When and who should practice civil disobedience? When you think of civil disobedience, readily available names of heroes and inspirations that come to mind are figures like: Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, or perhaps even groups like the Freedom Riders. The method that all of these figures have in common is non-aggressive disobedience, and the cornerstone of civil disobedience is nonviolent resistance. Nonviolent resistance can include such acts as the active refusal to obey certain laws deemed to be unjust, or to refuse to obey certain demands or commands of the government. To be clear, civil disobedience absolutely encompasses the act of disobeying what is deemed to be an unjust law, in other words, simply breaking the law.
“I do feel that there are two types of laws, one is a just law and one is an unjust law. I think we all have moral obligations to obey just laws, and on the other hand I think we have moral obligations to disobey unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. When one breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust, he must do it openly, cheerfully, civilly, and he must do it with a willingness to accept the penalty.” – Martin Luther King Jr
More recently, Iraq veteran and self-proclaimed voluntaryist Adam Kokesh, displayed an act of civil disobedience several months ago when he allegedly brought a loaded gun into Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Kokesh was displaying his discontent with the current administrations attack on civil liberties, and his actions were also disobeying and bringing attention to the frivolity of anti-gun laws. Kokesh is still currently being detained, with his next scheduled court date on October 2nd, 2013.
The government itself, which is the mode with which the people have chosen to collectively execute their will, tends towards abuse and corruption as long as people don’t actively prevent this. Nullification is one legal method of challeging existing laws, and is available to the people in order to keep government power in check (in terms of unjust laws). It affords the people with the ability to acquit an individual if they are being persecuted under an unjust law.
The occupy movement is another recent example of mass civil disobedience, many of those who engaged in any of a variety of occupy events, more than likely found themselves subject to a plethora of police abuse. Millions of individuals have also moved their finances to credit unions instead of the typical big banks in protest of “rip-off” charges and interest rates. The occupy movement has also assisted home owners who have lost their homes, or are scheduled to lose them, due to foreclosure of what they call ”illegal practices” used by banks that take advantage of their consumers. The occupy homes movement “occupies” foreclosed homes, disrupts bank auctions, and also blocks evictions, and they have had a number of successes.
New technology has also assisted the people in their civil disobedience efforts by enabling them to boycott certain products and companies, such as Buycott and Fooducate. Civil disobedience is an effective tactic of the people to enact change where it matters most, and simultaneously set an example for others.
Our government does not grant us our rights, their objective is to merely protect and enforce those rights. And when an individual openly and peacefully disobeys an unjust law, and willingly accepts the consequences for doing so, they bring awareness to the violation and arouse the conscience of the community towards the injustice. Resistance and defiance of the law can be warranted if the government is abusing its authority, and establishing jurisdiction where it shouldn’t be.
With social networking sites and the growing prevalence of the internet, new and innovative tools should make orchestrated disobedience efforts profoundly more productive than they were, even just a decade ago. The people are increasingly recognizing their ability to organize, and to develop innovative and creative ways of seeking the change they desire, and having their voices heard.
“It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” – Samuel Adams
Recently, a new social media rallying call has truckers across America threatening a three day strike in Washington, D.C. Citing government corruption as its main grievance, a Facebook group dubbed “Truckers to Shut Down America” is calling for a three-day general strike set to take place Oct. 11-13. The page has quickly amassed more than 70,000 Facebook “likes” since its launch on Sept. 15. Another page In addition, a “Ride for the Constitution” event page also calls truckers to gather in Washington, D.C., in an effort to “Restore the Constitution, Defund Obamacare, Lower Fuel Prices.” A spokesman for the American Trucking Association (AMA) has dismissed the organization attempt.
“We’re not a sponsor or a supporter, and we certainly don’t condone it,” – AMA spokesman Sean McNally
But, one of the key parts of civil disobedience is not seeking approval from higher ups or people in power. Part of its usefulness is that it shows humans to be capable of independant thought, and can influence major decisions without invoking outright violence to do so. Civil disobedience is a cornerstone of the civil rights and environmental movements, and I shudder to think of how the world would look if it wasn’t used.