A democratic society that can provide safety and freedom cannot exist without law. It is an indisputable necessity to the fabric of such a system. But as a human, even as we recognise that the law is here to keep us all safe while ensuring a fully functioning society, when is it ever justifiable to step outside of the law?
“It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
Take a look around our planet today. How many of the world’s laws and ideologies conflict with one another? Simply due to the subjective nature of effective Governance. Furthermore, depending on where the lottery of life drops you onto this Earth on the first day of your existence, you’re going to be entrenched within a predetermined set of rules that will be enforceable by punishment unless you obey.
Excellent stuff, but you’re a freethinking man, right? So with open-mindedness and utilising critical thinking on the issues you encounter each day, perhaps such rules conflict with your own morality? What then? History has repeatedly shown us previous laws that directly violated a person’s basic human rights based on today’s standards. (Same-sex marriage laws, slavery laws – To name a few) meaning we can often look back at these decisions as effective tools of obedience rather than to the benefit of the people. It was only in 1955 when Rosa Parks found herself arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on the bus to a white person. We look back at that incident in utter disgust today, but that might as well have been yesterday in the relative time of human civilisation.
Is today any different? Laws all over this world continue to conflict with what we decide is morally right and wrong. There are places on this planet that still enforce the death penalty for homosexuality. When you sit up and actually take the time to analyse the justification of a rule of law, you can often find yourself conflicted internally about your obedience to such an order. Contradictions can suddenly become as clear as the day (Unless you reside within Northen Europe like me, and then it is generally overcast.)
Look at a substance like alcohol, that freely sits on the shelf at your local grocery store. Alcohol-related deaths were responsible for 8000+ deaths in the UK in 2013, costing the national health service over 3.5 billion pounds per year to deal with. Meanwhile, want to smoke a bit of weed? Absolutely not, it’s deemed wrong to do so.
Before you grab your pitchfork, this discussion isn’t anarchist, SJW nonsense. As a rational citizen, it’s important and healthy to continuously look at our rules and laws objectively, and not blindly doing everything you’re told because somebody else told you so. One can fully respect the concept of law as an essential tool of civilisation to ensure safety and to punish the corrupt while simultaneously questioning the frameworks of such concepts.
Nation states world-wide face a continuously changing battlespace in their efforts to appease their people and retain power. This battlespace I speak of is highly influenced by a multitude of factors: Corporate influence, foreign nation states, religions, ideologies, and much, much, more. But we’re not robots. To be capable, one shouldn’t sit back and blindly follow all laws without question, simply due to a rule placed on a piece of paper backed up by a threat. Social progress has continuously relied on those whom question the status quo and act against unjust rules that prevented women from voting, holding slaves in shackles and gave justification to throw scientists in prisons. Think about that for a second. How did society treat those outlaws when they decided to rebel? A true patriot understands that his nation isn’t exempt from corruption from within. It’s important to keep an ear to the ground with such matters so that you can be in a position to respond appropriately to change.
History has often held law breakers in high esteem who walked out of the darkness with a positive impact on mankind; Figures like the mighty Spartacus leading the slave rebellion against Rome comes to mind. The rules in this world change with the wind, based on dynamic social climate that is being pulled by more strings than we can count. It’s inevitable that a sovereign thinker will find conflict with such laws when he presses into the finer details.
What if a person is ahead of their time when it comes to such viewpoints? When history looks back at this age, will it question how it was possible, that so much corruption, corporate greed and vast resource imbalances could exist without a rebellion?
And finally, what do you do when you’re able to produce a valid, rational argument against an entrenched policy? Do you sit back and wait for the legislature to enact your policy while the injustice continues? Good luck with that, you may be waiting awhile.
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”— Robert A. Heinlein
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.