Civil Disobedience Analysis

Topics: Civil disobedience, Federal government of the United States, Henry David Thoreau Pages: 3 (1005 words) Published: March 29, 2009
“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 (Thoreau, 241),” says Thoreau in his opening to “Civil Disobedience.” The American government is just an expedient or the means to an end. We, the American people, have developed a system in which the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. For it is not the government that educates or protects our freedom, but individuals (241). Our government, our system, shows us just how proficient we have become in intruding on our neighbors as well as ourselves, all for our own advantage. This leads us to a state of existence that is not reliant wholly on the self.

It seems that in the eyes of Thoreau, the government curbs the use of the human conscience. “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think we should be men first, and subjects afterward (242).” Thoreau depicts the government turning its men into machines, using their bodies for its “greater good.” Through this mechanization, the system steals the right to individual life and personal experience. It is in the name of the government that we must pay give reverence and make our own way (247). Thoreau pushed for men to live as a “counter friction” to the machine (244). It was the idea that if two forces opposed each other with such force, they would eventually wear each other down, smoothing each other’s surfaces, making for compromise. Thoreau urges men not to let their minds be dulled by the “daily grind” of the machine, but to think for themselves. It is not every man’s purpose to go out and fix all social injustice, but it is everyman’s job to make sure that he is not promoting the injustice through his lifestyle (247). Thoreau himself exemplified his ideals of civil disobedience when he knowingly refused to pay his poll...
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