Henry David Thoreau presented several radical ideas in his mid-nineteenth century writing civil disobedience. The work, published under the title resistance to the civil government, presents several profound statements and questions regarding the law, the man and the government. One important issue that Thoreau focused on was whether only men should continue to support the Government through complacency without regard for moral reasons? Should laws that are unfair be followed, or should they be seen as contentious? His ideas seem like common sense to me, but his clear and practical ideas would be considered a capital offense in some oppressive nations. I believe that Henry David Thoreau ideas are sound in theory. Society has been conditioned to accept ever-increasing taxation without combat, except for superficial discourse – how far can we, as a society, be pushed, pulled, punched and sucked while remaining smug? At what point will you become a conspirator of oppression by passive acceptance.
Thoreau gave three general answers one can choose from when faced with the question whether or not to follow unfair laws. He asks if we should blindly follow everything the government asks us without asking about it, would express contempt for the law, but still remain within its limits, or shall we violate them at once (Thoreau, 144). I believe that it is always within the individual's rights to undermine authority on the issue of adherence to unfair laws. Although I do not share Thoreau's contempt for those who passively oppose, I find that when the magnitude of injustices instilled by a government as law becomes Brutal, inclusive and deaf to reason and reparation, by following the law, becomes a criminal of the Higher laws of morality, reason and nature.
Thoreau has contempt for those who vote concern for unfair laws yet follow them. Thoreau reasons that these people see the law violates that hurt their cause resulting in their motivation for adherence (Thoreau, 144). When the severity of injustice just extends to the edge of our freedoms and prosperity, I believe that it is the fear of repercussions for breaking the law that causes compliance by the Conservatives.
Unfair laws with far-reaching interference should be actively challenged. I share a source of inspiration that Thoreau experienced-spend the night in jail. Few things can so quickly and thoroughly change their pace and thinking. Also sharing in this experience and opinions on laws of reason and parity is Dr. Martin Luther King. In his famous writing letter from a Birmingham prison, Dr. King describes the philosophy of compliance with unfair laws. King believes that the freedoms are never voluntarily surrendered by the verdict and will only come with tenacity. As for the horrors that oppressed African-Americans suffered, King proclaims, there comes a time when the cup of endurance is flowing over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of Despair. Dr. King lends support to Thoreau frustration with the exasperated client; The practice seems to clearly strike a nerve in both men. In this issue, King says,
I have to make two honest confessions to you, my Christians and Jewish brethren. Firstly, I must admit that in recent years I have been seriously disappointed by the white conservative. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that Negros's major stumbling block in his step towards freedom is not the white citizen councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to the "order" than to justice; Who prefers a negative peace that is the absence of excitement to a positive peace that is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you are looking for, but I can not agree with your methods of direct action "; Who a paternalistic way thinks he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; Who live by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more comfortable season". "Superficial understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
It has been incorporated into American law for the ability of the people to invalidate unjust laws through the process of jury nullification. This philosophy is deep-rooted in American policy and by its practice has done more to arrest the development of tyranny than any other American policy. The United States Supreme Court’s first Chief Justice said, The Jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy (Jay). The power of the people to void unjust laws is suppressed by the government in its struggle for control.