IS CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE JUSTIFIED?
“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment". 1
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."2 History has shown us through the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. who went against the greater power of their time to fight for injustice. These few respectable men made that difference that the world needed at that time and upheld the very principle of democracy to its roots. It goes without saying that citizen participation to make a country’s democracy as legitimate and true is of paramount importance. With reference to United States’ Bill of Rights, it asserts that the government derives authority from the consent of its people, and with the dysfunctionality of the government, it falls upon the people as their right and duty to change the government,3 as it is believed that with the dysfunctionality, the government has failed its fundamental duties to its people.4 When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty, 5and our duty as people leads us to civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is perhaps the most indefinite act of resistance, with a long history that could be traced from the time of Socrates,6 without a clearly established common definition regarding its form and scope throughout any academia. This could stem from the very nature of the act of the resistance which is seems to lie between regular legal protest and the act of revolution. However for the purpose of arguing the justification of civil disobedience, a rather aspirational definition is adopted with adaption of the definition given by John Rawls, whereby civil disobedience is considered to be a breach of law which is public, non-violent and conscientious which is aimed upon changing laws or policies made by the government. 7
The major justification for civil disobedience lies in the method whereby it is executed in which non-violence and fidelity to law proves to be one of the most important features of civil disobedience.8 The public act of resistance undertaken exposes the proponents of civil disobedience to authorities, state and fellow citizens thus forewarning them of the intended action whereby it is usually done through resisting any laws or policies that are deemed to be unjust or discriminatory.9 They are often more than willing to accept the consequences of breaching any laws while undertaking it in order to achieve their purpose. 10 This feature could be implied to be civil as the regular law are still respected and the dissatisfaction directed only concerns the unjust law or policies which are implemented or is being implemented. In that regards, civil disobedience acts are usually undertaken when the legal avenues or legitimate options within the administration system has been exhausted or being rendered as ineffective.11 Most of the time, civil disobedience serves as the last option of concerned citizen to express their view regarding the implementation of laws and governance in the country. This often occurs after legal protest as the legitimate option and borders with revolution although in a democratic country such resistance would regularly be maintained in the line of civil disobedience. Thoreau who conceptualized civil disobedience term in the modern world was willing to accept imprisonment to resist the state poll tax and action of waging war with Mexico during the 1800s and sparked such movement consequently through his writings and opinions regarding civil disobedience. Such was the resistance made by Thoreau, Gandhi, and King respectively whereby they were at a point of time, imprisoned during their struggle and accepted the imprisonment, thus showing their respect to the law of the nation and simultaneously continuing their fight against the repressive and discriminatory law...
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