Civil Disobedience Info

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Originally published in 1849 as "Resistance to Civil
Government," Thoreau's classic essay on resistance to the laws and acts
of government that he considered unjust was largely ignored until the
Twentieth Century when Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and
anti-Vietnam War activists applied Thoreau's principles.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Civil Disobedience:

3

Jun 12, 2017

Book Review
I read this nearly twenty years ago in a college course. I recently found my notes and listed a few below, so this isn’t a typical review you’ve seen from me.
My reaction to this work is pretty complicated. It had some thought-invoking ideas, but it was boring from a readability perspective. I am not one to be political or make statements without having all the facts. Everything contained in this work was important and definitely had meaning, but it seemed so “already known.” Book Review
I read this nearly twenty years ago in a college course. I recently found my notes and listed a few below, so this isn’t a typical review you’ve seen from me.
My reaction to this work is pretty complicated. It had some thought-invoking ideas, but it was boring from a readability perspective. I am not one to be political or make statements without having all the facts. Everything contained in this work was important and definitely had meaning, but it seemed so “already known.” Known in that time has changed so much but at the same time, so much is still the same. Better in some places but worse in others. The concepts are the same, but the actual tangible or non tangible items referenced run the range from exactly the same to things not even considered a possibility back then. I suppose that’s because, again, I am interpreting the piece with 21st century experience, whereas it was written with a 19th century mind way ahead of its time. It probably made sense back then and had a more powerful statement; that said, I do agree much of it stands today. Equality and freedoms are still nowhere where they need to be, especially with some changes this year, but I hope more people are open minded now. I've always believed people can do/say whatever they want as long as they aren't hurting someone else. But that can be subjective because people interpret actions, there are short and long term effects and misunderstandings happen. Way too complicated for a book review!

My favorite part of the whole piece was when Thoreau described his night in prison. It was interesting to see even the most minute details of his experience. It would be fascinating to know who paid his taxes for him, so that he could get out of jail! This whole portion was quite an enjoyable read though. I wish all of his essays were written like this one.

The larger chunk of Resistance to Civil Government, however, read partially like a manual for some complicated piece of machinery. It’s like Emerson’s Self-Reliance all over again. There were good ideas and I followed it pretty well. It’s just that it was a overly complex and could have been said in less words. Some would say the same about me!!!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. ...more
5

Jul 04, 2018


I chose Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience as my 2018 Fourth of July read, figuring I could write something quick and easy, something about the Resistance, Generalissimo Trump, and the coming Blue Wave. Yada yada yada. Something inspiring and comforting.

But it didn’t work out that way.

I found Thoreau’s personality prickly, many of his pronouncements naive and uncongenial. I don't deny that his essay is morally challenging, and that it is also stylistically rich, filled with dozens of memorable
I chose Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience as my 2018 Fourth of July read, figuring I could write something quick and easy, something about the Resistance, Generalissimo Trump, and the coming Blue Wave. Yada yada yada. Something inspiring and comforting.

But it didn’t work out that way.

I found Thoreau’s personality prickly, many of his pronouncements naive and uncongenial. I don't deny that his essay is morally challenging, and that it is also stylistically rich, filled with dozens of memorable passages. (You should read it again for yourself, and rediscover how fine it is.) But it is also thorny, and dense, and more than a little absurd. And yet . . . there was something about my encounter with Thoreau that would not let me rest.

That’s how it is when one crosses paths with a saint. St. Francis of Assisi makes me feel like that too. Histrionic, ostentatiously guileless, he never realized that his moral theatrics were permitted—indeed, fostered—by friends and family, and by the compromised social institutions he held up to criticism. Still, his witness challenges us all. Even his most extreme gestures—like the yoke the prophet Jeremiah placed upon his own neck—were part of his call, integral to his inspiration.

And so it was with Thoreau. At the age of 27, Thoreau committed his act of civil disobedience: a refusal to pay the poll tax as a protest against the land-grabbing Mexican War and the inherent evil of slavery. But he only spent one night in the Concord jail (less time, and in a much nicer jail, than his disciples Gandhi and MLK Jr.), his tax having been paid by an anonymous donor (probably his aunt.)

