Will you do us the favor to read it before the Bungtown Institute? He was a comic savant for hire, or so they hoped. At the lectern or not, he tended to give the impression that he was kidding around. Playing with words,—getting the laugh,—not always simple, strong, and broad. For alongside the idolators and pedestal-makers, Henry has his haters, and one of their favorite complaints is that he was all scowling prophecy, zero funnybone. Writing in the North American Review , Lowell grumbled:. He seems to me to have been a man with so high a conceit of himself that he accepted without questioning, and insisted on our accepting, his defects and weaknesses of character as virtues and powers peculiar to himself.
Thoreau seems to have prized a lofty way of thinking often we should be inclined to call it a remote one not so much because it was good in itself as because he wished few to share it with him. He seeks, at all risks, for perversity of thought.
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Thoreau seems to me to insist in public on going back to flint and steel, when there is a match-box in his pocket which he knows very well how to use at a pinch. Thoreau had not a healthy mind, or he would not have been so fond of prescribing. His whole life was a search for the doctor.
I once had a glimpse of a genuine solitary who spent his winters one hundred and fifty miles beyond all human communication, and there dwelt with his rifle as his only confidant. Compared with this, the shanty on Walden Pond has something the air, it must be confessed, of the Hermitage of La Chevrette.
But roughly halfway through his screed, Lowell discredits himself with a more sweeping complaint, and we catch the dull shimmer of the axe he really wishes to grind:. I look upon a great deal of the modern sentimentalism about Nature as a mark of disease. It is one more symptom of the general liver-complaint. To a man of wholesome constitution the wilderness is well enough for a mood or a vacation, but not for a habit of life. It is a very shallow view that affirms trees and rocks to be healthy, and cannot see that men in communities are just as true to the laws of their organization and destiny.
To hear the to-do that is often made over the simple fact that a man sees the image of himself in the outward world, one is reminded of a savage when he for the first time catches a glimpse of himself in a looking-glass. Here we might have excused the counsel from trying this particular literary case. And as we continue to read him, he will continue to be many things to many people—wonderfully so. Speaking to change-makers and ecologists, rainbow-tog Buddhists and curriculum committees, his work is vast in its importance and appeal. Let us remember, especially, how funny he could be—how alive to the special force of wisecracking wit.
I confess I do not make any very broad distinction between the illiterateness of my townsmen who cannot read at all, and the illiterateness of him who has learned to read only what is for children and feeble intellects. We should be as good as the worthies of antiquity, but partly by first knowing how good they were. We are a race of tit-men, and soar but little higher in our intellectual flights than the columns of the daily paper.
Society is commonly too cheap.
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We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. I had more visitors while I lived in the woods than at any other period of my life; I mean that I had some. Probably I should not consciously and deliberately forsake my particular calling to do the good which society demands of me, to save the universe from annihilation; and I believe that a like but infinitely greater steadfastness elsewhere is all that now preserves it.
The merchants and banks are suspending and failing all the country over, but not the sand banks, solid and warm. You may run on them as much as you please,—even as the crickets do, and find their account in it. In these banks, too, and such as these, are my funds deposited, funds of health and enjoyment. October 14, There is some advantage in being the humblest, cheapest, least dignified man in the village, so that the very stable boys shall damn you. Methinks I enjoy that advantage to an unusual extent.
July 6, Indeed, for Vice President Spiro Agnew it has become a code-word describing the activities of muggers, arsonists, draft evaders, campaign hecklers, campus militants, anti-war demonstrators, juvenile delinquents and political assassins. In reviewing the voluminous literature on the subject, the student of civil disobedience rapidly finds himself surrounded by a maze of semantical problems and grammatical niceties.
Like Alice in Wonderland , he often finds that specific terminology has no more or no less meaning than the individual orator intends it to have. He encourages a distinction between lawful protest demonstration, nonviolent civil disobedience, and violent civil disobedience.
In a letter to P. Rao, dated September 10, , Gandhi disputes that his idea of civil disobedience was derived from the writings of Thoreau: . The statement that I had derived my idea of Civil Disobedience from the writings of Thoreau is wrong. The resistance to authority in South Africa was well advanced before I got the essay When I saw the title of Thoreau's great essay, I began to use his phrase to explain our struggle to the English readers.
