Since Snowden did not accept punishment, do you think his action did not count as civil disobedience?

 

Here we discussed whether or not we agreed with Scheurmann’s sentiment that Snowden’s actions counted as civil disobedience. Generally, we agreed with him and I personally thought that these definitions were too constricting. I also thought that Brownlee’s broader definitions are more appropriate for defining civil disobedience.

 

However, some argued that while Snowden’s actions did count as civil disobedience, the power behind his actions was lost because his actions did not fit in with other classic cases of civil disobedience.  By refusing to accept punishment and escaping, he was unable to create a lasting, localized movement. In fact, it can be argued that while Snowden did bring issues of privacy and domestic spying to the forefront, his acts had little lasting effects. As well, he may have created an impression that self-preservation came first, rather than the goals of his movement. However, as Scheurmann has mentioned, I felt that Snowden’s actions were justified since he would be unlikely to receive a fair trial in the US (620).

 

Do you believe that Snowden’s unwillingness to accept punishment could inspire reckless and lawless civil disobedients?
We disagreed that Snowden could inspire reckless and lawless civil disobedients simply due to the sacrifices that had to be made. Leaving behind a comfortable life is no easy task, and acts like these require considerable foresight. As well, as Scheurmann mentioned, Snowden curated all the information he leaked, ensuring that no one would be harmed in the process (614).

Brownlee and Scheuerman Discussion Summary

I began the discussion by briefly summarizing the required readings for the week before introducing my first question: “Are Edward Snowden’s actions (of releasing classified documents to the public which entail the scale of NSA surveillance) a case of civil disobedience?” Because Scheuerman’s argument outlines why Snowden should be considered a civil disobedient according to Rawl’s definition of civil disobedience, I thought this question was quite pertinent. Since the group seemed to need more prompting to answer the question, I added a follow-up question, namely whether civil disobedience can exist in the absence of the element of accepting punishment and as it pertains to Snowden, “does the fact that he did not accept punishment affect whether or not his case is civil disobedience?” Kimberly Brownlee, for example, defines civil disobedience as “conscientious and (2) communicative breaches of the law for the purpose of (3) demonstrating protest against a law and/or (4) persuading lawmakers to change the law” (Brownlee, 338). Under such a case, Snowden would apply, having demonstrated seriousness and sincerity by giving up his comfort and security to reveal government action he believes is wrong to the public.

One classmate however, suggested that considering his case to be civil disobedience under Rawl’s definition is more difficult seeing as how this definition requires civil disobedients to show respect for the rule of law, which is usually demonstrated by accepting punishment. Scheuerman argues Snowden fulfills this because his “aim is obviously neither violent criminality nor revolution, but instead a peaceful transformation of US policy –and even the NSA itself – so that it might better accord with his interpretations of both the US Constitution and international law” (Scheuerman, 614). Snowden’s intentions are not obvious nor are his interpretations of the constitution necessarily sufficient to show respect for law and warrant not accepting punishment. This is because interpretations vary and reasonable people will disagree, but it is not acceptable to use that to justify breaking the law without legal consequences. My next related question was whether or not Snowden should have accepted punishment, and one group member thought he was right not to, but acknowledged that opinions would vary depending on how one views his actions and intentions, which the rest of the group agreed with.

Next, I asked whether Snowden was morally justified in what he did. Furthermore, tying back into the terms from the Singer reading, were his actions morally permissible, or is there any sense in which they could be considered morally obligatory? Invoking the idea of moral consistency that Brownlee brings up in her article, would it be morally inconsistent to stand idly by when you believe something is wrong? My group agreed that it heavily depends on one’s system of morality. For example, utilitarianism would say it is not morally justified because it endangers programs designed to protect society. One classmate said that while Snowden was morally justified because he personally believed that the extent of the NSA surveillance was violating rights and immorally wrong, in their own view, it would depend on whether the NSA was actually abusing the power by looking at the information they had access to. However, my group did not think it was morally obligatory because of other potential considerations, much like Brownlee mentions that people must balance “when deciding how to act” (Brownlee, 341). For example, one mentioned the non-disclosure agreement Snowden violated when he released the documents, breaking a law himself which is generally perceived to be morally wrong given that the law is just.

