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My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Civil Disoedience

Thoreau writes in Civil Disobedience, "I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward...The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right..." (250).

Do you agree with Thoreau? Do we have an obligation to disobey the law if we don't agree with it, and are the consequences worth the fight?

22 Comments:

Blogger Jordyn S said...

I have had a hard time answering this question. Government is something that is both necessary, and unnecessary to people. We elect to continue this system because it has worked overall, for a pretty good length of time. Taking things like this into our own hands would be foolish of us as a society. People are going to push as many buttons as they can, and break rules when they feel they should, you can't control that. You can however, put punishments in place to try and limit the number of these types of occurrences with fear. But if everyone took on the mindset that they are only responsible for doing what they feel is right, at any time, we would destroy this country. Imagine being told that you have the choice today, to do whatever you think is right, at any time it feels appropriate. This seems cowardly to me, an excuse for your bad actions if you will. To say "well at this point in time, I felt it was right, and I am only responsible for my own actions." That is just ridiculous. You know when you get that gut feeling that what you are doing/about to do is wrong? Like lying, or sneaking out of the house or something? We get that feeling because there are moral standards in place that most of the general population accepts, and the government has just set into stone. "Killing people is wrong, stealing is wrong, etc." Yes, we all know this, so why do we keep the government around? Because everyone may want to govern themselves, you may feel so high and mighty, so responsible, but what are you going to do when you see someone else do what you think is wrong? Tell them that you think this action is wrong and try to lock them up? This is the response you would get from that person: “I am only responsible for my own actions, and I really felt this is the right thing to have done.” You, and others may not agree, and a small group may agree that this person was doing the right thing, so where do you draw the line? That is what government is. It is for the majority, to try and reach some sort of acceptable common ground. So many people complain today about what a horrible job the government is doing and how they have just gotten the short end of the stick from it. If so many people feel this way, why hasn't there been any drastic change? Why don’t we just get rid of the government all together? Now that may be a bit extreme, but the reason is because deep down we know that this can work. This system that we buy into young, and are captivated by and tangled up in will work if we are willing to work with it. Everything may not go your way, but at least you have the freedom that other countries don’t. We always make new changes to old laws and create some new ones here and there, the government changes a lot, but can't you see the good in that? This shows that the system is flexible, that they are trying to find something that works well, and makes most people the most content. Politics and everything, its just a big game, some issues you win, some you lose. That’s why presidents can only have two terms, that’s why you get to vote, so that you have a chance to be the change you want to see. President is elected by majority, and they do their best to please that majority, and then some. Nobody says you have to agree, you just have to go along for the ride. Settle down, stop causing such a fuss, you’ve been dealt the best hand of cards we can give you, and I don’t know about you, but I am going to play in this game of life.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Jessica K said...

In Thoreau's statement I do agree with the part that says "I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward". We should be true to ourselves and our beliefs first. We shouldn't do what everyone says just because they say it. We need to embrace our own opinions even if they go against or are misunderstood by the society. Now, I don't know if we have an obligation to disobey the law if we don't agree with it but it certainly doesn't do any good keeping your opinions in your head instead of acting on them. Great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn't have gotten anywhere if they kept their beliefs to themselves. So I guess if you feel strong enough to fight and tolerate the consequences you should. If one doesn't feel like the consequences are worth it then maybe they don't feel so strongly about what they're fighting for in the first place. You aren't forced to rise up but the people who do feel strongly about something will. If one has passion in their beliefs I think it will come some what naturally to have the urge to fight. It is still hard to do it and can be a huge sacrifice but their will to win the fight is so strong that they are able to make the sacrifice.
Going to what Jordyn said I believe that the government is doing the best they can and that a government where people are responsible for their own actions would ultimately fale. The government is capable of change and this is where people with good reasons who stand up change things. The government, sometimes slowly, comes around and listens to the people who stand up because they can see truth and goodness in their beliefs. They see that what they are saying may be a positive change in socitey. the government helps establish changes that are helpfull and puts down that could only be hurtfull where as a government controlled by our actions could end up hurting many people.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Monique R said...

Wow right now I would like to congradulate Jordyn on posting pretty much the longest post ever!

