Civil Disobedience Around The World

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An examined life can be defined in several ways depending on the person. Socrates expresses, “…that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living”. Instead of just understanding and examining the world around you, you must also understand and examine the universe that exists within your own soul. Socrates’ philosophy mainly focuses on the soul’s well-being. “Make your first and chief concern not for your bodies or for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls”. Finding “the good” and “virtue” is the purpose of life to improve the soul and to act analogously with these findings.

Wisdom and truth are essential to being human. We accomplish this by asking ourselves questions about things such as justice, truth, and virtue and discovering universal truths behind these ideas. Socrates saw the importance of examining your life to stimulate critical thought, encourage debates, draw out concepts, and fundamental assumptions. He would not compromise his principles because that would be going against everything he stood for. Instead of trying to win the trial, Socrates wanted to educate and put the Athenians on trial for being corrupt. “There is good hope that death is a blessing, for it is one of two things: either the dead are nothing and have no perception, or it is, as we are told, a change and a relocating of the soul from here to another place”. This quote furthers the fact that Socrates did not fear death. Fearing death would be claiming a false wisdom and also why fear death if it is inevitable?

Like Socrates, Martin Luther King Jr. advocated against unjust laws that oppressed their societies. Even though Socrates methods of fighting against the system did not save his life, his methods were ultimately successful during King’s era. Civil disobedience looked to be the most affective way to approach this cause in King’s eyes. He had the support of millions, unlike Socrates. King utilized Socrates ideals to gradually seize the power of the government and masses one step at a time; helping him toward his goal of global justice and freedom.

Martin Luther King Jr. expresses, “IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action” (King, p.2). These are the four steps of non-violent direct action. When collecting facts to determine whether injustices are alive, one must know what injustice is. “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority”. This quote provides the definition of what is just and unjust as well as an example of injustice.

The second step, which is negotiation, is an important aspect of the nonviolent concept. If the other party deceives negotiation, then action must be taken. “The purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation”. The third step is self-purification. This means questioning your own moral strength. This is being able to withstand violence without retaliation no matter how life-threatening it may be. The last step is direct action. As stated by King, “nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignore. Without tension, new ideas cannot be proposed and peaceful advancement cannot be achieved.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”. Here he goes on to explain how he has never engaged in a direct action movement that was “well-timed” and how he’s heard “wait” for years. He expressed, “we can’t wait” because “wait” has almost always meant “never.” “When you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodyness’ — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait”. This quote goes to show that once you’ve had enough, you can no longer wait for action. The significance of the “examined life”, to myself, is extremely important. I think questioning and examining any and everything is very crucial to understanding yourself and the universe that surrounds you.

Understanding your choices and why you make those choices, your influence on others and/or their influence on you, and just overall understanding what goes on within oneself and the things and people around you is the goal of living an examined life. If you never question something, you will never completely understand it. It is normal to be curious and to ask questions. That is why I still find the “examined life” concept applicable in today’s society. Not enough people are living an examined life, therefore they are just living. Which means they are living without a purpose, and in my opinion, that is no way to live your life because without understanding oneself and the world around, you will never live life to its greatest capacity.


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