Another classmate expanded on this, saying working with the government tends to be a “grey area” because as Scheureman admits, “every liberal democracy carves out some place for government secrecy in the context of national security” (Scheuerman, 613). The group member raised doubt as to the moral permissibility of Snowden’s actions, due to the potential harm he could have caused to the nation’s citizens or to its international standing and relations. They argued against Scheuerman’s claim that “no political actor can reasonably be held responsible for all of her or his act’s unavoidable manifold long-term consequences” (Scheuerman, 614) stating that Snowden had to have some foresight before acting and his action could have had worse consequences than it did.

This was also their reasoning for answering no to my next questions: “should Snowden should have been pardoned by the Obama administration? If you were in a position to (i.e. POTUS), would you offer clemency to Edward Snowden?” This question is relevant considering Scheuerman argues “US Americans should demand of the Obama administration that it treat Snowden with clemency” as it is the “right thing” (Scheuerman, 623); this argument likely extends to the current President of the US. The members of my group seemed to be in a general consensus that Snowden should not be pardoned, because he endangered national security which is not easy to forget. Another reason was that it would set a precedent showing that his actions are permissible, and may prompt similar ones, to which I brought up the similar case of Chelsea Manning, who was pardoned. Unlike Snowden, however, Manning did accept punishment, which President Obama cited as his reason for awarding clemency to her yet not to Snowden. However, one student felt that while they would not offer clemency, Snowden should not have been restricted in travel, much like Scheuerman, who argues “he should still have somewhere to go besides Putin’s Russia” (623)

My final question was whether Scheuerman’s argument of Snowden appealing to a higher law to show fidelity to law was effective. The group was split on this question with some suggesting risking security was worse than those offences, some saying it is debatable whether his claim is true, and some agreeing his justification is made sound by appealing to a higher law. Those who said risking security was worse claimed he jeopardized people’s safety, increasing the potential for attacks on the US, which no amount of privacy would protect them from. A recurring theme in our discussion was deciding between different values, such as between national security and the right to privacy, which many consider a basic human right.

Discussion Summary- Edward Snowden

Scheuerman argues that “the secrecy in which NSA intelligence-gathering has been shrouded allegedly corrupts ‘the most basic notion of justice- that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret laws.” But he also cedes that “… some government activities may need to be veiled from direct public scrutiny… in the context of national security” (613).

My question is that for a functioning democracy where as Scheuerman argues there must be a certain level of secrecy for specific government actions to be effective where do we draw the line between too much secrecy in government and too much disclosure? How do we find that line or how would we decide where to draw it?

In discussing this question, a member of the group brought up the fact that if an action was deemed completely necessary for the safety of a large group of people or a nation as a whole then it would be alright for a government to perform some kind of surveillance without disclosing it to the public. However, in response another member brought up the fact that many times it would be very difficult to tell whether an action actually was necessary for the safety of a nation or not because many times a government may state that their motive of some action was to ‘uphold national security’ or something equally abstract. But the terms of these motives may be defined very loosely. We discussed who is ultimately in charge of deciding whether the circumstances of a given situation warrants some kind of invasion of privacy and came to the conclusion that unless that responsibility is given to some kind of third party committee that can be assured to be unbiased, then it is likely that governments will use this power even in situations that may not merit the invasion of privacy. Our discussion then turned to the subject of this third party committee and we started to echo the claims of Scheuerman, when he argued that “publicity is fundamental to the rule of law and constitutional government, whereas secret law tends to be corrosive as it risks unduly veiling government action from both individual and collective scrutiny” (613). We came to the conclusion that when a government uses secret laws as a basis for action they undermine democracy itself by not letting the citizens of the state have any say in whether they believe the government should have that power or not. However if we decide that these secret courts are undemocratic and should therefore not be used to determine whether a government may or may not exercise some power then what would? We never came up with a definitive answer, but many interesting suggestions were discussed including things like advanced Artificial Intelligence driven algorithms that you could input the parameters of a given situation and it would let you know whether the circumstances warranted an invasion of privacy.