That one night in jail was an epiphany for the young Henry David, for he saw the heart of his own little town differently than he had before, almost as it too were part of Nature: It was like travelling into a far country, such as I had never expected to behold, to lie there for one night. It seemed to me that I never had heard the town clock strike before, nor the evening sounds of the village; for we slept with the windows open, which were inside the grating. It was to see my native village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord was turned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and castles passed before me. They were the voices of old burghers that I heard in the streets. I was an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent village inn- a wholly new and rare experience to me. It was a closer view of my native town. I was fairly inside of it. I never had seen its institutions before. . . .

When I came out of prison- for some one interfered, and paid that tax- I did not perceive that great changes had taken place on the common . . . and yet a change had to my eyes come over the scene- the town, and State, and country- greater than any that mere time could effect. I saw yet more distinctly the State in which I lived. I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right; . . . they . . . hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight though useless path from time to time, to save their souls. . . This last passage is the one that touched me close to the heart, for I am that supposed “good neighbor,” that “summer weather” friend. “From time to time” I have walked that “straight though useless path,” but I am far from certain that walking that path I have managed to save my soul.

Do you think a prayer to St. Henry David would help?

I’ll end with the conclusion of Thoreau’s account of the morning he was released from jail, for it ends—fittingly enough—with a return to the realm of Nature: I was put into jail as I was going to the shoemaker's to get a shoe which was mended. When I was let out the next morning, I proceeded to finish my errand, and, having put on my mended shoe, joined a huckleberry party, who were impatient to put themselves under my conduct; and in half an hour- for the horse was soon tackled- was in the midst of a huckleberry field, on one of our highest hills, two miles off, and then the State was nowhere to be seen. ...more
4

Jan 12, 2016

Or how to not let yourself be manipulated by any kind of authority.An essay that states some of the basic ideas of being a human being, the way I see it. It should be taught in schools.

The progress from a total to a restricted monarchy, and from a restricted monarchy to democracy, is a progress toward real respect for the individual. However, is democracy, as we know it, the last possible improvement of governing?

I wonder what he'd say if he saw what we define as democracy today...
5

Sep 12, 2014

Civil Desobedience

Henry David Thoreau wrote the essay Civil Disobedience to show his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His essay has influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience or Resistance to Civil Government, published in 1849, is a call to arms similar to the stances that people like Parks and King would later take. Thoreau argued that people owed it to themselves and their fellow man not to blindly Civil Desobedience

Henry David Thoreau wrote the essay Civil Disobedience to show his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His essay has influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience or Resistance to Civil Government, published in 1849, is a call to arms similar to the stances that people like Parks and King would later take. Thoreau argued that people owed it to themselves and their fellow man not to blindly follow their government if they believe their rules and laws are unjust. This was partly motivated by Thoreau's dislike of slavery and the American government's support of it.


Thoreau's Defense of John Brown

In John Brown, Thoreau was pleased to find an avid practitioner of civil -- if not outwardly violent -- disobedience. He had been introduced to Brown through his friend, Franklin Sanborn, who was attempting to drum up support for Brown's continued antislavery campaign in Kansas.

Brown was full of exciting stories of his Kansas battles. (He omitted any mention of his involvement in the Pottawatomie massacre.) Brown said that he too hated violence, but accepted it as God's will.

Thoreau was impressed by Brown's determination and the strength of his convictions. Thoreau would write; "I do not wish to kill or be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both of these things would be unavoidable." Perhaps the time had come for violent resistance.

On October 19, 1859, Thoreau heard the news of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. While most in the North were quick to condemn Brown, Thoreau spoke in his defense. On October 30, he presented his essay, "A Plea for Captain John Brown," to the town of Concord.

Thoreau took the high ground. He did not defend Brown's actions or his character, but the principle under which he acted. He called John Brown a "transcendentalist above all, a man of ideas and principles," who dared to risk his life for the liberation of slaves.

While Thoreau's defense was being circulated in the press, John Brown was addressing the court at his trial in Virginia. His memorable words would further humanize and ennoble his actions. By the time Brown was hanged, he was well on his way to becoming a martyr.

Thoreau would write of his death: "Some 1800 years ago, Christ was crucified. This morning, Captain Brown was hung. He is not Old Brown any longer; he is an angel of light."

