En 209 Civil Disobedience Critical Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By lgwyse
Words 1563
Pages 7
Lloyd Wyse
Melissa Hull
EN 209-014
April 18, 2012
Critical Essay: Civil Disobedience Civil disobedience is the active refusal to comply with certain laws or demands of a government, such as paying fines or taxes. Although it is not necessarily on-violent, it has classically been attributed to nonviolent resistance. The etymological origin of the term is from Henry David Thoreau’s essay Resistance to Government, written in 1849, which was eventually renamed to Essay on Civil Disobedience. Since its republication in 1866, Thoreau’s essay has inspired many important activists over the course of history. Its messages have resonated within countless people unsatisfied or disgusted with the law of the land; one of the most prominent lessons it teaches is that an unjust government can only be corrected by the defiance of its people. As long as there is an imperfect government, there will be a need for civil disobedience. Citizens of nations from all over the globe still read and learn from Civil Disobedience because even in modern times a perfect government does not exist.
In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau prompts the reader to take direct action against injustice. He argues that the government is a representative of corruption and injustice that, like a machine, fuels the enabling of its wrongdoings through enforcement of law. He states that an individual’s silent compliance with the law is essentially the same as cooperation with injustices that the lawmaker commits. In particular, he points out that paying taxes directly funds the actions and capabilities of the State; Thoreau himself is imprisoned for a period of time for his refusal to pay a poll tax, knowing a percentage of the taxes would endow purposes he disagreed with. In his time, the government’s chief crimes were slavery and the war in Mexico. He links the funding from seemingly unrelated taxes the law…...

Similar Documents

Pro Civil Disobedience

...Pro Civil Disobedience Civil disobedience is a righteous way for a person or a group to make their point to the world. Great leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Dr. MLK) and Mohandas K. Gandhi (Gandhi) harnessed the idea and brought it to its prominence. Civil disobedience in its purest form is a particularly strong concept because it requires a self-purification process. This process enlightens civil resisters to the reality of longsuffering for a cause without any type of retaliation. Also, there are arguments against civil disobedience. One such argument is “wait” because change will come. Another is that civil disobedience precipitates violence. These arguments are extremely weak. Because of these weak arguments along with the strong concept of self-purification, I am a proponent of civil disobedience. Dr. MLK was a firm believer in the self-purification process. In Letter from Birmingham Jail, he speaks of undertaking a process of self-purification. “We began a series of workshops on nonviolence and we repeatedly asked ourselves: ‘Are you able to accept blows without retaliation?’ ‘Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail (King 158)?’” Dr. MLK knew that in order to appeal to the public, they must endure the punishment without retaliation. This is explained when he says, “Laying out our case before the conscience of the local and national community (King 158).” Dr. MLK had a grasp on the notion that if his people were to become violent,......

Words: 732 - Pages: 3

Hacktivism & Civil Disobedience

...TomMendez Hacktivism and Civil Disobedience Hacktivism, though preferred by hackers and hacktivists to be kept without a definition, is generally thought of as hacking for a political cause. Hackers, those who have deep knowledge and understanding of the Internet and computer systems and networks, thrive on the openness and freedom the internet provides. Steven Levy’s “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution” published nearly three decades ago outlines the hacker’s creeds: 1. Access to computers should be unlimited and total. 2. All information should be free. 3. Mistrust authority – promote decentralization. 4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position. 5. You create art and beauty on a computer. 6. Computers can change your life for the better. The operating system Linux, still widely used today, was created to conform to this ethical code. Linux pioneer Richard Stallman with the help of Linus Torvalds developed the GNU/Linux operating system. The software was made available under the General Public License, nicknamed “copyleft” (as opposed to copyright), meaning that the software was free to have and modify for anyone so long as users make the source freely available to others. This has created an open global community that “thrives on the free flow and sharing of information” (metac0m 1). Metac0m, the editor of The Hacktivist Magazine tells us “Hackers abhor censorship.......

Words: 1801 - Pages: 8

Civil Disobedience

...Civil Disobedience Civil Disobedience was a common topic between Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Each of these historic figures had varying views on what should be accepted in the light of civil disobedience. Thoreau felt that there should be a more violent take on what you believed in, while Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. felt that the people should have a peaceful nonviolent protest. The views of these offers vary due to the time period but they are all based on the same idea, civil disobedience. Thoreau, Gandhi, and King Jr. all expressed their views of civil disobedience differently. In Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”, he expressed his own ideas of civil disobedience with his words and actions. He showed his disagreement with the government’s policies by refusing to pay his taxes, and not reacting to how he was treated when he was jailed for the night. He believed that “the government is best which governs least” (Thoreau 392). In saying this he means that he would like to see a government that does not control the people harshly and lets them express their thoughts freely. Hare and Madden believe that civil disobedience should be “directed specifically to exert pressure that is likely to change an unjust situation” (Parker 37). While Thoreau suggests a more forceful approach, Gandhi hopes for a passive approach, Gandhi suggests a more peaceful approach when dealing with civil disobedience. He believes that if the people use force to acquire......