 

Scheureman argues that “the standard grounds for assenting to punishment as an unavoidable consequence of civil disobedience are perhaps less air-tight than typically get recognized. Snowden’s example, in my view, helps buttress that dissenting position… the exorbitant penalties they [US officials] presently hope to exact are simply inappropriate” (618).

Is your opinion regarding Snowden’s refusal to accept punishment different to Scheuerman’s? If Snowden decided to stay in the U.S. and faced his punishment do you think that what he did would be thought of differently?

In cases of apparent civil disobedience such as Snowden’s it is the standard for those who commit their crime to willfully accept the punishment for that crime, Scheureman is among the group of people that believes one does not necessarily need to accept punishment for a crime given certain circumstances. The reasoning behind why undergoing punishment is the best thing to do for those who engage in cases of civil disobedience is to establish that the individual “expresses their fidelity to the general idea of legality or the rule of law” (618). On discussion of these ideas one member of the group brought up the point that she did not believe Snowden should have stayed and face his punishment because the U.S. government made it abundantly clear they were going to prosecute him as harshly as they could. And this fact alone ensured that he would not receive a fair trial and therefore he had no obligation to adhere to their punishment. Another member of the group brought up the fact that taking into account how groundbreaking the information that the government are spying on their citizens is it is very unlikely that the overall effect of what Snowden did would change. However looking at it as a narrative it is a much better story that Snowden had to escape to Russia to protect himself, if he just stayed in the U.S. it is possible that the story would not have made as big of as in impact worldwide as it did because he decided to leave the country and flee to Russia a country with historically turbulent relations with the western world. Scheuerman also argues that accepting punishment acts to “provide sufficient evidence of moral seriousness” (618) but he believes Snowden proved his moral seriousness through his careful deliberation of his actions and after assessing the risks involved he still decided to act out of moral obligation. It seems that accepting punishment does not necessarily have to be a tenant of civil disobedience if it can be concluded that the objective of proving moral seriousness has already been reached through other means.

Martin Luther King JR Civil Disobedience

 

  1. Martin Luther King JR makes the distinction between just and unjust laws, stating that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”. To what extent do you agree with what he believes? Do you think because a law is unjust in a sense that it degrades human personality that it should be a moral responsibility to disobey it?

 

From our discussion during tutorial, many agreed with Martin Luther King JR’s distinction between just and unjust laws: “any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust” (King JR). King JR stated in his letter that it is his duty, and the duty of everyone else to go against unjust laws because “an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law” (King JR). To him, it does not correspond with his morality and instead it brings devastation on those around him. Everyone was heavily in favour of seeing it as a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. One classmate brought up the current issue of abortion in today’s society. Many feel like it is their responsibility to bring about change to the system that is currently harming and oppressing individuals from gaining their basic human rights (such as women’s right to abortion and birth control). To turn a blind eye against these matters would be almost as if hurting the oppressed directly. Another brought up Singer’s belief that if one is not doing everything within their abilities to help others and to donate to charity, then one may as well be directly killing a child in need. They related how our discussion was saying that if one does not disobey laws that we deem are unjust, we are directly affecting individuals who are oppressed by that law. When the discussion reached this point, most agreed that not everyone was able to participate in actively going against unjust laws, it really depends on what the movement is and if it is beneficial to oneself at the end of the day.

Personally I agree with King JR when he said that a law is unjust when it segregates an oppressed group of individuals. It causes one group to feel superior and the oppressed to feel inferior. Laws are made to protect and bring about a peaceful life for the citizens of that country. If a law is not coming from a place of bringing harmony and justice in society, but instead doing the opposite and causing harm, I believe that it should be a responsibility to help bring about change in the justice system. Civil disobedience is a good way, and often times an effective way to draw attention and bring about change to “unjust laws” much like what King JR was advocating.

 

  1. Martin Luther King JR believes that civil disobedience should be done in ways that are non-violent and does not cause harm to others. Do you think violence should be permissible in certain cases to get your point across?

