Principles of civil
disobedience or passive resistance:
Individual or group must decide whether to obey “law of
the state” or “higher law.”
If "higher law," individual or
group maintains moral high ground by not using violence.
Often involves lifestyle of
as means of reducing social pressure.
Sometimes involves willingness to be jailed as form of
social protest [or willingness to suffer
otherwise, as with hunger strikes]
Historical & intellectual heritage:
of Athens use sexual abstinence to force men to end warfare)
New Testament era:
Jesus of Nazareth: “Turn the other cheek”; “Forgive your enemies”; "Return
Henry David Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government"
Count Leo Tolstoy—Russian novelist
(War and Peace);
Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi
nonviolent disobedience and resistance to English rule; jail and hunger
strikes against violence
Martin Luther King Jr.
(USA)—nonviolent Civil Rights campaigns; sit-ins; “Letter from Birmingham
Nelson Mandela (South Africa
)--decades in prison for resistance to apartheid, forgiveness of (or no
vengeance against) oppressors after release
(+ other South African resistance leaders)
Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
Aung San Suu Kyii (Burma or Myanmar; elected
president of Burma in early 1990s; election overturned by military; under
house arrest or other repression but refuses to leave, even to join children
or dying husband in England
Kim Dae Jung (South Korea)--South Korean President
& Nobel Peace laureate 2000, but earlier jailed by authoritarian governments
Worker slowdowns as protests against management
"Shuffling," etc. by African Americans during
Rosa Parks refuses to give up bus seat to white
man, Birmingham, 1960s
Sixties civil rights and antiwar demonstrations,
Abortion clinic blockades
Students in a classroom, when overworked,
sometimes do less than in a less demanding class.
Wives saying "Yes, dear" without consenting.
of nonviolent resistance:
Moral high ground
gained by not using or returning violence.
dialogue instead of
Working from position of relative physical weakness
without self-seeking may
establish a moral claim against dominant culture's
Appeal of underdog
; also craftiness or cleverness of using others'
powers against them, with potential for humor.
King and Gandhi sometimes claimed an effort to improve or convert their
opponents. Their moral superiority would model or inspire mirroring behavior.
Dominant culture’s words
may be are used against them (Declaration,
Japanese martial art of jujutsu: manipulate opponent's force against himself rather than
confronting with one's own force
("ju" = flexible, yielding; "jutsu" = technique)
Passive resistance may develop naturally in any given culture, but political
uses may require training
Charismatic leadership helps. (Models.)
ntellectual and moral development, contrasted
with brutalization of soldiers and civilians in downward spiral resulting from habitual violence.
Moral development: self-sacrifice for community improvement; redemption
of loving instead of hating enemies; seeking enemies' good rather than
Results may be long-term rather than immediate.
If results aren't forthcoming, backers may turn to violence (Civil Rights
militancy, Antiwar bombings, Pro-Life murders).
What if you’re in power? At what point does Romantic appeal
to rebellion or underdog prove counter-productive (parenthood? government
Civil disobedience may concede partial responsibility and share blame with the parties it
Civil disobedience must assume minimal civility on the part of its
opponents. Observers of Gandhi's satyagraha remarked his good
fortune to be resisting Brits rather than Nazis. (Therefore, civil disobedience
must pick its fights carefully.)
Passive resistance may appear as "negative" action: withdrawal of support,
boycotts, creation and glorification of victims
Teaching risks in literature / history:
"feminized," prohibiting boys' preferences for action,
physical challenge, combat, destruction rather than co-opting of enemies.
Religious background and inspiration for some civil disobedience threatens
church-state divisions in public schools. (Thoreau's Unitarian background offers
Arendt, Crises of the Republic
H. Redekop, The Christian and Civil
Gregg, The Power of Nonviolence
R. Grover, Civil Disobedience Movement in
the Punjab, 1930-34
Tiwari, Democracy and Dissent (A Case
Study of the Bihar Movement 1974-75)
A. Bedau, Civil Disobedience: Theory and
Tom Hall, The Morality of Civil
Van den Haag,
Political Violence and Civil
Ackerman and Jack Duvall,
A Force More
Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict
Critical Edition of
Bleiker, Popular Dissent, Human Agency and
R. Brown, ed.
Modern Essays: Civil
Disobedience, The Religion of the Future, on Going to Church
Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas
Vogler, Reading the Riot Act
Adam Bedau, ed.
Civil Disobedience in
Blessed are the Peacemakers
Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975)
Mandela, Jennifer Crwys-Williams (ed.) In
the Words of Nelson Mandela Birch Lane Pr., 1559724927
Mpilo Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness
Karamchand Gandhi, Autobiography: The
Story of My Experiments with Truth (Dover, 0486245934)
Karamchand Gandhi, Thomas Merton (ed.), Gandhi
on Non-Violence (1965)
Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You
The Gospel in Brief
Ruskin, Unto this Last
John Woolman (1720-1772),