Here’s why we should embrace the necessity of civil disobedience
An article on Civil Disobedience as proof of a good citizen
“It is not always the same thing to be a good man
and a good citizen.” - Aristotle
With absolute respect for the ideas of Aristotle, I seem to disagree with his above statement. I do so, only in the way that I perceive a good citizen as one that does not necessarily and strictly adhere by all the laws and civil practices.
Laws are made by humans after all, and they are prone to be wrong, even when dictated by the majority; as with human behavior, they might easily be unjust and immoral.
A good citizen is proof of a good person.
Just to be clear and more politically correct, let me emphasize that my goal is not to offend or judge any good Samaritans, obedient observers and law abiding citizens. But good citizenship requires critical examination of any system that perpetuates injustice. The aim of this article is to constructively criticize and provoke citizens of all nations; and that is why this article might not be sensitive or pleasant to all readers.
According to Henry David Thoreau, civil disobedience is the duty of a good citizen. He also states that a person is not obliged to fight against a structure that perpetuates injustice, but in the very minimum a good man should refuse to participate in such unjust means or institutions. The fight against an unjust society is neither easy nor simple, but refusing to participate is one very impactful and brave first step.
After all,“colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe.” — Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire
Civil disobedience goes far and beyond simple civil resistance. Protests, marches, boycotts all had historically had some impact. But they are still operating under the same unjust laws they are fighting against. They are lawful practices, and easy to follow without risking your everyday life. But civil disobedience is the next step we have to take, when civil resistance is not enough.
It might seem hard to believe but people still have the power to achieve social changes. Every decision, action or inaction is political. Civil disobedience is a political act, of deliberately violating a law for social purposes. That violated law might not always be closely related to the issue we are trying to address. But sometimes it is not easy to directly violate an unjust law, and indirect civil disobedience is also useful when it is against state policies. In the case of indirect disobedience, it is extremely important that the specific act is justified.
Otherwise, we will be no different than outlaws eager to break any law for any reason. Civil disobedients can either actively commit prohibited acts, or passively refuse to conform to unjust laws. In my opinion, civil disobedience should be non violent at all times. We’ve seen repeatedly after all how many times violence undermined a just, important and moral cause.
It is also important to acknowledge the fact that civil disobedients are not afraid of sacrifice. They do not flee or resist arrest; being arrested means that they respect they power of the laws, and in the meanwhile draws attention to the issue. Famous recent and good example is the Extinction Rebellion. Their goal is justified by the common good, their actions are non violent and they are not resisting attempt for the deliberate violation of some laws.
To conclude, I personally suggest that if you, after reading the article, aim to ever become a civil disobedient you should first ask yourself a question. Do you prioritize your cause and duty to your conscience, to your need to feel belonging in the society?
The importance of the question is apparent when one realizes the potential consequences of civil disobedience. Sometimes, the society will not immediately see the justification behind your actions and treat you as their enemy. However in these moments you fight as a good citizen, individually or collectively, for change and for what you think is right. And in these moments, for as long as it’s needed, you need to be brave and not afraid to be treated as the enemy of a society you wish to see change.