 

To Martin Luther King JR “it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends” (King JR) therefore he does not advocate using violence to protest unjust laws. He stated that there were many workshops to help people go about disobeying these laws in the most peaceful ways possible without having to resort to violence, even if it meant receiving punishment for their (civil and peaceful) actions. During our discussion people unanimously agreed that violence does not solve a lot of issues. Not only does it give the oppressed who are fighting for their rights and for change a bad reputation, it also hurts people not directly involved. One gave the example of two friends disagreeing over something. If one resorted to violence to get their point across, then the friendship may be in danger. The other friend will most likely retaliate, leaving both sides wounded and the argument unresolved. This can be related to the case of civil disobedience. The government won’t respond well towards their violent acts and could retaliate which leaves both sides damaged. It takes time and energy away from actually being able to negotiate and bring about change to unjust laws in society. Someone else pointed out that sometimes violence can be good to gain attention. If one wants to disobey the law publically then violence can draw the public’s attention much faster than just peaceful protesting. It will help them gain more news coverage on television and online. However, this could go one way or the other. This attention could help the oppressors gain more helpers to aid their cause because many believe, or subconsciously feel, that it is their moral responsibility to bring about change and help those who are subjected to segregation by the law (as answered in the previous question). On the other hand, this violence could drive the public to stand on the government’s side, seeing these violent protestors as rebels who are threatening to destroy their peaceful lives and need to be stopped. Our discussion agreed that if violence was done right then it could lead to some beneficial effects but no one in the group would actually go to those extremes themselves.

Discussion Summary MLK JR

Questions

  1. Martin Luther King JR describes a four step process when it comes to nonviolent campaigns: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. What about this process makes it effective?

 

Through this question, my group discussed the importance of the order of the order that Martin Luther King JR listed these steps, based on their purpose.  The first step itself was quite self-explanatory, as one must realize and understand if there is an injustice is even occurring before any form of action is taken.  Then for the negotiation step, we determined this as key because of how is comes before the actual direct action. This is because we saw it to be possible for the issue to be resolved through this step in discussion, avoiding the negative backlash that could come with direct action.  Also, that it avoids the group that one is fighting against to be able to say that the party suffering from injustice should have just have just negotiated instead of going straight to direct action.  As for the self-purification, then direct action, we decided that the order of these two was ideal as it allows one to be mentally prepared to not retaliate once they have actually started the direct action.

 

This relates to the text in terms of the ideal approach that Martin Luther King JR has towards the process of nonviolent campaigns and our beliefs as to why it is so effective.

 

  1. Martin Luther King JR compares the idea of the peaceful protest being condemned because it can precipitate violence with a few examples. Do you think these comparisons are fair in the situation at hand? Why or why not?

 

For the comparison of the robbed man being condemned  for possessing money, we determined that this was not a fair comparison. This is because we saw it to be an unavoidable circumstance for one to possess money.  Also, this comparison is not centered around beliefs, rather a physical possession. We discussed however, that the comparisons of Jesus and Socrates were much more relatable to the situation of peaceful protest. This is because both of these cases are centered around a fight for improved lives and beliefs for all, and does an excellent job of showing why peaceful protest should not be condemned based on the violence that it may precipitate as both comparisons show similar cases.

 

These questions relation to the comparisons that Martin Luther King JR made to the act of peaceful protest being condemned and focuses on our beliefs behinds the legitimacy of these comparisons.

Discussion on Civil Disobedience

  1. In the letter, MLK jr. described that civil disobedience is permissible when it is nonviolent, when those involved accepts punishment, and there is communication. It was mentioned in class  that not all people agree that civil disobedience does not involve violence. So, some people feel violence is justified in certain cases. When is it permissible to use violence, then, with civil disobedience? Why do you think it might be seen as acceptable in some cases, but not in others, or why do you think some might even think it is justified? If violence is needed, where do we draw the line?

The group decided that violence should never be permissible, and that using any violence in civil disobedience would completely contradict the idea and purpose of the peaceful protesting. If the citizens must use violence, then it is no longer civil at all. We did agree, however, that if the government initiates violence and perhaps tries to apprehend the protesters aggressively, then it is justifiable in the sense that you are protecting yourself, as self-defense.

