Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

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Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience

According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, civil disobedience is the deliberate breaking of a law by ordinary citizens, carried out as nonviolent protest or passive resistance. Henry David Thoreau, author of Civil Disobedience, had idealistic motives. He visualized a perfect government, free of harm, fault, and malfunction. Of course, this government he spoke of was purely off his needs, failing to review or analyze the needs of his fellow citizens. In accusing the reader, Thoreau obtained the reactions he wanted. Raised eyebrows, negative feedback, debates, and retorting, were the resulting factors. The disputes sparked are endless. “The authority of government is still an impure one.” This statement suggests Thoreau recognized that the government was not liable to revolutionize. In spite of this, he erects a disgraceful depiction of the reader, and presents it. Obliterating the observer’s self-esteem, he conveys amusement, and portrays the indignity that they will forever undergo. “Through this wound a man’s real manhood and immorality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death.” Using the same strategy, Thoreau highlights subject to shame as far more catastrophic than materialistic loss. The outcome of this irrational strategy leads to grudges, resentment, loathing and further argumentation, defeating the purpose to begin with.

“Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?” By this, we all know Thoreau is accentuating his own needs, rather than those of the majority, because as he has already stated, “A majority are permitted.” Instead of distinguishing the fact that the “majority” of people are satisfied with the government formation, he insists on irritating them and trying to change their motives, in reproofing the fulfilled ambitions they have accomplished, and hopes for tomorrow. His unawareness in this and other perspectives are clearly visible. Believing his thoughts are superior, it is tempting to conclude that Thoreau likes to imagine himself as a divine power, to say the least. “There will never be a really free and enlightened State, until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, and treats him accordingly.” Vainly referring to his “type,” he concludes the essay with the hope that people will recognize individualism, and reconsider the mainstream government. Overlooking the calamity that is sure to fall into play, if in fact, his matchless society is reached.

Thoreau's essay, “Civil Disobedience," was an exceptional way of educating the public on why they should not settle for a less than perfect government. His credence in demanding an improved government was a great reminder that Thomas Jefferson insisted that it was our "duty, to throw off" an unsatisfactory government in the Declaration of Independence. Thoreau's essay also explained why people choose not to do anything about it.

Thoreau stated that people "cannot spare the protection of the existing government, and they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it". So it makes sense that most people would not be willing to risk losing their property, family, or life. However, we should not feel this way, because Jefferson also stated that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed." Jefferson then went on and stated "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institute new Government". It is not as if people do not have problems with the government. We protest the same things that Thoreau did: paying for wars, services that we personally do not use, corruption in our government, etc. Yet our society today does not use productive means to invoke our "Right of the People" and demand a "better government".

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