Civil disobedience is one of the most important rights given to every citizen. Through civil disobedience citizens are able to aperture their feelings against the government and have right to legislate changes that they feel are necessary for the contentment of the entire society. What responsibilities does a virtuous citizen have to follow the law? Socrates in Plat’s “The Critic” and Martin Luther King, Jar. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” answer this question from a contradictory perception. According to “Critic” (399 BCC) Socrates declares that no matter what, it is his duty to follow the law f his city, Athens.
However in King (1963), SST. Thomas Aquinas argues that “a Just law is no law at all”(King, 399) . These two contradicting opinions on this subject matter tell us that there is no evidence of perfect Justice. It is authoritative that citizens practice civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws. This will not only make the government aware that its citizens will not obey all laws undeniably and without respond, but it is also important for every citizen to use his or her disobedience as a way to help create a more Just society.
In Plato (399 BCC), Socrates argues that a tizzy who had profited greatly from his city should obey all laws regardless of their fairness or aims. When Critic comes to Socrates in Jail with his plan and plenty of money to help him escape from prison, to live his life again in a town other than Athens, he gives pretty good reasons for why Socrates ought to leave prison, including his responsibilities to his family and friends and to continue work. However in response, Socrates counters each of his reasons very concisely, but also concludes with the point that his main responsibility is to do what is right.
Therefore the question comes down to, not what is beneficial or what would make his family and friends happy but to do what is right. The question, Socrates says, is “what is the morally correct thing to do? ” Though, this question leaves the audience with some misconception, as Socrates never distinguished the difference between what is right and what is wrong to his friend Critic. He argues that “all men should do what is right all the time” (Plato, p 40) which makes us assume that there is a general understanding of “right”, then the argument is almost difficult to argue compared to much less defeat.
Indeed one, who lives their whole life within a society, benefiting from it in many ways and is aware of the laws of society, yet willing to stay, would owe his loyalty to that city. However, Socrates does not explain why it is right to obey the laws of one’s society. There is no defensible reason why one must obey the laws, other than disobeying laws creates problem that can lead to chaos in society. This argument is effective, yet it is not clear; it is only indirect throughout the conversation between Socrates and Critic. Socrates and Critic both agreed that it is always right to bye all laws, and wrong to disobey the laws.
On this assumption, of being a good citizen we know that Socrates had made a very strong argument as to why he should remain in Jail and accept his sentence. However, in his letter, Martin Luther King Jar. Makes a prevailing argument as to what a citizen should and should not suffer from his societies laws. While writing his letter from a Jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, King was in the middle of extreme injustice that was placed upon black American citizens, not only from fellow white citizens but also from the American justice and civil disobedience philosophy
By mishmash corruption, racism and violence towards blacks, which made it difficult for Mr.. King to react to the laws in a Just and responsible manner. Socrates was not popular with many Athenians, but he was regarded as an equal by his fellow citizens. On the other hand, many blacks in America were not treated equally and were given equal opportunities that existed for Socrates in ancient Athens. In United States most African-American lived as second-class citizens in the mid-twentieth century.
They were unable to have many opportunities and benefits that America offered due to their race. As King (1963) said, “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim… Hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters,… Then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait” when responding to the advice of many white clergymen that King and the supporters of the Civil Rights Movement should wait until a better time to advance the cause of civil rights and equality’ (King, 399).
During King ‘s time, his duty towards his country was to improve race relations and to reduce the awful injustices hat occurred, which had existed for blacks for over three hundred years in America. Socrates respects and loves his city and thought it was honorable for him to rather die obeying its law, regardless of believing in his innocence of the crime that appealed his death sentence, then to break the laws. Unlike Socrates, Mr.. King was in a different situation. All the citizens were given equal rights except for black Americans which made it most virtuous for Mr..
King to practice civil disobedience to challenge the injustice obligatory upon him and all black citizens during his time. The major question that is still remained unanswered is whether or not it a citizen ‘s responsibility to follow the law, is universal or circumstantial. It is two sided opinion, people who have grieved violence, humiliation, injustice or murder at the hands of their society or government would say it is definitely a question of circumstances. On the other hand, people who have responsibilities to honor the law of the land, and have profited from their society have higher obligations to certify, that those laws are just.
When citizens unsuccessfully try to change the laws, to imitate a true Just society, and the situation worsens instead, like was the case during the Civil Rights movement, all citizens should come together to force their will upon the government, provided that will is aimed at peace and represents a universal pursuit for Justice. Even if achieving this goal involves breaking the law, so be it. If this step is not taken at the right time, this will give the city or nation an idea that it can hold some of its residents as slaves and treat them however they want to treat them. In my opinion, King’s civil disobedience meant to be revolutionary.
King was not trying to change ND bring new government. He tries to improve the rules of the existing one, or if that didn’t work to elect the new one that will be fair to every citizen living in a society in the normal way. There is difference between trying to achieve your goals by forcing it in to people and doing so by making an expressive point. We also noted that both Socrates and king accepted the legal system’s punishment. In the end Socrates would argue that to go against the laws of the city is not right. He claims that it would be wrong if he escapes Jail hence breaking the law of his city, then he will be hurting is city.