I agree with Thoreau to a certain point, I believe that the fact that we are men and women first, foremost, originally, and eventually because this can’t change. The obligation to a law can only govern based on a person’s setting, whether or not a person lives in a certain city or is controlled by a certain government. The fact that this isn’t permanent proves that this isn’t the utmost force of control.
On the other hand, to succeed in many ways, laws must be obeyed and most laws are made with good intentions. There are some laws that don’t make sense to be obeyed by certain people, and if they can stand the consequences, they should fight, but only if this is absolutely necessary. Basically, like Jordyn said, if people went around breaking laws, we would live in an out of control society and chaos would ensue.
So I think we should consider part of our obligation to being men and women an obligation to obeying laws.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Erin G said...

I disagree that we have an obligation to disobey the law if it doesn't agree with our morals. Yes, stand up for your morals and beliefs. Yes, be true to who you are, but that does not mean that you must break rules because you think that they are wrong. We have the privilege of being able to vote for what we believe in. You may not always end up with what you wanted, but there will be chances to change it. If everyone, like Jordyn said, did what they wanted, when they wanted, we would no longer have any sort of structured society.
I agree with most of what Jordyn has so nicely posted. Our government works for the best of man, and we do have choices. If we all acted on gut reactions, we would no longer function as human beings, and we would become more primitive in some odd way. I believe that this would cause more harm than good because nobody would ever agree with eachother. Fighting would break out and it would be okay with some people and not with others. It would cause an entire chain reaction of people disliking this action, trying to change it, then more people trying to change that action and so on. Government is needed to make life better for man, and to help people live together in the best way possible. Many governments are not this way, but we are lucky enough to have the chance to live in this country by some unseen lottery. We should make the most of it and try to make it the best it can be for future generations.

4:40 PM  
Blogger emilee p said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:22 PM  
Blogger emilee p said...

I completely agree with Thoreau, “We should be men first, and subjects afterward.” It is one’s duty, especially as an American to stand up for your moral beliefs despite the law; this is how America was formed. The consequences are definitely worth the fight. However, I believe in civil disobedience; protesting one law without breaking others, and violence is not always the way to go.

Like other people said,not all laws/rules are bad; some protect people, and others are just common sense.
I do not think that one should be a rebel “just because” this seems kinda silly and ultimately pointless.

5:28 PM  
Blogger jessicam said...

I do agree with Thoreau when he says that we should be men first and not subjects. We need to be ourselves first and foremost, then who others possibly want us to be, or want to use us for.
However, I disagree that we have an obligation to disobey the law. If we want to disobey, then I think it is O.K. as long as the consequences are known and accepted by the ‘rebel.’ It is also a really a personal decision. When Thoreau refused to pay his taxes, it was to make a point mainly for himself, so he could feel good about himself. It wasn't for other people to respond to or necessarily follow. So, yes, I think that it is absolutely appropriate to stand up for and support what you want or believe in, yet I disagree that we are morally or even generally obligated to do so.
To continue, I think that the consequences are worth the fight, even if the consequences are death. If the mental support of one person is strong enough, they could and should be able to follow through with everything. This includes the initial action and then the consequences. Overall, this is a cause and effect situation. One must understand this before he dives into support. Thoreau, I believe, knew this, and I think that his overall experience made him a stronger and more fulfilled person.

6:14 PM  
Blogger BessieS said...

Like Jessica, I agree with the part that states, “We should be men first, and subjects afterward.” I think each person has the right to be themselves and that to group people together based on appearance, actions, ideas, etc. is unfair. But just because we don’t agree with some of the laws doesn’t mean that it is right or justified to break them. Depending on the law, there are different levels of punishment which is reasonable, but sometimes it is necessary to look at a situation in the big picture and see that people act to prove a point that the rest of society is afraid to make. The laws are set in this country by the people and we vote on them, but it isn’t right for people to act on how they think the law should be written because they had a say in the law but their views were not those of the majority. If people are treated first as a group they are going to rebel because they want the attention and they want their opinions to matter. But when people are addressed personally they are more likely to cooperate and to value the laws because they have helped create them. No one is forced to follow the laws but they have been set by the rest of the voting community and are there for a reason, for the most part. If people feel that they are making a difference and that they have a say in the community they are more likely to accept and follow the laws. We do not have an obligation to break the law, we have the choice and if we feel that we are doing this to make a point that society is unwilling to address, like Rosa Parks did by sitting in the front of the bus, we can break the law but there will always be a punishment for that.

