The Instigator
Chuckles
Con (against)
Tied
15 Points
The Contender
andrewsnell
Pro (for)
Tied
15 Points

Resolved:In a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/22/2007 Category: Society
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,895 times Debate No: 843
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (10)

 

Chuckles

Con

basically i want to see what people will say to this. it is the National Forensics League's January topic for Public forum Debate. I chose Con.
I negate this resolution because:
1. Civil Disobedience (CD) is not within the parameters of a democracy, as the people's voice is already heard.
2. CD can cause threat to personal security due to the breach of the social contract.

1. in a true democracy, all people's views and voice would already be heard. A democracy, by definition, represents everyone's views and is a government BY THE PEOPLE. therefore CD is not justified, because the people's views are actually already heard and represented adequately.

2. CD violates the social contract, and therefore may cause anarchy and threat to security. In the social contract citizens agree to obey laws set down for them by the government (which in a democracy basically IS the people anyways). If suddenly breaking the law is openly justified, then there is no reason for people to continue to adhere to the law. Persons could break laws in the name of CD because they don't agree with it. The people should voice their concerns through the proper channels. there is no need to violate the social contract and void the purpose and validity of a government.
now i'd like to hear arguments for CD, this will hopefully let me write cases, although i left my notes at school over the break, so i may start another debate in the near future...
andrewsnell

Pro

The resolution does not state--nor will I attempt to argue--that civil disobedience is universally appropriate in a democracy. Rather, I will argue that injustice is possible in a democracy, and that in the struggle to right some given injustice, there are a number of appropriate, escalating options, of which one is civil disobedience. Thus, in a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice.

Concerning the definition of justice, which is in itself its own debate, and the cause of much frustration and nitpicking in LD rounds. Let us make the assumption that 'justice' is a knowable, universal good, which can be fought for and won by some means.

Let us focus on the idea of democracy--rule by the people. Even in the purest, most ideal form, there will be some kind of minority--whether 1 person or 49.9% of the population, it does not matter. My opponents view of a democracy where every person's view is heard and implemented equally is only possible in a single person state, which defeats the prime reason for government. Our modern democracies have evolved with laws that protect the minority and provide redress for grievance. Yet therein lies the rub. The "proper channels" as my opponent refers, are created by the majority. In my opponents "true" democracy, the minority can have their voice heard, they can shout their view from the mountaintops, yet there is no guarantee that the majority will grant their demands. The existence of a democratic government does not imply the existence of a just government. Just as the existence of 'proper channels' does not imply the existence of those channels being just.

Further, the social contract is not a one-way street or a light-switch. My opponent is correct in saying that "in a social contract citizens agree to obey laws set down for them by the government;" however, in return the government has a obligation to provide justice and security. Likewise, unlike business contracts, the social contract has different degrees of violation, from both the People and from the Government. There is a difference between driving five miles over the speed limit and high treason. If there is, as the resolution states, "a fight for justice," we can safety assume that the democratic government has failed its obligation to provide justice, and thus is in someway violating the contract made with the People. However, with some exceptions of grave, extreme injustice, just because a given injustice exists, the purpose and validity of the government does not disappear into thin air. Civil disobedience seeks to repair a damaged social contract, not destroy it.
Consequently, the idea that people will break the laws in the name of civil disobedience is not germane to this debate because it lacks the necessary fight for justice, as stated in the resolution. The difference between crime and civil disobedience is the fight for justice.

Finally, we need to address the appropriateness of civil disobedience as a tool to bring about justice. One does not hunt deer with a bazooka, nor does one go to war with only a pocket knife: the tool must be appropriate for the use. There is a spectrum of injustice, and the weapon to combat a given injustice must be appropriate for the occasion. I agree with my opponent that the first solution must be to try the proper channels. If, however, it is not successful, then a stronger solution must be found. Here is where non violent civil disobedience is appropriate--to try to sway the majority to fix the injustice. At this point, those who participate in the non-violent action willfully accept the risk to their safety because they value justice more than their personal safety. Sometimes, when non-violent action is unsuccessful, armed conflict is necessary, as in the American Revolution.

Civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon to fight injustice in the context of democracy because it is a non-violent way of trying to persuade members of the majority to make needed changes to improve the just nature of the society. Contrast this method to terrorism or a coup d'etat, and it is easy to see how non-violent means fit with the goals of a government by the People. The fight for racial equality in the 1960's was largely fought with Civil Disobedience. The gains toward racial equality made in that decade did not require the government to be overthrown or the majority to have their rights infringed. Yet because of the sit-ins and protests, decades of injustice were righted.

In conclusion, even though a government may be by the people, for the people and of the people, there is no implication of how just that government will be. When an injustice exists, the social contract between the government and the minority is damaged, but not destroyed. There are many methods of fighting injustice, from the 'proper channels' to sit-ins to terrorism to civil war. Yet, not all these methods are appropriate for at all times. When an injustice exists and lesser methods have failed, non-violent civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon to highlight the injustice and move the majority to repair the wrongdoing.
Debate Round No. 1
Chuckles

Con

thanks for accepting the challenge, based on your first argument you seem to be an experienced debater. I'm looking forward to this debate.
First let me apologize for not even offering a definition of justice! Although i do not like to get into "Definition debates" i would offer my own definition.
Justice is a condition, a morally correct state of things.
Your first point was basically the argument that in a democracy there can be injustice through tyranny by majority, or the majority pushes around the minority. You said, and I quote:
1. "My opponents view of a democracy where every person's view is heard and implemented equally is only possible in a single person state, which defeats the prime reason for government."
2. "In my opponents "true" democracy, the minority can have their voice heard, they can shout their view from the mountaintops, yet there is no guarantee that the majority will grant their demands. The existence of a democratic government does not imply the existence of a just government."

I never said that every person's view is heard AND implemented in a true democracy. I simply said their view is heard. In a real democracy people's voices are heard. Not everyone gets the way they want. But this is true of basically all government. People are bound to disagree. Not everyone can have their way. Democracy simply expresses more people's views than other governments. And since not everyone can agree, people compromise, or persist. They can work out a law that is at least closer to satisfying everyone. Or they can keep trying to pass different versions of that law. they can continue to fight for that. But OF COURSE there is no guarantee that the majority will grant the minority's demands, no matter where they shout it from. But my opponent seems to think that through CD everyone's views will be implemented. Just as it would not work with a democracy (or any government), it cannot work through CD. If a campaign of CD succeeded in getting a law overturned, the minority succeeds in getting their views implemented. But then the majority's views are NOT! And is that fair for a democracy? Is that just in a democracy? It sounds more like a dictatorship where one or a few people's views are implemented, rather than the interests of the majority. And that does not sound just (or like a democracy) to me.

On my opponents second point, he says that the government is in violation of the social contract when it doesn't offer justice, or allows an unjust law. He claims that CD simply repairs the social contract.
First, i would like to say that, according to my definition of justice, justice is not universal. Just like i said in my previous rebuttal, people disagree. People have different morals. Therefore, a state of justice is not possible for multiple people, as the people will disagree. So a government cannot offer justice in the first place.
Second, although, as my opponent states, "Civil disobedience seeks to repair a damaged social contract." What it seeks to achieve is not always what it ends up with. "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In reality, they are not" - ??. CD is not the right "weapon" to use to fix the government, because, it doesn't work anymore. Consider this quote, from a Singapore writer on CD:
"These days, it just takes more to shock us. Content isn't king! ... Not if one considers information is even competing with information as it tries to grab a slice of our diminishing aperture of consciousness...CD these days is a victim of the "roach-spray- effect" (the more you spray us, the more we develop immunity and the larger your doses need to be!)."
Thus attempts to attract attention, gain sympathy, and achieve goals have to be more and more radical. And the more radical you get, the less SUPPORT you get. You get plenty of attention being radical, but little or none of that attention is positive. Ben Wolff in an article concerning "Civil Disobedience" against the draft said :
"I understand that we do not have a draft to resist right now, but does that mean we should break another random law to compensate, regardless of whether that law is unjust? I don't think that actions should necessarily be considered heroic or altruistic just because they are illegal. In fact, sometimes it can really hurt your cause. When thousands of anti-globalization protestors block off the entire downtown area of Washington, D.C., for example, something resembling an American flag goes up in my brain. Preventing the blue-collar population of the District from getting to their jobs because you have a bone to pick with the World Bank is hardly a good way to fight poverty. I want to be clear on what we are saying with our actions so I feel comfortable showing up at protests. Activism...seems to be running short right now, and I think it's partly because certain methods are seen as irrational and ineffective. "
So because of time constraints on my part, i will conclude now by recapping my rebuttals: Democracy does not call for all views to be implemented,and CD only hurts the "fight for justice"; and CD is ineffective due to its nature in our time. Sorry i cannot continue to make points and pursue arguments, but i have a life outside of the internet. (GASP) thank you
andrewsnell

