Civil disobedience is the other side of the coin of active participation in the political life of the state: it is implemented when the individual feels "betrayed" in his democratic values, or when he sees his rights eroded by acts that he considers legally illegal or, even if juridically legal, morally illegal, according to a secular conception of conscience, understood as the ability to discern what is right from what is not (obviously in an individual sense).
In this perspective, active participation fails by generating dissent, which can be expressed through civil disobedience or resistance; the first is the failure of the citizen to implement the norm with his own conduct, it is the overcoming of the line beyond which he is not willing to collaborate (to use the concepts of Paul Goodman), the second is the frontal opposition to the precept . The concept of disobedience is inseparably connected with human conscience; one of the earliest and most famous "disobedient" is Socrates, who was forbidden to expose his dissertations in public, because, by questioning the established values ​​of the polis, they were considered dangerous and seditious. By refusing, he placed himself in a position that did not comply with that imposed by the established power, for which he was sentenced to death. The stronger the state authority is, the more infrequent acts of disobedience are carried out by few individuals, however it is precisely in these cases that they take on a disruptive significance.
Civil disobedience was, for some illustrious philosophers, the only way to make their thinking survive through the centuries: an example above all, Giordano Bruno. We will ask ourselves why Giordano Bruno had to die at the stake so that the memory of his thought and his figure in future times would not be lost, while Galileo abjured and despite this his theories were not lost. The reason is that scientific theories are in any case empirically demonstrable (in the sense that Galileo knew very well that even years later someone could prove, with scientific progress, the same discoveries as his own, because scientific evidence is not as questionable as ideas, the political, philosophical, human thought of a person, which cannot be re-proposed in the exact same way by other people. This is why Giordano Bruno, in order to make his thought reach us, had not to disavow it, thus knowing that he was going to the extreme sacrifice).
Thoreau was the first to theorize civil disobedience in his famous essay in the mid-nineteenth century (On the duty of Civil Disobedience), but it was with the twentieth century that humanity became aware of the disruptive force of this highly effective form of dissent. We have several different examples of how civil disobedience can manifest itself: at the level of involvement of an entire nation, such as India at the time of Gandhi (who theorizes passive resistance, a particular sub-category of civil disobedience), at the ethnic level, such as black protest led by Martin Luther King which kicked off the gesture of Rosa Parks, refusing to give way to a white man who got on the bus after her in Montgomery, on a generational level, like the young Americans who objected to conscientiousness because they did not ideologically share the war in Vietnam, or even at the level of individual manifestation of dissent, albeit embodying the sentiment of a nation, like the anonymous one who in 1989 stopped the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Civil disobedience is a way to manifest dissent without engaging in an armed frontal struggle against the state: it is a failure to comply with the imposed norm, often much more destabilizing than an armed struggle, since it creates much more consensus precisely for the libertarian spirit from which it originates. . Faced with the oppression and the prevarication of the individual conscience by the established power, according to Rosa Luxemburg, «there are in fact two kinds of living organisms, the ones with a backbone that walk and sometimes run. The others, being invertebrates, crawl or adhere ».

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Michael J. Miller
    Dec 08, 2021 @ 13:48:20

    I’ve always loved Augustine’s line, “An unjust law is no law at all” (which I’ve paraphrased). The idea that we have a moral obligation to oppose/not follow an unjust law is so powerful and it has such far-reaching implications. It requires a great deal of courage! And I’ve always felt the idea of civil disobedience is a natural progression of taking Augustine’s idea seriously.


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