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Among the other important ideas apparently excluded from the modern educational canon is the nature, philosophy and history of non-violent civil disobedience. From the current perverted defense of Hamas, to the Floyd riots in 2020 and even to the annoying eco-loon practices of blocking traffic or disrupting art galleries, we are witnessing a dehumanized pseudo-morality that is evidence of dangerous cultural rot.
In stark contrast, the act of defiance of Rosa Parks was an almost perfect instance of civil disobedience. Ideally, this approach to injustice has several elements:
- Break only the unjust law. The dignity and rights of others, even oppressors, must be respected. Parks did not kick out a couple of bus windows or call the driver or the cops bad names on her way off the bus.
- You want to be put on trial (see, e.g., Gandhi’s statement to the court demanding to be found guilty) because
- You want to force the real jury (the wider community or the nation) to choose between a bad law and a clearly righteous person because
- You have put yourself at risk to express your confidence in the basic decency of other people, even those who have hated you. It is a statement of respect and a wildly optimistic confidence in the goodness of others in an attempt not merely to forgive but to elevate those who have tacitly permitted injustice.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s incorporated the idea that one cannot obtain justice by committing injustice and that a large-scale appeal to conscience was both the most effective and the rightful method to achieve racial justice, an invitation to be righteous rather than a demand. That movement was greatly successful on those terms and the whole country was better for it.
Catholics in Northern Ireland tried to emulate that in 1972 but the murder of 14 marchers and horrific police violence (“Bloody Sunday”) ended optimism, sparked the rise of the Provos, and forced the UK to end local Stormont rule. Similarly, the murder of MLK triggered violence and a loss of hope in non-violent appeals to conscience. (Even Rosa Parks gravitated toward the Black Power movement).
The loss of hope in the fundamental decency and humanity of other people means that agreement, compromise, and a mutual commitment to justice become difficult or impossible. Therefore, normal democratic processes and institutions are, at best, suspect because they fail to silence and negate The Other.
We see the extraordinarily complex scientific, economic, and legal issues around fossil fuels reduced to hating “climate deniers.” Race is to be defined as a permanent, immutable state of injustice with fixed roles. In the five minutes since a transgender “identity” was invented, it is already a matter of The Other trying to “erase” victims. There is no dialog, only accusations, and grabs for destructive power.
The fading culture of the First Amendment presumes that people ultimately have an affinity for truth and that the best path to truth is through discussion and reason. In that culture, having an opinion that you believe to be correct creates a duty to persuade others, not a duty for others to unquestioningly and immediately accept. And, perhaps most importantly, disagreement, however significant or heated, never justifies violating the rights and dignity of others.
BLM, ANTIFA, campus Hamas fanboys, eco-loons, and militant advocates of sexual deviance all reject dialog in favor of destructive power. More than just defective forms of activism, this is also symptomatic of a complete disconnect from a culture of objective truth, mutual respect, humility, and acceptance of all the shared moral and ethical requirements needed to preserve and protect human dignity for all. Worse, people who choose to become monsters undermine the requisite faith in the fundamental decency and shared humanity of others, without which, we are all in danger of becoming monsters.Published in