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But I found that even "Civil Disobedience" failed to convey the full meaning of the struggle. I therefore adopted the phrase "Civil Resistance. In seeking an active form of civil disobedience, one may choose to deliberately break certain laws, such as by forming a peaceful blockade or occupying a facility illegally,  though sometimes violence has been known to occur. Often there is an expectation to be attacked or even beaten by the authorities. Protesters often undergo training in advance on how to react to arrest or to attack.
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Civil disobedience is usually defined as pertaining to a citizen's relation to the state and its laws, as distinguished from a constitutional impasse , in which two public agencies, especially two equally sovereign branches of government , conflict. For instance, if the head of government of a country were to refuse to enforce a decision of that country's highest court, it would not be civil disobedience, since the head of government would be acting in her or his capacity as public official rather than private citizen.
However, this definition is disputed by Thoreau's political philosophy pitching the conscience vs. The individual is the final judge of right and wrong. More than this, since only individuals act, only individuals can act unjustly.
When the government knocks on the door, it is an individual in the form of a postman or tax collector whose hand hits the wood. Before Thoreau's imprisonment, when a confused taxman had wondered aloud about how to handle his refusal to pay, Thoreau had advised, "Resign. But if government is "the voice of the people," as it is often called, shouldn't that voice be heeded?
Thoreau admits that government may express the will of the majority but it may also express nothing more than the will of elite politicians. Even a good form of government is "liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.
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The majority may be powerful but it is not necessarily right. What, then, is the proper relationship between the individual and the government? Ronald Dworkin held that there are three types of civil disobedience:. Some theories of civil disobedience hold that civil disobedience is only justified against governmental entities. Brownlee argues that disobedience in opposition to the decisions of non-governmental agencies such as trade unions , banks, and private universities can be justified if it reflects "a larger challenge to the legal system that permits those decisions to be taken".
The same principle, she argues, applies to breaches of law in protest against international organizations and foreign governments. It is usually recognized that lawbreaking, if it is not done publicly, at least must be publicly announced to constitute civil disobedience. But Stephen Eilmann argues that if it is necessary to disobey rules that conflict with morality, we might ask why disobedience should take the form of public civil disobedience rather than simply covert lawbreaking.
If a lawyer wishes to help a client overcome legal obstacles to securing her or his natural rights , he might, for instance, find that assisting in fabricating evidence or committing perjury is more effective than open disobedience. This assumes that common morality does not have a prohibition on deceit in such situations. Exodus 1: . There have been debates as to whether civil disobedience must necessarily be non-violent. Black's Law Dictionary includes non-violence in its definition of civil disobedience.
Christian Bay's encyclopedia article states that civil disobedience requires "carefully chosen and legitimate means," but holds that they do not have to be non-violent. Civil disobedients' refraining from violence is also said to help preserve society's tolerance of civil disobedience.
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The philosopher H. McCloskey argues that "if violent, intimidatory, coercive disobedience is more effective, it is, other things being equal, more justified than less effective, nonviolent disobedience. Zinn rejects any "easy and righteous dismissal of violence", noting that Thoreau, the popularizer of the term civil disobedience, approved of the armed insurrection of John Brown. He also notes that some major civil disobedience campaigns which have been classified as non-violent, such as the Birmingham campaign , have actually included elements of violence.
Non-revolutionary civil disobedience is a simple disobedience of laws on the grounds that they are judged "wrong" by an individual conscience, or as part of an effort to render certain laws ineffective, to cause their repeal, or to exert pressure to get one's political wishes on some other issue.
Revolutionary civil disobedience is more of an active attempt to overthrow a government or to change cultural traditions, social customs, religious beliefs, etc The earliest recorded incidents of collective civil disobedience took place during the Roman Empire [ citation needed ].
Unarmed Jews gathered in the streets to prevent the installation of pagan images in the Temple in Jerusalem. This is a form of jail solidarity. Thoreau, at the time of his arrest, was not yet a well-known author, and his arrest was not covered in any newspapers in the days, weeks and months after it happened. The tax collector who arrested him rose to higher political office, and Thoreau's essay was not published until after the end of the Mexican War.
There is a whole class of acts, undertaken in the name of civil disobedience, which, even if they were widely practiced, would in themselves constitute hardly more than a nuisance e. Such acts are often just a harassment and, at least to the bystander, somewhat inane The remoteness of the connection between the disobedient act and the objectionable law lays such acts open to the charge of ineffectiveness and absurdity.
Bedau also notes, though, that the very harmlessness of such entirely symbolic illegal protests toward public policy goals may serve a propaganda purpose.