Something Similar 8.3.2004


Is Civil Disobedience Coercive?

Watching dog attack a human being is not compelling? Watching a group of people being slammed against a building by a firehouse because they had the audacity to stand up and march for their rights is not compelling? Seeing a group of calm and reserved people not moving from the seats at the counter no matter what abuse they take is not compelling? A march of thousands being led by one of the greatest orators ever known is not compelling?

Seeing the tears of joy from two men or two women after being married is not compelling?

Civil disobedience is compelling. It moves people emotionally as well as intellectually. It creates "tension" as MLK, Jr. once put it. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" puts it much more eloquently than I ever will but I'll try my best.

"What the hell are these people doing? Why are they doing it? What makes them different from me? How are they like me? What do they want?"

Civil disobedience answers these questions. It forces one to realize that those whos rights are being trampled are human beings, too and that the rabble rousers simply want the same rights as any other human being. They will remark on the solidarity, the strength, the humanity of the downtrodden. They will see the pain in the hardships. The relief in the victories. They will see themselves reflected back, not simply some stereotype, some crude inhuman set of beliefs.

They will see the speakers talk of the injustices. Hear them speak of what is injust and what should be done. Civil disobedience forces them to hear it. Their attention is turned and focused and they are held rapt by it all.

If one wishes to put a negative connontation on this compelling force, one could call it "coercion." I do not enjoy the term nor think it is the best definition, but it is a correct way of describing what occurs when civil disobedience is used.

Source: EdgeWise
posted at 04:08:16    #    comment []    trackback []
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© 2004, Jeff Hodges