I presented a situation, in relation to the text, “when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…” and asked if one would justify violence used in this case, when there has been great amounts of racist violence against you and your family and friends.

The group members answered that, again, unless it is for self-defense, one still should not turn to violence, even if you or your family have been wronged many times. They agreed that all issues should be able to be solved without citizens turning to violence. If those in power refuse to communicate, refuse to listen or negotiate, then it may call for more than just civil disobedience. Perhaps it may need a bigger movement, like a civil war, because, then, there needs to be a change of those in power. There is no longer a respect in the laws from the citizens, no respect for the citizens, and there is no respect for those who are creating laws.

I presented another situation where I have seen some instances—once last year—where violence does get out of hand–from both sides–but because the government had so much power and control over the country, without the violence that was involved, there may not have been enough pressure for change and it wouldn’t have received enough publicity to bring about the needed pressure, or tension–as mentioned in the letter, “on the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.” Without the pressure brought upon by aggression, I feel like there wouldn’t have been enough communication, and that the person in power wouldn’t have listened to what the people had to say. Citizens were trying to reach out for help from other countries–for publicity–to get messages across, because the government just wasn’t even bothering to negotiate and shut everyone down, thus leading to the escalation in situation and bringing forth more violence.

Again, with this presented situation, my group members discussed that it calls for more than just simply a peaceful protest. A movement for change would call for more than just reform in laws, it would need a change in power. Clearly, there is more than just a few immoral laws here that is the issue.

2. Are there any cases of laws at this moment that you feel are unjust that you feel may lead to violent protests? If so, do you believe it might be possible to resolve the issue, and even resolve all unjust laws or make changes to all unjust laws without ever any use of violence?  What if the government will not negotiate with us and refuses to communicate?

We discussed how the recent Muslim ban that was passed could definitely lead towards aggressive/violent protests, as it is a very unjust law. A group member said, however, that many people were raised not to believe in violence, but with the outrage and controversy around the issue, many may possibly be influenced to act aggressively.

Some of the group members also stated that they are unable to answer these questions as clearly or with as much insight, as they are not in support of using violence whatsoever. Thus, they concluded that no, there is nothing going on that should ever need the use of violence, no matter of the degree of how unjust it is and how much it goes against a person’s morals. We talked about how there were many famous cases of civil disobedience, and the group compared them and talked about about how, although some did accomplish what they did with violence, it does not mean it was always needed.

Towards the end of the discussion, one of the group members did disagree a bit. The member stated that sometimes you can protest all you want, but you still will not be able to change somethings… So, some situations might need violence and more pressure than just nonviolent actions. As described in MLK’s letter, to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” and “to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored,” aggression might be required. This group member believed if there were civil movements that wasn’t as aggressive or didn’t put as much pressure on the country as they did, there would still be forms of slavery today. In response, we said that we did talk about rather extreme cases, and if the situation ever did come to such extreme cases, it ultimately means there needs to be more than just peaceful protesting. It means there needs to be a complete change in government and power. Otherwise, acts of civil disobedience should never need violence, unless for self-defense.

 

Discussion Summary on Martin Luther King Jr.

  1. Do you believe that Martin Luther king jr. was an example of Socrates’s definition of civil disobedience?

 

My group believed that MLK did exemplify Socrates’s vision of an un-complacent member of society. MLK had a vision of change and went after it, thus proving that he existed in a Socratic manner. The only thing that MLK did to go against Socrates was that he broke the law. Socrates was strongly opposed to breaking the law, as he demonstrates in Plato’s work “The Crito”.

 

 

2.  Is there another method that MLK could have used to dissipate the racial divide in America? Do you believe that the method proposed to him in the reading of “political negotiations” would have truly brought change?

 

My group did not believe that there was another way that MLK could have gone about inspiring change in America.  Because of his race, and the oppression of the African-American people in America at this time, the strategy of attempting to promote change through political negotiations would not have been feasible. We also discussed the fact that MLK was a very bright man, and he would have considered all of the options before making a move.

