The Imperfect Society: Justifying Civil Disobedience

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Kevin Kuo Prof. McCormick English 1C 12 May 2014 The Imperfect Society: Justifying Civil Disobedience What exactly justifies civil disobedience? Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey laws perceived as unjust by an individual or a group of individuals. It is considered to be a form of nonviolent resistance in order to force amendments to such unjust laws. If plotted on a spectrum representing criminal levels of protest, from pacifist obedience to violent revolution, civil disobedience would land at the midpoint. Although some say that nothing justifies civil disobedience, nevertheless civil disobedience is always justified because of inalienable rights, free will, conscience, and the general will. Civil disobedience itself is an…show more content…
First, without civil resisters, the will of the people is weak and simply a stew of thoughts. A civil protest unifies public opinion. When one stands up for himself and violates a policy against authority, others with similar backgrounds and beliefs will undoubtedly question the fairness of the policy. Thoreau asserts, “if ten men only – ay, if one honest man in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold saves, were actually to withdraw from his copartnership and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America” (186). Thoreau implies that as long as one moral person can stand up for himself, others will follow and eventually force change. Second, civil disobedience is a method of political engagement: its goal must be aimed at bringing the law into conformity with the requirements of justice. No civil state is perfect – all contracts have compromises and flaws. As a united people of a state, it must have its general will parallel to the path of justice to ensure freedom and equality. Therefore, the general will of the people requires that laws be amended to reflect morality and justice. Only through civil disobedience can this be achieved; blindly obeying unjust laws will only enforce unjustified public opinion. Although some argue that the general will of the people can be accurately portrayed by a government entity without…show more content…
Although an ideal society is impossible, with civil disobedience, unjust laws may be abolished one at a time. Works Consulted Gandhi, Mahatma. “The Non-Violent Society.” Great Interdisciplinary Ideas: A Reader for Writers. Ed. William Vestermann. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008. 208-12. Print. Gandhi, Mohandas K. “Aspects of Non-Violent Resistance.” Great Writing: A Reader for Writers. Eds. Harvey S Weiner and Nora Eisenberg. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001. 477-80. Print. Jefferson, Thomas. “The Declaration of Independence.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 7th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 75-84. Print. King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Three Kinds of Oppression.” Great Writing: A Reader for Writers. Eds. Harvey S Weiner and Nora Eisenberg. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001. 629-31. Print. Locke, John. “The Social Contract.” Ideas Across Time: Classic and Contemporary Readings for Composition. Ed. Igor Webb. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. 348-53.
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