Thoreau would only live a few years longer himself. While studying trees one day, he caught a cold that quickly deepened into bronchitis. In 1862 he died from tuberculosis. He was 44 years old.


Sources:

Book 1 - http://study.com/academy/lesson/henry...

Book 2 - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/brown/pe... ...more
4

Jan 22, 2017

This is a very interesting read. Though the language can seem a bit old and hard to get through and understand the message is important and rings out loud and clear. Many people are content to sit around and wait for the right thing to happen but in order for the right the to happen there must be action. If laws are unjust it is your duty to break those laws. So many people forget the actions of the founders of the US were treasonous. Sometime the only way to stand up for what is right is to This is a very interesting read. Though the language can seem a bit old and hard to get through and understand the message is important and rings out loud and clear. Many people are content to sit around and wait for the right thing to happen but in order for the right the to happen there must be action. If laws are unjust it is your duty to break those laws. So many people forget the actions of the founders of the US were treasonous. Sometime the only way to stand up for what is right is to work outside the law. It can be hard but it is always important to fight for what you think is right. ...more
3

Oct 24, 2010

Well, I'm still pondering what I think about this essay, so I'm not quite sure what I'd like to say about it yet. It is different than what I expected. I always thought of Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" as the work that inspired non-violent protests like 1960s sit-ins and Gandhi's hunger strikes--and it IS an inspiration, but it is not about those types of actions, as far as I can tell.

Thoreau, rather, suggests that people should just withdraw from an unjust government (and this, to Thoreau Well, I'm still pondering what I think about this essay, so I'm not quite sure what I'd like to say about it yet. It is different than what I expected. I always thought of Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" as the work that inspired non-violent protests like 1960s sit-ins and Gandhi's hunger strikes--and it IS an inspiration, but it is not about those types of actions, as far as I can tell.

Thoreau, rather, suggests that people should just withdraw from an unjust government (and this, to Thoreau includes his early/mid 1800s U.S. government), and have nothing to do with it. He recognizes the fact that a person can't concern himself with making the world better all the time or with solving every problem. But a man should be sure not to make it worse or to support in any way (via taxes, for example) a government which supports and promotes injustice. Even voting, he argues, is basically worthless. Essentially, he is saying that you can't reform the system by working within the system.

This, as I mentioned, surprised me. It is supremely individualistic, and I can't get the image out of my mind of a hermit-like Thoreau living apart from society. And I guess that is what bothers me about this essay. On the basis of a single individual, I suppose Thoreau's way of life could work...maybe...for him. How does he envision his system working on the broader scale? Maybe I'm unimaginative and stunted, but I can't imagine this working on a large scale.

People necessarily must, or at least naturally DO, work together and form societies. Laws and rules of how to live within the group naturally evolve. As a very basic example, how does a society choose to deal with criminals? Individuals taking things into their own hands seems, at the very least, inconsistent and provides no sense of security. Thus, any rules a society makes about how to react to criminals necessarily grow into "laws." Doesn't this lead, implicitly, to a government?

In other words, how is a society to live without even a most basic government? It seems that government by the people naturally and necessarily will arise on its own. As time goes on and societies get bigger and must interact with other societies, rules naturally form relating to how to interact with one another in a consistent and predictable manner, to promote, at the very least, the safety and well-being of its citizens.

I guess this is a long way of getting to my point that I don't know how it would be realistically possible for each individual to simply live according to his own moral compass, respecting the rules he wishes to respect and ignoring the others. If everyone were to actually follow this model, I do not see how chaos would not result.

To conclude, I think in more simple and limited sense, I agree with Thoreau on the benefits of "civil disobedience" as a means of promoting social change and as a form of protest. But I'm not sure I'm sold on this individualistic, I'll-do-as-I-want mentality as an ultimate way of life. ...more
5

Jul 13, 2018

I have read excerpts from this essay over the years and have finally finished it. I wonder if there is a more timely book - truly the people need to take this book to heart if there is to be any hope of civility ever returning to America. Thoreau points out that passively accepting the political whims of leaders we become our own worst enemy; and once this happens we can only appeal to the state to remedy our own problems. A true classic that intersects so many social issues.
5

Nov 26, 2018

5 Stars--unequivocally Rocks my World.
Thoreau is sane and percipient. He knows what he thinks and expresses himself well.
Some example ideas I am so in agreement with. (I won't give it all away.)

