Their protest actions may make us feel uncomfortable, annoyed or worse.
But it is important that the general public understands the reasoning that
underpins civil disobedience and why this radical strategy is being deployed
Law-abiding citizens are right to be concerned about others deliberately
breaking the law to advance their social, political or environmental goals.
But many of the most significant social and political advances over the past
century owe much to that relied on this tactic. Think of Gandhi’s
independence movement against British rule in India, the suffragette fight
for the right of women to vote and the US civil rights movement.
These precedents raise the question: might future societal advances also
demand peaceful acts of civil disobedience?
Civil disobedience: the case for and against
the basic theory of democracy is that we vote on who represents us in
government. In this way, democratic societies are said to have created the
institutions and processes needed for their own peaceful improvement.
So critics of civil disobedience argue that people shouldn’t just break the
law because they disagree with it. They say if you do not like a policy or law,
you are free to campaign for change, say citizens do not always owe
political allegiance to laws and policies that are not produced through fair,
robust, and representative democratic processes.
t. This was the view advanced by American writer and philosopher Henry
David Thoreau in his 1849 essay which inspired both Gandhi and Martin
Luther King Jr.
When a law or policy is clearly unfair, a case can be made that there is a
place for civil disobedience. We must accept that even laws produced in a
democracy get it wrong sometimes.
Will Extinction Rebellion fall on the right side of history?
The Extinction Rebellion is promoting civil disobedience because it says
across the world, governments have failed to respond adequately to
the and the steep decline in . It argues that the political system
underpinning this failure must be resisted, even if this causes
inconvenience to the general public.
The movement’s supporters include 250 Australian academics who saying
they feel a “moral duty” to rebel and “defend life itself”.
It could be argued that the activists should wait until governments take
action. But judging by recent history – including a – an adequate, timely
global response to the climate crisis seems In this case, waiting for
government action means being complicit in an unjust system.
Some people will inevitably dismiss Extinction Rebellion protesters as
troublemakers and criminals. But their actions must be assessed against
them. The world’s best climate scientists believe that if global warming is
not kept below the 1.5°C limit, Earth’s natural and human systems will
suffer dire consequences. The legitimacy of Extinction Rebellion’s
disobedience must be weighed against the wrongs that triggered it.
As Extinction Rebellion causes chaos in our cities, we must avoid
superficial, knee jerk reactions. Whatever your views on civil disobedience,
the climate emergency would be far less serious if governments had taken
action decades ago. Further inaction will only lead to more numerous and
active drives driven by the same mixture of love and rage that provoked