broken at all cost. Socrates was in
jail when Crito presented an opportunity for his escape into exile (Kamtekar, 50-65).
According to Crito and also in agreement with Socrates, it would cause a lot of
anguish to the majority of the people that adored him if he was killed by the
state hence needed to escape. Socrates in agreement with the suffering of the
majority but still refused to escape holding his position that breaking the law
despite whether it is bad is not right at all. It is a position that was
seemingly not held by others such Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X and Martin Luther
King Jnr who used Civil disobedience to fight for what was good for the people
100). The issue brings a lot of controversy
to date to individuals. However, my position is that the Socrates’ standpoint
is too rigid, and it is justifiable to break some of the bad laws to the
majority, just as was demonstrated by Gandhi and below I will show why.
Socrates was one of the most
inspirational philosophers in his right from his time and also to date.
However, his position that there is no breaking of the law that is justifiable
is one that raises a lot of contention to date. In his argument, the breaking
of any law that is instituted by the state is a bigger crime in as much as it
is intended to stop a crime against the majority. In his moral reasoning, he
asserts that it is not right to break the bad laws. Crito argues that the
opinion of the many would be that he needed to be helped escape (Kamtekar, 60).
However, Socrates points out that some of the views are wrong in themselves
awhile others are right, and hence there is a need to make the right
opinion. He asserts that to split
between correct and wrong opinions; he introduces the use of reason and
argument to get the actual truth and therefore, insinuates that the majority
are not always right. In his assertion, one should never do wrong of which
breaking any law is in it wrong. He also asserts on the need to live right. He
also asserts one should keep agreements such as the laws. He enters into a
dialogue with the laws and says that the laws are just and not at fault, but it
is those that made them that are not just and on the right (Kamtekar, 50-72).
However, there is still need to follow them and not do an injustice to the laws
through breaking them. He also asserts that the opinion of the many cannot
always be followed since few are wise and use moral reasoning among the many
hence one need to base their decisions to join or otherwise refuse to adhere to
the majority in some arguments.
Some cases require that the law is
broken at all costs to protect the interest of the majority. If Mahatma Gandhi
had not led a civil disobedience movement, then India would have never got its
independence since it is this that put pressure on the British to liberate the
people. Gandhi once stated, “An unjust law is itself a species of violence.
Arrest for its breach is more so (Bilgrami, 80).” It means that some of the
laws are not just at all, yet the laws are intended to offer justice and
protect the interests of the majority. The laws are also made for the people by
the people according to the doctrines of democracy, and therefore, if the majorities
feel that such laws are no longer working they are at liberty to alter change
them. If those in power also sue laws to oppress the people, then the people
are at liberty to break and change such laws (Bilgrami, 87). Socrates may have
firmly held the view that one should never break a law or rather he opposed any
form of civil disobedience. However, he explicitly breaks his rules in the case
that he did not conform to the masses. It is in “The Apology” that Socrates
questions the social order because he believes it is not right. It is also he
continued violation of the law by doing what those in power had warned against
that landed him in prison and accused of inciting the people against the
governance. He, therefore, did not conform with the same standpoint that he so
passionately defended and even died defending. Socrates’ assertion that the
majority are not always right is like his rebellion against democracy which institutes
rules that are meant to be favorable among the majority. He is, therefore,
contravening with the beliefs of the majority. It is civil disobedience and the
breaking of bad laws that has brought change and liberation among people from
bad governance over the course of history (Lewis, 110).
Civil disobedience or the breaking of
the bad laws is viewed by those that are guided by the Socratic view as being
morally wrong since they do an injustice on the laws that are not at fault but
those that instituted them are the ones who are unjust. Breaking a bad law is
directly contravening on the law and is illegal, and therefore, there is no
justification for breaking a law to protect another law (Lewis,
105). However, it is imperative that the
Socratic philosophers realize that the majority made such laws in the first
place and therefore, should only serve to protect the interest of the majority.
If such laws are no longer functional at protecting the interest of the
majority, then they are no longer useful as laws and hence should be broken.
Furthermore, the laws may have been contravened by a section of the leadership.
It thus, does not mean that the resistance is directly on the legislative
system but in the particular areas that may be oppressive. Civil disobedience
does not mean dismantling the entire system but just reinforcing the existing
systems to be more supportive to the majority and also accommodative. Moreover,
the laws are intended to serve the people and not the people to serve the laws
and therefore, there is no such injustice to such bad laws if broken.
In conclusion, in the essay, I have
demonstrated the high level of rigidity in the laws of Socrates and also showed
that it is justifiable to break some of the laws to safeguard the interests of
the majority. There are several cases that Civil disobedience or the breaking
of the bad laws has surmounted to further advantage and benefits to the
citizens that had previously been oppressed by such laws. Moreover, it has
apparently come out that the laws are meant to serve the people who are the
majority and not a section of the individuals and that there is no injustice on
such laws if broken, there is the only injustice if such laws that cause
oppression to the majority are upheld.