Is it ever justifiable to break the law? We discuss the notion of social disobedience for the greater good and if it’s something one can ever justify.
A democratic society that can provide us all with safety and freedom cannot exist without the law. It is an indisputable necessity to maintain a fully functioning society against the forces that wish to exploit others for their own gain. But as a human, I must ask—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 laws and ideologies around the world conflict with one another? Simply due to the subjective nature of effective Governance, this is a common occurrence. Furthermore, depending on exactly where the lottery of life drops you onto this Earth, you’re going to be entrenched within a predetermined set of rules that will be enforceable by punishment unless you obey.
Excellent stuff, but what if you’re a freethinking man? Armed with open-mindedness and utilising critical thinking on the issues that you encounter each day—Perhaps such rules conflict with your own morality? What then? History has repeatedly shown us laws that directly violated a person’s basic human rights, that have been judged unfavourably by today’s standards. (Slavery laws, Same-sex Marriage, Child Labour etc – To name but a few) Hindsight is a marvellous thing ah? I’m now afforded the luxury of context, to look back at history from the convenience of my armchair to look at these decisions for what they were—Effective tools of obedience to protect power structures at the clear expense of human well-being. One such example comes to mind: Montgomery, Alabama USA — Thursday, December 1, 1955. It was on that historic day when Rosa Parks found herself arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on the bus to a white person. Today, we look back at that incident in utter disgust, but that might as well have been yesterday for me in the relative time of human civilisation.
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
But it is today I want to talk to you about. 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 particular law, you can often find yourself conflicted internally about your obedience to such orders. Contradictions can suddenly become as clear as day. Take a 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? How dare you even ask.
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 your rules and laws objectively, and not blindly doing everything you’re told just because somebody else told you so. One can fully respect the concept of law as an essential mechanism of civilisation to ensure peace and to punish the corrupt—while simultaneously questioning the reasoning behind such concepts. This is literally the mantra enacted by the founding fathers, who led the American Revolution against the unlawful authority of the British Crown in word and deed and contributed to the establishment of the United States of America.
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…
Nation states worldwide face a continuously changing battlespace in their efforts to appease their people and retain power simultaneously. This chaotic battlespace that I speak of, is highly influenced by a multitude of factors: Corporate influence, foreign nation-states, religions, ideologies, and much, much, more. One should be aware that any of these rules could be unjust, and merely a solution to another human’s situation that comes at the expense of yourself or mankind. Social progress owes a great debt to those who had the courage to question the status quo and act against unjust rules that prevented women from voting, held slaves in shackles and provided the means to throw scientists in cages. 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 such figures in high esteem who walked out of the darkness with a positive impact on humanity; 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 the 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 and compares them with his own moral code.
When history looks back at this age, will it question how it was possible that so much corruption, corporate greed, environmental damage and pandemic resource imbalances could exist without resistance? And finally, what should 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