1. We need a better government, not another revolution.
2. We need to take action on our beliefs/ideals.
3. Even when inconvenient, we need to do right.

Thoreau does speak of morals. In another era, Thoreau might have spoken of doing the right thing, of living in one's own skin, of karma.

I am in 5 Stars--unequivocally Rocks my World.
Thoreau is sane and percipient. He knows what he thinks and expresses himself well.
Some example ideas I am so in agreement with. (I won't give it all away.)

1. We need a better government, not another revolution.
2. We need to take action on our beliefs/ideals.
3. Even when inconvenient, we need to do right.

Thoreau does speak of morals. In another era, Thoreau might have spoken of doing the right thing, of living in one's own skin, of karma.

I am in agreement with these ideas and am glad to hear/read that someone else has had these ideas. The ideas seem ahead of their time, primarily because we do not have other commonly-known essays which express the same ideas during the same time. (If I mistaken, please let me know.)

That this essay remains pertinent so far to each US American generation which indicates that some of the underlying problems to the American Experiement are still around today. Scary Ideas: At time of publication (1849), these United States had already been in existence since June 21, 1788/for 61 years/for an entire 19thc lifetime yet some serious problems were hanging on.

(1) US-Mexican Border. By time time of publication the US-Mexican War ended (1846-1848), yet 1914 saw the last raid/border skirmish on King Ranch, about 2.25/2.50 hours away by car, seemingly deeper into Texas by horseback. When the US steals sovereign land, the US and its citizens and their businesses pay. Did Thoreau know to be concerned about the guerrilla threat of Mexican retaliation? Perhaps/Likely?

(2) Continuing Slavery. At the beginning of the US Civil War even the states that had emacipated their slaves all still had slaves due to gradual emancipation laws/grandfather clauses. We commonly think of border states having slaves, not northern states. Long ago having participated in a Slavery Readings Course, I learned that places like Maine and Connecticut all had some slaves. In the essay Thoreau calls on abolitionists to take prompt drastic action, and not just talk and print recriminations. Thoreau consistently calls the people to action. What I respect about Thoreau: He was a man of decisions and actions. What a man. What a human.

Extra Note. Guerilla Warfare can be a war of attrition as governments much expend military personnel, effort, and money to deflect and fight off guerillas. Guerilla Warfare did become an issue after Am Civil War. Maybe others will also recognize these names: John Hunt Morgan, William Quantrill, the James Brothers--Frank and Jesse, the Younger Brothers--Jim and Cole. ...more
5

Sep 28, 2011

Was a wonderful experience to read it in parallel with The Prince.
4

Feb 17, 2017

I'm not really sure how to review this. Something to come tomorrow maybe after I think about it for a bit.
5

Aug 07, 2018

I read this as an undergraduate. I am adding it to my list now because I just saw another GR friend's review and thought I should speak up.

ON THE DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is Thoreau's seminal work. It is more important than ON WALDEN POND arguably and, therefore, is a must read. Reading it will take you only a few hours and you will be glad that you did.
3

Nov 13, 2019

3.25|5

• Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge - 20. A book written in prison •
4

Feb 25, 2017

"Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?"
Even at the known risk of getting branded as a boring old uncle, I must admit into finding Thoreau's venerated essay fascinatingly metal. I was introduced into this magnum opus by Gandhi ,who during his non-violence movement, has undoubtedly elevated the duty of Civil Disobedience from individual consciousness to the ethics of a collective. (also freely available on internet).

In this "Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?"
Even at the known risk of getting branded as a boring old uncle, I must admit into finding Thoreau's venerated essay fascinatingly metal. I was introduced into this magnum opus by Gandhi ,who during his non-violence movement, has undoubtedly elevated the duty of Civil Disobedience from individual consciousness to the ethics of a collective. (also freely available on internet).

In this essay, Thoreau severely criticizes political passivism, and those who escape under the argument of not knowing what to do. Then followed portions I wasn’t able to completely comprehend except for the seemingly subtle yet lurid difference between what is right by law and what is just. Though the most obvious and convenient illustration to understand Civil Disobedient argument would be the recent Trump government, I urge readers to hyphenate the philosophy with one’s personal, more accessible demurs.