 

 

3.  Do you agree with MLK’s definition of just and unjust laws? What do you think makes a law just or unjust?

 

My group was very undecided when it came to this question. There was much discussion due to the fact that MLK was a christian minister, therefore his morality may have been very different then other people. This conversation ultimately sparked the concern for the fact that everyone has their own opinions, so morality may be difficult to generalize. We coined this term “universal morality” or more specifically, the lack of it. No two people could have the same opinions on what is morally right or wrong, therefore our answer to whether or not MLK was correct had to be left undecided.

 

These three questions referred to Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter “Letter fro Birmingham City Jail”, and discussed three of the main topics covered in the letter. These questions covered questions of morality and basic human liberties.

Civil Disobedience Discussion

  1. “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal”.  (King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail).

Do you think it is morally acceptable for someone to disobey a law if they feel it is unjust?

My group believed that it is more acceptable to disobey a law if a larger group agrees that an injustice is occurring.  If a person engages in civil disobedience for every minor perceived injustice, then everyone would be protesting things like speed limits or parking tickets, which don’t seem to have much merit.  However, such as was the case with the civil rights movement, if a large group all perceives the same injustice (segregation), it is more likely a legitimate concern that warrants attention being drawn to it.

 

2. Knowing that civil disobedience can break into violence, do you it is still right in some circumstances or should people strive for change through legal methods?

This question was posed to the entire class and sparked a long debate.  Most people thought that it is still necessary in some cases even if you know it will likely lead to violence.  Some even seemed to think that violence could be viewed as a positive since it will bring more attention to an issue that is being ignored.  People also said that violence was required in cases such as WWII, but I believe that situation is outside the scope of this question; war is not exactly on the same level as civil disobedience.  However, others held that knowing the possibility of violence, civil disobedience is irresponsible and sets a precedent in society that violence is a legitimate method of problem solving when there are proper legal channels to air your grievances and there are very few cases throughout history that require violence to solve.

 

3. How much do you think MLK and Socrates’ opinions on breaking unjust laws was influenced by the society they lived in?

My group agreed that the environment these two lived in probably contributed to their opinions on whether it was ever okay to break laws, even those thought to be unjust.  If Socrates had grown up in the same situation as MLK, being devalued as a human based on his skin colour for his whole life, he may not have been so accepting of every law of his city.  Likewise, if MLK had not grown up as part of an oppressed group, he might not have had such strong opinions on the topic since it wouldn’t have had such a major effect on his life.

 

The first question is a direct response to one of MLK’s opinions, that being that laws can be broken if one feels they are unjust.  The second is more general and based on the implications that this mentally may have in practice.  The final question is more abstract and connects the reading to a previous reading from the course, intended to get people thinking about how much one’s environment influences their opinions.

Discussion Summary: Civil Disobedience (MLK JR.) — 03/08

With the events MLK Jr. described in 1963 does it sound similar to what is going on today in 2017?

“But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;…”
(King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

I came up with this question because the events that MLK Jr. described in 1963 sounds very similar to what is happening today in some parts of the United States. With the Black Lives Matter movement and tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner it is undeniable that MLK Jr’s original purpose is still very relevant. In discussion, we established that yes the events MLK Jr. described are still happening today but it is to a lesser degree and not as widespread. Equality and acceptance are more widely spread since MLK Jr.’s time and has made significant contributions to diminish racism and violence. With that being said, we agreed that we still had a ways to go before we reached MLK Jr.’s ideal. There has been some progress but not fast enough since the events that happened in 1963 still happen today.

MLK Jr.’s  friend quotes that it took Christianity 2000+ years to spread and be mostly accepted, since a significant portion of time has since MLK Jr.’s time do you think we made good progress from the past to present day? 

This question is more or less an extension of the first question. I thought it would be worth it to discuss how much longer we predict before we reach MLK Jr.’s goal and what might be some ways for it to reach the level of acceptance such like Christianity.  One peer brought up that perhaps the answer would be education. By educating those around us of different cultures and diversity we may be able to speed up the process of eliminating hate and spreading acceptance. Education can bring people together to learn and accept one another’s differences rather than discriminate against each other and creating a vicious cycle of hate. We also decided that it is actually quite hard to say how much longer it would be before we reach the summit of this journey but said that the important thing is that we try our best to move forward and not backwards or in a circle.

