Civil disobedience is the practice of intentionally disobeying laws that one or a group of people think are wrong. Young people and especially students are vulnerable to civil disobedience. The students are likely to disobey laws they find unjustifiable or offensive. It may involve breaking the laws intentionally with the view of others noticing. While disregarding, the violators obviously understand the repercussions of their actions. The violators aim at sensitizing the public on the law with the aim of forcing for negotiation with the relevant bodies. Unlike civil societies, students find themselves more concerned with school rules and regulations that are not favourable to them.
Components of Civil disobedience can be separated into four entities. The entities closely relate to each other with one preceding the other. The first entity is to determine the law which is to be challenged. This involves the identification of a law that is unobjectionable. The violators then disobey the law openly. This is without the use violence. The last aspect is that of accepting the legal consequences of breaking the law. Legal consequences may involve arresting the violators and taking them to court to face charges.
In the past, various people, organizations and organized groups used different techniques to express their displeasure regarding controversial issues. In the case study by Lopach and Luckowski, members of the group of Wild Rockies Earth first activists tied themselves with ropes dangerously over a torrent and endangered the lives of rescuers by not cooperating when they were being rescued (1). The group used ill tempered, violent and coolly self righteous moves, Lopach and Luckowski, (2). Other different groups such as ACT UP, Critical MASS and the catholic league used the same tactics. This is different from the approach of Mahatma Gandhi who preferred non violent actions based on total commitment morally, faith in religion and dignity to everybody, Lopach and Luckowski, (2). On the other hand, the American activist, Luther King encouraged his followers to act in passive and non violent ways, Lopach and Luckowski, (5). An English teacher, as part of his lessons, urged his pupils to get involved in acts of non conformance to normal behaviour leading to suspension of two of his students. Others preferred the used of negative role modelling.
Consequences of civil disobedience range from minor consequences to severe punishments. It can result to arrest and consequently, a jail term. Such is the case of the Wild Rockies Earth activists and, a teacher in Kentucky who subsequently lost her job. Civil disobedience can lead to destruction and loss of property. In his book, James F. Childress Civil Disobedience and Trust, Civil disobedience is also one of the factors that cause a decline of civility, tolerance and understanding in situations which can be negotiated (19).
Principles are long standing fundamental rules which acts as the basis for a system of beliefs or behaviour. On the other hand, personal preference in civil disobedience results into reckless acts that mostly have no basis in the common rules. Individuals involve themselves for their own benefit and not the community at large.
Despite the necessity for civil disobedience in the society today, it can lead to disastrous results if not well planned. Students should heed to the words of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King civil disobedience should harmonize moral order and a right conscious. Students involving themselves in civil disobedience should take moral responsibilities and avoid acts that may degrade the real reason of civil disobedience.
Childress, James “ Civil Disobedience and Trust”, the Poynter Center, Indiana University,
Patil, Vishnu “ Mahatma Gandhi and the civil disobedience movement: A study in the
dynamics of the mass movement”, Renaissance Pub. House, 1988.
James J. Lopach and Jean A. Luckowski. ” Uncivil Disobedience”