Civil disobedience is a deliberate nonviolent political action expressed in willful violation of the law to initiate changes in legislation or government policy. The most striking examples of this “act” are “Salt March” in India, “Campaña de Extremadura,” “Textile workers strike of 1934,” and many others. Perhaps, the actual events of “defiance” can be attributed to protests around the world against the background of the war between Russia and Ukraine in 2022. Civil disobedience is justified based on disagreement and disapproval of the government’s policies and laws concerning country nationals.
Moreover, the following key aspects should be attributed to the guiding principles of determining this political action. For instance, the such assessment includes evaluating the type and form of disagreement; these “formats” often vary from legal demonstrations to armed movements and organized resistance (Cohen 470). One should also consider the grounds for open dispute, the role of this public act in the constitutional system, and the relevance of this form of protest in a free society. In addition, there are several criteria for the appropriate conduct of civil disobedience: statements about human an civil rightsd and a reference to equality and justice on the part of the government to inhabitants of a country. The edge of the law can be crossed in case of violation of fundamental human rights, injustice, and harm to specific groups and individuals.
When Basic Human Rights Are Violated
Human rights are a unique set of basic rules, norms, and regulations that protect the freedom and dignity of every person, regardless of individual or external criteria. These are several fundamental and essential requirements that can be safely stated because they do not depend on any promises or guarantees of other parties. The recognition of the term and the concept regulates the recognition that every person is the same as everyone else.
Unfortunately, one must admit that even today, human rights violations are still widespread in all parts of the world. In particular, women and children are subjected to harassment. The press is not accessible in many countries, dissenters are silenced, and in too many cases — forever. For example, even the youngest children during the Industrial Revolution were forced to work 19 hours a day for a highly meager salary to help their families (Renteln 359-360). They labored in extremely terrible and dangerous conditions for their health. However, some women and young girls also continue to experience multiple human rights violations, facing sexism and stereotypes and noticing refusals to receive medical care or even access certain professions (Renteln 358). Nonetheless, the most striking and perceptible breaches of human rights occurred, for illustration, in 2007, when about 3,000 civilians were killed in the armed conflict in Afghanistan, or in the same year when police killed at least 1,260 people in Brazil.
As a rule, the rights to freedom from discrimination, health, work, housing, and education are most often violated worldwide. Thus, for example, the violent death resulting from the arrest of an African-American, George Floyd, by the police officer gave impetus to thousands of protests named #Black Lives Matter. Moreover, harassment and attacks on sexual integrity have also been revealed by the #MeToo movement. Furthermore, there are many cases in the US when some “colored” people are treated quite biased and denied admission to a university or promotion to a higher position in their career.
Touching upon the aspect of the reaction to human rights violations at the individual level, a person has the opportunity to apply to the UN in case of a collision with inequality, discrimination, and incorrect attitude within the framework of human rights. Nevertheless, suppose any law or action of the authorities concerns all state citizens. People may declare protests, solving such complex issues together, for instance, on the Internet on specialized sites and forums.
A Particular Group of People Is Treated Unfairly
It should be mentioned that unfair, unjust treatment and attitudes towards another group were traced during the Second World War. Hence, in these periods, Fascist Germany and the Nazis had their views and ideas about Jews. These Germans considered Jews their main enemies and massively mocked and destroyed the “oppressed category of persons.” More than six million Jewish women, men, and even children were killed during that time.
Discrimination in society, as practice shows, has quite deep roots. Often, inappropriate, deviant behavior lies in human biases based on the concept of identity and the need to compare one’s personality with specific groups. This can lead to discord, hatred, and even “dehumanization” of other people with different characteristics. Moreover, the authorities’ policy in terms of accusations and fear can also become a factor of discrimination when leaders seek to divide citizens using hate rhetoric (Naidu 6). For the most part, the factors of prejudice are race, caste, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation (LGBTI), disability, and much more.