A weak historic background might look something like this- Then president of United States was a demogauge(not demogorgon), and Thoreau belonged to the meager minority, who were morally troubled by the Government policies on slavery and Mexican war. So when asked, fractiously he refuses to pay State tax, as, according to him, giving allegiance to an invading war waging State is against his consciousness. Anyway, Tax was as certain as death even then, as it is now, and Thoreau was put behind bars for withholding the same. Well, he continued being metal by welcoming the jail - ‘Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison’, and writing a whole essay in that direction. Thoreau was really thorough with his ideas, pun well intended.

I am heavily under resourced to review this, but what amuses me is the relevance of this essay today as well as the course of history it has been preserved along. It is highly difficult to register your opinion these days without being branded into the prejudiced categories everyone seems so eager to fit in. ...more
1

Apr 16, 2015

I might have liked this book ten years ago. Now it's just too basic. The ideas represented here seem so obvious, if of course, you believe what Thoreau says is the right way to do things. I don't believe his theory of individual civil disobedience would actually work in today's world.
What is more is that the book is written in such a dry manner that it almost takes all the joy out of reading it.
I'll never understand how this book got so many 5 star reviews.
4

January 1, 2002

A very good book
This was the first Thoreau's book I read, and it inspired me to read some other of his writings. They are all inspirational, above average, writings. Well, about this book, a strong critic to United States government of his time (why not to extend that to ours, since it seems not much has changed...). He takes a position against slavery, as well as the war with Mexico.
I believe this is one of the most well written works fighting for the liberty of expression and against slavery I ever read.
His ideas about an unexistent State are at least discussible, since it seems very difficult to people live without any organizational structure. But, of course, we SHOULD discuss about State's authority, as well its limits...
Thoreau's own natural life was his inspiration, and (as we can see in his texts) he loved nature, and he spent a lot of time of his life around it. He liked freedom, and in this work he depicts his ideas about freedom, and how it should be applied to him, as well as all mankind.
5

Mar 24, 2015

Needed a break from editing and read Civil Disobedience for the first time. Loved it. It's a key piece of literature that I think everyone should read, not just in America, but all over the world concerning everything that is occurring in governments all across the world.

Peace - Love - Prosperity - Happiness to You and Everyone
5

Feb 21, 2010

I would love to have met this man in person. What a brilliant wit and iron nerve to say what he did, when he did, and how he did, to whom he did. For the contemporary patriot who doesn't quite know where he stands, this work will test his devotion, and force an analysis of his political thinking.
3

Nov 10, 2017

War and Taxes
9 November 2017

It has taken me a few days to actually get around to writing a review on this treatise, not because I haven't wanted to but rather because life has somehow managed to get in the way, and also because I have been more interested in doing my calculus and basic computer programming (if one can consider HTML and CSS to be programming, not that I'm all that good with CSS, but it's good to know). Anyway, while I technically should be in bed now I think I'll just write this War and Taxes
9 November 2017

It has taken me a few days to actually get around to writing a review on this treatise, not because I haven't wanted to but rather because life has somehow managed to get in the way, and also because I have been more interested in doing my calculus and basic computer programming (if one can consider HTML and CSS to be programming, not that I'm all that good with CSS, but it's good to know). Anyway, while I technically should be in bed now I think I'll just write this review and basically get it over and done with.

Thoreau was an American activist during the Mexican American War, and this piece (and his other works) shows that this is one of his major griefs with the conduct of the government. In a way what he is arguing is that he wants a government that provides peace and security and not one that wages wars of imperialism. Actually, come to think of it, he basically wants a government that doesn't interfere with his freedom, and he refuses to support any other form of government.

If those of us reading it from the 21st Century are looking for somebody who supports a Sander's Social Democracy then unfortunately we are going to be sorely disappointed. Thoreau basically supports a small government, and the smaller the government the better. While he doesn't necessarily oppose paying taxes, he just doesn't want to pay taxes where the money is going to support something that he disagrees with, and is willing to go to gaol for such beliefs.