Words: 669 - Pages: 3

Martin Luther King's Civil Disobedience

...hatred toward their race in America. In Birmingham, Alabama, the most segregated community in the country, Dr. King viewed more hatred toward his people than anywhere else. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” he did not seek to solve all issues through writing, but to give the “white man” a general consensus of the situation and seek their understanding, not only as a civil rights advocate, but as a “Clergyman and Christian Brother.” The African-American community sought to negotiate peacefully with the city fathers, but they refused. The question then arose: Why they did not turn to violent action after the constant failure of nonviolent negotiation? Dr. King understood that, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” otherwise meaning that the only way civil disobedience can be successful is if the oppressor recognizes it as a volatile action against their past actions. If the African American community began using violence as their means of gaining grounds in the civil rights race, the oppressor would have simply turned the violence against them. This can be compared to the Native Americans attempting to stop the government from forcing them away from their land using bows and arrows, while the military had guns and bombs. Regardless of the determination and will power the African Americans possessed, if they had attempted violent......

Words: 1139 - Pages: 5

Civil Disobedience

...Civil Disobedience [1] I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least";(1) and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war,(2) the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure. [2]    This American government — what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary...

Words: 4281 - Pages: 18

The Bhagavad- Gita: Influence on Civil Disobedience Advocates

...Ivyanne London Dr. Bryan English 2010 7 December 2012 The Bhagavad- Gita: Influence on Civil Disobedience Advocates Civil disobedience can be described as the nonviolent means of bringing about social change. The Bhagavad- Gita is a philosophical poem that attempts to ask difficult questions of universal issues that deal with the topic of civil disobedience. The messages that are told throughout the poem have had major influences on civil disobedience advocates such as Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. This work offers explanations that can be applied to dilemmas that can’t be resolved with a simple form of action. According to the Theosophical Society of America, The Bhagavad- Gita, commonly known as the “Gita” has been passed back and forth between America and India through these civil disobedience activists. They each had influences on each other along with the Gita. Some reoccurring themes that may have influenced Thoreau, Gandhi, and King include questions about the right way to live, seeking higher knowledge, and how no action is still a form of action. The version of The Bhagavad- Gita that is told in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 3rd edition, begins with the moment of crisis in Arjuna’s mind. Arjuna is the middle son of his five brothers who are apart of the Pandavas. He is apart of the warrior caste and is the most skilled and feared archer of his time. They are about to engage in war with their cousins, the Kauravas,......

Words: 1781 - Pages: 8

Civil Disobedience

...Neguisa Sheikhpour Civil Disobedience In his essay, “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau discusses the injustice of the government and how it wrongfully forces people to do its will. Thoreau believes “that government is best which governs not at all,” but he also acknowledges that government serves a purpose. He writes, “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation I which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.” Thoreau realizes that society is not ready to live free government control but he sees that people are blindly obeying authority without listening to their conscience. It is not enough for one to have the right opinion, one must take action against what they consciously believe is wrong. According to Thoreau, there are three ways to deal with unjust laws: ignore our own opinions and obey the laws, obey the laws while trying to change them, or break the laws and accept the consequences. Thoreau admits that it is not practical for everyone to fight the government but he asks those people “at least, to wash his hands of and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give is practically his support.” There is no problem with respecting the law, but when the law is so wrong and so unjust, people have a duty and obligation to make it right. Some would say that Thoreau is an anarchist because of his reference to a “government that is best which governs not at all,” but......

