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Resistance also served as part of Thoreau's metaphor comparing the government to a machine: On Civil Disobedience is another common title. The word civil has several definitions. The one that is intended in this case is "relating to citizens and their interrelations with one another or with the state", and so civil disobedience means "disobedience to the state".
Sometimes people assume that civil in this case means "observing accepted social forms; polite" which would make civil disobedience something like polite, orderly disobedience. Although this is an acceptable dictionary definition of the word civil, it is not what is intended here.
This misinterpretation is one reason the essay is sometimes considered to be an argument for pacifism or for exclusively nonviolent resistance.
For instance, Mahatma Gandhi used this interpretation to suggest an equivalence between Thoreau's civil disobedience and his own satyagraha.
The environment became especially tense after the Fugitive Slave Act of A lifelong abolitionistThoreau delivered an impassioned speech which would later become Civil Disobedience injust months after leaving Walden Pond. The speech dealt with slavery, but at the same time excoriated American imperialismparticularly the Mexican—American War.
Democracy is no cure for this, as majorities simply by virtue of being majorities do not also gain the virtues of wisdom and justice. The judgment of an individual's conscience is not necessarily inferior to the decisions of a political body or majority, and so "[i]t 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 Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.
Because of this, it is "not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize". Such a fundamental immorality justifies any difficulty or expense to bring it to an end.
There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them. Thoreau's Slavery in Massachusetts which also advances this argument. He exhorts people not to just wait passively for an opportunity to vote for justice, because voting for justice is as ineffective as wishing for justice; what you need to do is to actually be just.
This is not to say that you have an obligation to devote your life to fighting for justice, but you do have an obligation not to commit injustice and not to give injustice your practical support.
Paying taxes is one way in which otherwise well-meaning people collaborate in injustice. People who proclaim that the war in Mexico is wrong and that it is wrong to enforce slavery contradict themselves if they fund both things by paying taxes.
Thoreau points out that the same people who applaud soldiers for refusing to fight an unjust war are not themselves willing to refuse to fund the government that started the war. In a constitutional republic like the United States, people often think that the proper response to an unjust law is to try to use the political process to change the law, but to obey and respect the law until it is changed.
But if the law is itself clearly unjust, and the lawmaking process is not designed to quickly obliterate such unjust laws, then Thoreau says the law deserves no respect and it should be broken. In the case of the United States, the Constitution itself enshrines the institution of slavery, and therefore falls under this condemnation.
Abolitionistsin Thoreau's opinion, should completely withdraw their support of the government and stop paying taxeseven if this means courting imprisonment. Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.
A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose.
If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case. He considered it an interesting experience and came out of it with a new perspective on his relationship to the government and its citizens.
He was released the next day when "someone interfered, and paid that tax". As governments go, he felt, the U. But he felt we could and should insist on better.Howard Zinn: Don’t Despair about the Supreme Court. It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people .
Howard Zinn ‐- American historian, essayist, autobiographer, editor, and playwright. The following entry presents an overview of Zinn's career through Howard Zinn was the first author to bash Columbus' voyage and "discovery" of the New World.
Throughout this article Zinn includes plenty of sources to prove his points. He also gives a new perspective on Columbus, which was very controversial at the time.4/4(1). Zinn was a historian, playwright, and activist.
His life’s work focused on a wide range of issues including race, class, war, and history, and touched the lives of many people. Dec 07, · Howard Zinn Howard Zinn was an author and a historian.
He wrote more then twenty books which included his best selling A peoples History of the. Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in In it, Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.