Sophocles And Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

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The democratic system found in the United States is heavily slanted to the majority; their convictions are often implemented in legislation and used as the standard by which things are measured. Henry David Thoreau argues in “Civil Disobedience” that majorities are not right simply by virtue of being the majority. Thoreau clearly favors the individual and his convictions when he claims that “if a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man” (Thoreau). As Thoreau’s claims idealize the individual they also diminish the role of the government. Similar progressions can be found in Antigone, penned by Sophocles centuries earlier. Standing in contrast to both Sophocles and Thoreau is Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham…show more content…
Martin Luther King advocates collective action in his civil disobedience movement. Similar to Thoreau, Dr. King respects what the law is capable of, but has every intention of making sure that equality is achieved, as “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” ( 4). King embodies the idea that all sentient beings are connected and writes that they are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” ( 4). Dr. King attempts to move everyone to correct the injustice of racial discrimination by illustrating how everyone is connected to the problem and thus has a responsibility to repair the situation. Like Thoreau, Dr. King feels that there is an innate good in all people, and knows that the collective cannot idly sit by while their compatriots are done an injustice. At the exact same time, however, Dr. King is aware of the effects of psychological deindividuation found in group settings when he acknowledges that “groups tend to be more immoral than individuals” ( 12). This statement is more an attack on the white oppressors than anything else. Through deindividuation, Dr. King reduces his opponents to faceless masses incapable of thinking for themselves, but rather are subject to the mob mentality. Dr. King recognizes that this is a potential flaw in collective action, but the justice pursued by his movement prevents his collective from such ill effects. Dr. King’s affinity for collective action is largely due to the nature of his problem. Just as Gandhi in India did, when faced with ridiculous oppression, King moves people to nonviolently protest such oppression. When the oppressors violently crack down, the lunacy of the oppression is made apparent and realized by the masses. Dr. King uses group action to reveal to the larger group to poor state of
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