Words: 346 - Pages: 2

Civil Disobedience

...In Antigone, Sophocles presents a perfect example of civil disobedience. Antigone does what she feels she morally needs to do, no matter the consequences that she will be faced with afterwards. She disobeys the laws of state in order to be true to herself. Fate deals Antigone a bad hand, but she is able to stand up for what she believes in and give her brother what she feels that he rightly deserves. After Antigone’s brothers kill each other fighting over the power to rule, Creon becomes the new ruler. He sees Polynices as a traitor because Polynices brought in troops to attack Thebes. Creon does not feel he deserves a proper religious burial; He forbids anyone to burying Polynices. Creon thinks his body should just rot instead. Burial was very important in this time because they believed a proper burial was essential for afterlife. Antigone thinks her brother deserves to be buried and she will not let anything stop her from giving Polynices a proper burial. Antigone is following her moral compass and disregarding Creon’s opinions on the matter. It is important that Antigone was a hero and stood up for what she believed. Civil disobedience is doing what is morally justified even if it does break laws of the state. Civil disobedience is necessary for change to occur. Without people, or heroes, like Antigone, government or even life would never improve. Some rules are meant to be broken. Government is meant to be for the people, but sometimes laws can only......

Words: 491 - Pages: 2

Critical Essay

...Clarissa English 1B Essay #1 05/04/2014 “Lust” The the short story “Lust” by Susan Minot is about teenage sex, written in a first person point of view. The main character of the story is the narrator herself. She describes herself in terms of her relationship with other people, mostly boys, to build the character instead of describing her physical appearance as a sexually active girl who lives in a co-ed dorm. It’s not like a typical story where the writer describes how the character’s eyes, hair, and body look like. She does not even reveal her name in the story. Although the narrator is reliable in telling the story as a first person “I”, she sometimes uses “you”, which makes the story less reliable. Readers can only imagine what she looks like; however, we as readers know how she feels. The narrator does not provide descriptions about her feelings and emotions in the first few paragraphs. She tells readers stories about her experience sleeping with different boys emotionlessly, making no sense at all to readers what she is trying to tell us. Each experience has little descriptions, proving that her relationship with those boys is not that intense. For example, in her experience with Tim, she describes herself as “…then came back to me, a body waiting on a rug” (229) and she also admits “They held the door of the goat house and wouldn’t let us out till we showed them our underpants” (231). It implies that she is so vulnerable of herself to boys in her life. She has no...

Words: 856 - Pages: 4

Civil Disobedience

...crossing lines and getting in trouble, but can also be one the most effective way to get noticed. If an opinion is not being noticed, citizens can make it a priority to be heard because without a voice there can be no guidelines. In government, boundaries are needed to lead its citizens towards a righteous path; however, if a citizen leans toward another path of righteousness a voice is needed to be heard. Citizens should not be lurking in the shadows and keeping an opinion bottled up to never be heard. If an idea or belief gets shot down, a citizen can try again to make their idea noticed. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses civil disobedience in “ Letter from Birmingham Jail,” as “ Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (173). Although civil disobedience can alter life drastically, it does not mean to continue on the path of insanity, but to stand up for what you believe is just. While standing up for justice is admirable, however, it is not always easy. In Iran, the government can take disciplinary action towards its citizens striking fear and panic into their souls. In the book The Complete Persepolis written by Marjane Satrapi, in which she discusses a hectic life in Iran. In chapter fourteen “The Wine,” Satrapi discusses how the government takes disciplinary action towards the citizens who chose to rebel by having a party. The citizens found at the party are...

Words: 924 - Pages: 4

Civil Disobedience in Gotham City

...Batman’s Civil Disobedience in Gotham city Hugo A. Sanchez English 102 10/24/14 Abstract In this paper, I argue that the film and comic Batman the Dark Knight Returns, can be compared to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience in the way that Batman disobeys the law by returning back to Gotham city and fighting crime. I also show that Batman displays civil disobedience when he does his best to protect Gotham city and fight the government, promising to never give up. I show that, much like Thoreau, Batman is solitary and engages in his own war by himself against the police department, criminals, and army. Just as Thoreau willingly goes to jail for his beliefs about the Mexican War, Batman fights for what he believes to be right, not only for him, but for the people of Gotham city. Batman’s Civil Disobedience in Gotham City When corruption arises, there is always a person who questions the injustice. Acts of civil disobedience are shown in modern society today, whether in society or through the media. Many individuals who are portrayed as heroes are people who break the law and fight for the power and authority that the citizens have lost due to their rights being taken away. A person must be able to accept the outcomes and consequences of their own actions when they disobey. Being civilly disobedient is not only about breaking a law. The actions of these individuals spread ideas. In the end, the outcome of the struggle may involve a change in a law like the way......