Perhaps one of the most common types of prejudice and intolerance is racial discrimination based on race, skin color, or ethnicity. An example of this would be the hiring department, which refuses to accept job applications from African Americans in the US. This can also include an institution for the distribution of housing, which deliberately allocates black people houses and apartments with environmentally terrible living conditions. In particular, it was the crisis caused by COVID-19 that exposed and revealed deep-rooted structural inequality and fundamental problems in various areas of social, economic, civil, and political life.
As a universal problem with no borders, discrimination is eradicated only through a public, productive, and effective struggle for human and civil rights. As mentioned earlier, civil disobedience and its place and forms of nonviolent manifestation in this case (Trichardt and Trichardt 363). Therefore, not only do “ordinary” people organize particular actions, activities, and measures, but also the governments of many countries support the work on equality and justice policies. It was to address such issues that the UN World Organization was created.
Policies or Laws That Would Cause Harm to Individuals
The main and vital purpose of laws and policies is to implement those norms, rules, and measures that could ensure citizens’ well-being and the country’s prosperity. In addition, they imply the prohibition of discrimination and unequal treatment and their prevention and the requirement to provide equal opportunities for everyone. These are the primary and basic standards created on behalf of the people and on behalf of the people as a whole, guaranteeing honesty and justice.
Accordingly, any policy or law can become unfair if they violate its main goals and regulations, making all or some categories of people “second class.” For example, laws such as the Ordinance of Labourers, the Salt Deduction, the Tea Act, or the Fouchet Plan led to mass riots (Van Dusen 124). Nevertheless, the unfairness of the law, its immorality, and its inefficiency are not grounds for considering it invalid. In any case, no one has canceled the ethical and moral elements.
Some of the most common and unfair policies and laws are those rules that concern minorities and specific individuals. Hence, the US government purposefully relocates black people to poorer and more polluted areas. In the case of even the slightest violations, a rich person can avoid punishment by ransom, and a poor person is more likely to lose his job and be evicted from home in case of detention before trial. In addition, in this country, a person cannot fully receive medical care free of charge, whereas at that time, in the UK, people are not required to buy insurance, but they will get treatment.
History remembers many vivid and memorable examples of violations of laws that radically changed the world and people. For instance, in the middle of the last century, some black people repeatedly and deliberately violated the rules fixing special privileges for white individuals. In this situation, it is worth mentioning such famous personalities as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., who actively fought to end the legal segregation of African Americans (Van Dusen 123). Moreover, laws on treating people based on gender and race were also violated in another epoch. Thus, Susan B. Anthony openly declared social injustice in the 19th century and waged an ongoing struggle for equal rights for women and black people. In some periods, there were also local regulations with which citizens disagreed. Hence, being arrested for mutiny and disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi led to a salt tax challenge (Van Dusen 123). Nelson Mandela violated African laws repeatedly. At the same time, he was able to achieve the abolition of apartheid.
Finally, it is necessary to emphasize that laws are exceptional standards that require strict execution from any citizen to comply with the general order and improvement. Nevertheless, it is possible, and sometimes necessary, to cross the line of the law when the rights, freedoms, and inviolability of citizens are violated. To date, one can recall many examples when a fundamental violation of the laws led to a cardinal, but at the same time, better outcomes. Civil disobedience is not a manifestation of anarchy or people’s spontaneous desire to change the current world order. It can be described as a requirement for expressing solidarity and justice for each person.
Cohen, Carl. “Defending Civil Disobedience.” The Monist, vol. 54, no. 4, October 1970, pp. 469–487. JSTOR, Web.
Naidu, M. V. “Civil Disobedience: What? When? How?” Peace Research, vol. 37, no. 2, 2005, pp. 5–10. JSTOR, Web.
Renteln, Alison Dundes. “The Concept of Human Rights.” Anthropos, vol. 83, no. 4/6, 1988, pp. 343–364. JSTOR, Web.
Trichardt, AP, and HC Trichardt. “Civil Disobedience and Jurisprudence.” The Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, vol. 19, no. 3, 1986, pp. 357–409. JSTOR, Web.
Van Dusen, Lewis H. “Civil Disobedience: Destroyer of Democracy.” American Bar Association Journal, vol. 55, no. 2, 1969, pp. 123–126. JSTOR, Web.