Do you think ‘non-violent direct action’ is effective? Less or more effective now vs before?

Since MLK Jr,’s ‘non-violent direct action’ landed him in jail and labeled as an extremist in the eyes of law enforcement back then I thought it would be interesting to see how people thought of ‘non-violent direct action’ today and if is any more or less effective than in MLK Jr.’s time. My group felt like that unlike MLK Jr.’s day ‘non-violent direct action’ is no longer seen as a form of extremism in the eyes of law enforcement. Although it may seem unfamiliar to some people, to others it is no longer outrageous or wild to participate in sit-ins or to go on strike. In fact those are very common forms of protesting today; popularly chosen to raise awareness and protest problems in many different environments because of how effective it is and it’s non-violent quality. However now that it is not viewed as extreme anymore, the attention the acts previously garnered has died down as well. It is no longer as shocking or rebellious as before and therefore the effectiveness on that level has been going down but regardless of that factor ‘non-violent direct action’ is still an effective form of action today and is being displayed more than ever before.

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” (King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

I also brought up the quote above to my peers since I felt like it was an excellent piece of insight as to what MLK Jr.’s purpose was in all that he was doing. The passage clearly shows his views on the issues and why he feels a need to take action the way he does. It also answers to why he felt the need to not only raise concerns in his own town but to go to others and do the same.  I felt that his motivations, ambitions and perspective came through with spirit and strength in the excerpt and was overall very inspiring to any reader.

Civil Disobedience

1. It is clear that Martin Luther King Jr. (MLKJ) intends to push for non-segregation using collective demonstrations. Such acts draw upon the power of a populace to gain leverage that would otherwise be unavailable to the individual. The action of segregation requires a group to segregate, but due to the presence of a group, collective action is also possible. MLKJ addresses why he cannot postpone action with his argument against the “untimely” statement, but the question at hand is: why has collective action not happened sooner?

Immediately, the response was to point out the difference between having large numbers versus being powerful. The abuse of Aboriginals was brought up to parallel the African-American segregation, with a particular focus on the discrepancy regarding technology and intent. There must have been trickery involved where the Africans never expected the permanency or severity of slavery and thus lacked the defensive intent. Furthermore, the oppressed environment then limited access to political knowledge, hindering any official protest; many would want a change, but few would actually know how to bring it about. It was then pointed out that oppression also had ramifications on the individual’s confidence, causing the destitute to question if a change is even possible. “[W]hen your first name becomes ‘nigger,’ your middle name becomes ‘boy’ […] and your wife and mother are never given the respected title ‘Mrs.'”, it would be difficult for one to muster up the courage to live, let alone fight in a collective demonstration. Still, some would, but it was rationalized that such demonstrations would be limited, local, and disorganized. Here we arrived on perhaps the key element that was missing before MLKJ: leadership. The diffuse energies of the populace must be focused to reach a common goal.

2.MLKJ referred to his ancestors at one point in his letter, saying “[f]or more than two centuries our forebears labored without wages; […] they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice […]” He indirectly unified the people of the present with those of the past with we when he wrote “[b]efore the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here.” The problem with this unification is that crimes against the “forebears” were not committed against the modern African-Americans. The current crimes, though in essence the same, were committed by different people to different people. One would now be inclined to ask: is the present generation responsible for the iniquity of past generations?

The natural response was to point out that not much has changed. The generation of MLKJ, though past the time of slavery, was nonetheless far from treated with equality or even decency. Additionally, it was the actions of the ancestors that brought about the conditions of today. It was what instigated the disparity in wealth, education, self-esteem and perhaps all else. Realistically, it is nigh impossible to simply forget the past, as it was pointed out that the time frame in question is only a couple of generations. Hostilities would still have been ripe in the family setting as parents passed down the effects of old injustices. It was quickly agreed upon that whether the current generation should be held accountable for past actions is a moot point as being blamed for less does not remove the blame.