Words: 2529 - Pages: 11

Psychoanalytical Essay on Civil Disobedience

...In Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, his argument is “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.” Revolutionary writing characteristics would be finding a voice of your own and being independent. Some evidence of that in this quote would be that the quote is saying to be independent and do what you believe is right and screw the law. Even though the Stamp Act was the law it wasn’t right so the people of Boston had a Revolutionary idea to fight back. That was what gave our independence. We followed what we believed was right and started a revolution with it. Romantic writing was started when there was this shift from faith in reason to faith in feelings, senses, and imagination. It was about being free and trusting your instinct. Like in Moulin Rouge, the main character wanted to be a writer so he followed his gut, moved to France, and believed in love to inspire his righting. Evidence of Romantic writing characteristics in the quote would be that you follow your gut and do what you have faith in as right. The law was reason. Following what you believed as right instead was the shift. Transcendental writing was belief in nature, less need for objects, more focus on the inner self, and self-reliance. Transcendentalism was the belief that knowledge could be derived not just trust through the senses, but through intuition and contemplation of the......

Words: 505 - Pages: 3

Critical Essay

...Creative Critical Essay On tonight’s Radio Show we are joined by one of the most credited screenwriters of our generation, Peter Moffat, to discuss his mesmerizing, gripping version of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Throughout the film it manages to hold on to many important foundations of the text and also captivates an audience from young to old; thanks to his modernised and current adaption. Peter welcome to our show. It’s an honour. So what made you decide the setting of the story should be in a high-end restaurant? Yes! My team and I sat down thinking, how can we make this adaptation different from others? How can we add a contemporary spark into this gory story? And then we thought, “O yes a restaurant will be good” then we went from there. This is the era of TV chefs where all your family follow recipes from the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Heston Blumenthal. It is something easy to understand and show the story’s themes of blood which symbolizes the guilt like a stain on the Macbeth’s conscience. We thought there’s no other environment that can translate Macbeth in a modern way better than a restaurant kitchen as Shakespeare’s Macbeth was a soldier who slaughtered others at war, so we made a modernised scene of the chef, Macbeth chopping up a pigs head, showing the similarities. Peter, the audience and I realises you tried to answer one of the greatest Shakespearean mysteries, did the Macbeths ever have a child? Yes, I think the audience pick upon this whilst......

Words: 502 - Pages: 3

Civil Disobedience

...used on them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that even organic crops could be sprayed as long as pesticides were deemed “natural”. Americans had been using chemicals on produces since World War II and continuously used until the first strike took place, the Delano Grape Strike. This first protest was held in order to expose the risk in consuming intoxicated grapes. Pesticides not only affect the consumers, but also water, air, and soil. Cesar believed that five of the most dangerous pesticides used in grapes production should be banned because they caused health issues and may lead to death. In Cesar Chavez's Wrath of the Grapes Boycott, given in 1986 in Austin, Texas at a community center farm worker, labor leader and civil right activist Cesar regarding the harmful of agriculture in California, five of the leading pesticides should be banned of use in grapes and any crops. Several reports came out from The New York Times, stated that, "nearly 1,000 California, Pacific Northwest, Alaskan, and Canadian consumers became ill as the result of eating watermelons tainted with the powerful insecticide Aldicarb,” He, then, continued, “labeled the most acutely toxic pesticide registered in the United States." It shows the loophole on the regulations of the use of pesticides. Even though, it was one of the most toxic, unaware consumers were able to purchase those contaminated produces. One of the reports came from the Environmental Protection Agency stating that......

Words: 839 - Pages: 4

Critical Essay

...skill” said Rich Jawuak at Gawker. Carrie, the series' deeply troubled main character, makes Homeland a nobler and richer character study than the average TV thriller, and her character's nature raises intriguing questions about whether the U.S. needs to rely on brilliant but unpredictable wild cards in order to combat terrorism. It portrays Islam accurately: Homeland may be about terrorism from the Middle East, but it's also a show that "sees the beauty of Islam rather than reducing it to a geopolitical force," says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. Nick Brody is a converted Muslim, and the episode ends as he and his daughter bury a Koran that was desecrated after touching the floor. It's impressive to see a TV show that makes Islam a critical point of a main character's identity, and takes pains to ensure that its depictions of the religion are accurate. Homeland is not just a remarkable drama about post 911. It is also a remarkable drama, in its own subtle, sophisticated way, about being a young professional woman in 2012. The fact that no one ever obsesses over Carrie Mathison's gender is precisely the point. Almost every television show with a strong female protagonist derives a lot of its drama from the tension between motherhood, wifedom, and work. But Homeland doesn't put Carrie in that box; it is a totally different show (Tucker, 2012). Homeland was definitely written for the type of person who loves action, because this perfectly timed and addictive thriller......

Words: 756 - Pages: 4