6:21 PM  
Blogger erinl said...

I agree with Thoreau to a certain extent. Somtimes I do think we have an obligation to disobey the law if we don't agree with it, but only if the law is absolutely ludacris. For instance, if the law were to say you have to practice a certian religion even though you were raised with a different religion, then you can disobey the law because it forces you to do something against your background. I also disagree with Thoreau because if everyone were to do this, there would becrime and corruption in the world because people would use Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" as an excuse to move them up in society in some way. For instance, stealing money to get richer or more "successful". I mostly agree with what Thoreau says, but if it becomes extreme, then I am against it.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Jennifer W said...

I agree and disagree with Thoreau. We have an obligation to obey the law because if we don't, you get put in jail, death sentence, or other punishments that make your life not a life anymore. All sense of "freedom" is lost. I don't think we have an obligation to disobey the law if we disagree with it because people disagree all the time and you just have to choose your battles. Some laws people might fight to change but others they will not like, but will deal with it. Depending on the person, consequence, and situation, it may or may not be worth the fight. It depends on if you are prepared to lose your life and freedom for the cause or if your not ready to do that. I also agree with jordyn, play the cards your delt and do the best you can with them. Anyone can succeed if they have the drive and the willingness to succeed.

7:21 PM  
Blogger JordanL said...

DANG! Good work Jordyn S. That’s longer than the other Jordan!

I think Thoreau is right to a certain point. Like Jordyn said if we all acted on impulse then our society would crumble and like Erin G said we would become more primitive. I think that it some cases if we think something is wrong and we disobey thats ok depending on the consequence. Some of the consequences are worth fighting depending on who you are. If you think it's ok to kill people then you can fight the consequence of jail time but most people wouldn’t take that risk. I think it's ok to disobey when you are willing to face the consequences.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Chris B said...

Overall, i would defiantly agree with Thoreau though I don't necessiarily think that we always have an obligation to disobey the law, but instead we have an instinct to do so. Humans naturally want to disobey and so we do. In some cases, yes, we do have obligation. If this country were to suddenly become a communist country, I believe myself and many others would have an obligation to disobey. Though, if there were a rule saying that cookies aren't allowed on sundays, I think i would instincually disobey because that would be a very absurd thing to do. Now, the people that sit back and do nothing about anything, be it that what they could possibly be disobeying is logical or not are fools. If we sucumb to all laws whether we agree with them or not, we only help those that make the laws to make more because they see that people are obeying them. Disobedience is a good thing when used in the proper cases.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Chris B said...

^^^^also, i think the consequences ARE worth the fight

8:16 PM  
Blogger Megan D said...

I think that each circumstance is different. If there is something that you disagree with that is really minor and doesn't really even matter in the long run, then you don't need to defy authority. That is pretty much just going against the flow because you feel like it, and not for any real reason. However, if you strongly disagree with somehting that the government is doing, you should take a stand for what you believe in. I think that one there is one fairly simple way to know if you should be defying government; if you are willing to accept the worst consequence, then what you are fighting for is real to you. If you find that you don't really want to deal with the consequence, then you might consider that what you are trying to do isn't really necissary.

8:33 PM  
Blogger OfAThousandSuns said...

if every person on the planet did exactly as they felt when they felt it, we would live in complete anarchy. Our government and our laws and civilization, though we often do not see their deepest meanings, are what make us human. however, when truly necessary, such as in a true time of oppression and a generally bad time for the population, then yes, it is okay to break the law and start a revolution (V for Vendetta anyone?). This can kind of relate to our discussion today in class, which I'm really bringing up because I didn't finish.