Thoreau is all about individualism, and this is something that is at odds with the imperialist government that he is fighting against. As such he would probably have been a harsh critic of both Bush and Obama (though he probably would have had the same opinion of the Trumpet that a lot of us also have). This more has to do with the large standing army and their wars against Iraq and Libya as well as the rhetoric against Russia. Mind you, the world in which we live is vastly different from Thoreau's world. For instance back then America was more isolationist, preferring to stick to the Western Hemisphere, though this changed dramatically during World War II. In a way the United States has been seen as the reluctant superpower.

The problem that we face, and that we faced back in the post war era, is that we had a choice to acting as a bulwark against aggression, or doing nothing and running the risk of tyranny overwhelming Europe, both with the Nazis and with the Stalinists. The Iraq War was clearly an imperialist war, but Libya was supporting an uprising against a tyrant. Yet, the problem was that Gadaffi's removal left a power vacuum, as has the war against Basheer in Syria. Anyway war is a very messy business – it always has been and always will be, and there isn't really any hard or fast answer.

As for this text, it is interesting reading through Thoreou's thoughts, but we do need to have an understanding where he is coming from. Firstly there is no more poll tax, and many of us have little to no choice when it comes to paying taxes – it is either taken directly from our pay, or it is collected at the point of sale. Okay, we can always use off shore tax havens, or complicated trusts, but many of us on wages don't have that ability. It was an interesting text though, however these days civil disobedience takes different forms.

Which raises the question of how should we approach civil disobedience, and where does it end and basically vandalism begin. I guess it comes down to the question of what we do. I have heard of unions bullying small businesses, which doesn't actually help the situation of staff being underpaid and overworked. I'm actually a supporter of unions as employees do need a bulwark against the power that an employer has, but then there is a point where that bulwark goes too far. The other thing is that there is always a question of opinion. The whole idea of NIMBYism goes with that, particularly when it comes to public works. A skyrail may be useful but you can be assured that people that live near it aren't going to be all that happy.

If worse comes to worse though, you could always do what this guy did:

...more
3

May 16, 2019

I was alternately impressed and annoyed with this essay. Thoreau made an excellent point about the Mexican War that still applies to the wars and interventions we're involved with today. His point was that a small group in our government decide these military endeavors, and the people themselves have no say in it.

Something that annoyed me was Thoreau gently criticising his friends as "summer weather only" because they wouldn't stand up to the State of Massachusetts out of fear of losing their I was alternately impressed and annoyed with this essay. Thoreau made an excellent point about the Mexican War that still applies to the wars and interventions we're involved with today. His point was that a small group in our government decide these military endeavors, and the people themselves have no say in it.

Something that annoyed me was Thoreau gently criticising his friends as "summer weather only" because they wouldn't stand up to the State of Massachusetts out of fear of losing their property. He clearly felt unbearably smug and superior for being willing to spend ONE night in jail for refusing to pay the poll tax. I'm sure we all know a person who creates a lot of drama, then blames their friends for not being supportive. ...more
3

Feb 13, 2013

Five stars for the importance of the topic Thoreau discusses; one star because his answer is absurdly wrong (and simplistic).

I know that this is supposed to be a classic, and even Gandhi cited it as inspiration. My opinion is, unfortunately, quite different. Civil Disobedience amounts to a tract in favor of anarchism. Some choice quotes...
That government is best which governs not at all.

[The state's] very Constitution is the evil.
Beyond the high-flying rhetoric, let's look at his more reasoned Five stars for the importance of the topic Thoreau discusses; one star because his answer is absurdly wrong (and simplistic).

I know that this is supposed to be a classic, and even Gandhi cited it as inspiration.  My opinion is, unfortunately, quite different.  Civil Disobedience amounts to a tract in favor of anarchism.  Some choice quotes...
That government is best which governs not at all.

[The state's] very Constitution is the evil.
Beyond the high-flying rhetoric, let's look at his more reasoned argument.
If [an act of government] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.

A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose.
Who decides what is just?  Each man for himself?  Actually he answered this question directly shortly after it occurred to me (I will give him kudos for clarity of presentation).
[A]ny man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one already.
I have yet to meet the first man who did NOT think he was more right than his neighbors, so this is a prescription for all-out anarchy.  Every act of the republic is subject to veto by every single citizen.  Thoreau thought war and slavery were both unjust.  OK, so what about the Civil War then?