People nowadays do not feel an inherent, burning desire to go against the norm of society and break the mold. Today, people (especially adolescents) "need" to do this because what is really going on is everyone (read: the media) is telling us that this is what we should be doing. I believe that we think that doing something against society's standards will warrant us getting our names etched in the Wall of Fame of Eternity like other famous revolutionaries like George Washington and Che Guevara. What we do not realize is that their need did not stem from a falsified emotion that they believed to be true. It stemmed from a true need. Their people were being oppressed, truly and cruelly oppressed (not in the way that the rest of you "obey-whatever-the-media-spews" folks think that we're being treated wrong by our government today). They went against their government to help people in need. However, Jessica, when you say that the government is doing the best they can, you need to define who the government is doing the best they can for: themselves, or the common man? A combination of both, to be sure, but mostly they work for themselves. But that is for another debate. But Chris what you said about how humans want to disobey I don't think is true; humans are curious.

But really we should continue the fishbowl we were having earlier in class tomorrow.

9:41 PM  
Blogger mackenzieL said...

Ok, so I was just about ready to sit down and type my response when I decided to read the "Longest Post Ever" and now I have nothing to write and will have to think of something new to say!! This is the one downside of blogging. I completely agree with Jordyn how people must have some sort of government to keep them in line, otherwise everyone would be their own person, running around making decisions that they thought were “best at the time”. If this happened there would not be Countries, there would be Crazy Individuals. There would be Individual Wars, where it would be like having 6.5 billion politicians raging against each other's Individual Decisions!

Anyway, I, like almost everybody else, agree with Thoreau to a certain extent. I agree with the statement that people should be men first and subjects afterward but I think that these two things are so closely related that things can become complicated. The way that Thoreau states his ideas give off the idea that if someone is a "subject" that means he is a government robot; they are only concerned with the rules and regulations of the government without a second glance. This is hardly the case in any country. There is always a group in every country that has ideas to change how the government runs things and in America people can have their own opinions and reveal them in the most blinding way. With these rights people are men, but also as importantly subjects because without some sort of government people do not have a clear direction to go.

I believe that men and women have the option to disobey the law if they do not agree with it. This links to Chris McCandless who had the option to disobey society’s rules for acceptable "rights of passage". He made the choice to disobey and faced the consequences which were worth the fight because it is what he believed in strongly enough to affect our world. Therefore, I think I can safely say that if someone believes strongly enough for their cause they should fight for it, no matter what the consequences will be. This someone's determination to fight for what they think is right could change the world dramatically in a positive way.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Jordyn S said...

I apologize for my blogs being "the longest posts ever" I guess I come up with way too much to say and as I am a shy person, I make up for hardly speaking in class, in the class blog.

11:22 PM  
Blogger ryan f said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:44 PM  
Blogger ryan f said...

This question is defiantly tough. I think that Thoreau makes a very controversial point, urging men to break the law if they feel oppressed. To me, this all comes down to what is more important. For example, if we don’t agree with the rule at school to take our hats off in class, is it worth risking a referral because we think we have the right to wear a hat. In some instances, the consequences are minute, so disobedience wouldn’t be such a big deal. Other situations, like I said before, come down to fighting for what we believe. In my case, there is no way I would break a law like jay-walking, speeding, or stealing because I didn’t think the regulations fair and risk going to jail. But, my faith is way more important than any law so if someone told me that I wasn’t allowed to pray in public or own a bible, then heck yes, I would defiantly be willing to go to jail to support the cause. Others may not care, because faith doesn’t concern their life. Thoreau makes civil disobedience so easily agreeable, but also very controversial.
As for the first part of his statement, “I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward…” I completely agree. Our beliefs and values override society’s demands in all aspects in my mind, but his second statement is a bit strong. Thoreau obviously feels passionately about the subject but in the modern world, it would not be acceptable to step out at anytime and fight for what you believe. Like Jessica K said, it is ultimately about what you feel strongly enough for to fight against the rules. Just like I said above, the whole matter comes down to what is more important to each individual person, for everyone it is different, but that is what makes the world interesting.

8:46 PM  
Blogger J Hunt said...

All this long post stuff must be a Jordan kind of thing! Good job Jordyn!

12:03 PM  
Blogger mackenzieL said...

I also wanted to say that I like Jordyn's long blogs cuz really they're full of awsome ideas and I'm with ya...It's hard to say all kinds of cool ideas in class!

8:33 PM  
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6:38 AM  

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