And then of course the most absurd claim of all.
I should not like to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State.
Well, you should not like it, but it's true nonetheless. It's all well and good to live in the woods with nobody about to bother you, but what about your less wealthy neighbors who live in a city and need the police?  And talk about a free-rider entitlement mentality.  What about the army and navy that protect your right to voice your ridiculous opinion?  Use any public roads to visit your friends in Boston?  Mail a letter?  Etc etc etc.

Must be nice to be a trust fund baby, and not work unless you want to, and even when you are working it's because your buddy Emerson (who was not an anarchist and actually held a real job) was able to throw some work in your direction as an act of charity. ...more
5

Jan 07, 2017

“What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

This seemed an appropriate time to read this daring essay about Thoreau’s disagreement with the actions of the government, and his belief that the majority is not always right. I understand why this inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. It sets out a simple, straight-forward argument for not going along with your government when it acts egregiously.

“Action from principle, the “What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

This seemed an appropriate time to read this daring essay about Thoreau’s disagreement with the actions of the government, and his belief that the majority is not always right. I understand why this inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. It sets out a simple, straight-forward argument for not going along with your government when it acts egregiously.

“Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.”

He does take an extreme stance, but it is hard to ignore the truth in it. I looked into the counter arguments, which involve respect for law and order and fear of anarchy. They also contain truth, but I think there is a reason Gandhi and King, who so many people consider heroes, sided with Thoreau. ...more
4

Nov 20, 2017

YES. WORTH READING!
Well, one may agree or disagree with Thoreau's views on the State and the government role in society.
One cannot, though, not pay tribute to his extraordinarily sharpened awareness of the call for submission the institutions of the State and the government exercise to the citizens of a country.
I do not know of many a wo/men who make such conscientious efforts of getting to the marrow of one of the most essential relationships holding modern human beings together and most YES. WORTH READING!
Well, one may agree or disagree with Thoreau's views on the State and the government role in society.
One cannot, though, not pay tribute to his extraordinarily sharpened awareness of the call for submission the institutions of the State and the government exercise to the citizens of a country.
I do not know of many a wo/men who make such conscientious efforts of getting to the marrow of one of the most essential relationships holding modern human beings together and most definitely defining them.
Obedience to the State and the government goes totally unnoticed, and Thoreau is one of very few wo/men who questioned it and dared to take it under investigation and experiment with disobedience. ...more
4

Sep 17, 2018

Written before the civil war, the tension on ethics and rights of man are evident. Thoreau marks that a government is prone to corruption and it's the responsibility of the individual to speak out and protect the rights of all.
"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."
This work, re-framed from an abolitionist's speech given by Thoreau has been referenced as inspiration by the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and though the Written before the civil war, the tension on ethics and rights of man are evident. Thoreau marks that a government is prone to corruption and it's the responsibility of the individual to speak out and protect the rights of all.
"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."
This work, re-framed from an abolitionist's speech given by Thoreau has been referenced as inspiration by the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and though the phrasing is antiquated, this shows the long reach these words have though time.
During my student days I read Henry David Thoreau's essay On Civil Disobedience for the first time. Here, in this courageous New Englander's refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery's territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance. Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system..." --- Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. ...more
5

Aug 20, 2009

I didn't think I would enjoy reading this. I did, though, and I'm sure glad I picked it up. Written in a very articulate manner, the paper is enjoyable, convincing, inspiring and stimulating all at once. Thoreau's strong moral convictions and high respect for the individual are evident in each line. Some of my favorites are:

"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to I didn't think I would enjoy reading this. I did, though, and I'm sure glad I picked it up. Written in a very articulate manner, the paper is enjoyable, convincing, inspiring and stimulating all at once. Thoreau's strong moral convictions and high respect for the individual are evident in each line. Some of my favorites are:

"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?" ...more
3

Nov 30, 2016

Interesting, but it didn't engross me in the way I hoped it would. The only passage I highlighted was "There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor, which even would not think it Interesting, but it didn't engross me in the way I hoped it would. The only passage I highlighted was "There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor, which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow men."
All these years later, we still are not there. ...more

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