Pro

It would be naive to think that civil disobedience is a cure-all or that in some way, would lead to a perfect society. The goal, however, is to fight for a more perfect society. As I argued in the first round, the fight for justice is a struggle, and at different times in the struggle, certain actions are appropriate weapons. Again, what makes a weapon appropriate is the situation in which it would be used. You do not use a pocket-knife to fight a war and you do not use a bazooka to hunt deer. The options available to those fighting for justice are varied and exist on a spectrum. I agree with my opponent, that the proper channels must be tried first, that the laws be changed through compromise and diplomacy. Certainly at times the fight for injustice ends here. If, however, this may fail and as my opponent noted earlier in this round, the other option is to "persist." People do not give up the fight for justice just because the majority has made it impossible to correct the situation legally.

It is true that not everyone agrees on a definition of justice, which is what presents the problem in the first place; however, people, by nature, will fight for a more just situation, regardless if we consider justice as a universal ideal or an individual ideal. This was the case with slavery, equality, universal suffrage, and national independence. As I noted in my first round argument, people will set aside their safety to correct what they see to be injustice. My opponent argues that a successful campaign of civil disobedience is not fair in a democracy because the majority's views are not implemented as law. However, civil disobedience is not terrorism, it is not a coup d'etat, nor is it a civil war. Civil disobedience does not force the majority to change the law by violence; rather, it works by highlighting the injustice and peacefully swaying members of the majority to change the laws. Contrast a peaceful sit-in with holding a gun to a legislator's head, and the difference is clear.

My opponent argues against my second contention by stating that civil disobedience hurts the fight for justice because it is ineffective in our time. Just because civil disobedience is one step above the majority's "proper channels" does not mean it is so radical that people will reject it outright. Many social-justice movements, from India to South Africa to the United States have gained support and credence from the majority simply because they were non-violent. Just because the rally or sit-in may not make the six o'clock news does not affect its appropriateness as a weapon to fight injustice.

Again, in the context of democracy, the fight for injustice calls for a measured, non-violent approach to peacefully sway the majority to correct the injustice. This, in the proper context, can be achieved by civil disobedience.
Debate Round No. 2
Chuckles

Con

First off let me say this has been a great debate for me, i have learned a lot about how i want to run this at tournaments. Thank you, you are a more than worthy opponent!

Now, I'll start by attacking my opponent's points and then moving on to reaffirm my own.
First, this is a point i meant to bring up last round, but i forgot, and was under time constraints, i apologize. But CD is NOT necessarily non-violent. CD is simply breaking the law as a protest against an injustice. It could be violent, although , i admit, it is not often. Still, The resolution does not say that CD would necessarily be non-violent. I will tie this into one of my later points. And furthermore, This resolution is simply suggestive of violent methods and actions. Look at the wording! It's an appropriate WEAPON in the FIGHT for justice? Look at even my opponent's wording! "You do not use a pocket-knife to fight a war and you do not use a bazooka to hunt deer." One could argue that violence is NEVER justified. One could argue that in supporting this resolution, one would inherently be supporting the violent nature it implies. Later as I said, I will touch some more on this topic.

Second, my opponent argues using an example that the majority pushes the minority, and makes it impossible to right this wrong legally. I would argue, that for a democracy to succeed, and avoid revolution, that the people (majority and minority) would have to make the laws at least satisfiable to both sides of an issue. A democracy inherently needs fair people who make fair laws. So a situation like that would be unlikely or impossible in a successful true democracy. A more likely scenario would be that the majority passed a law that does not oppress the minority, but the minority consider it morally wrong (like abortion. Some find it morally wrong, while others consider it okay, or the person's choice. Imagine, for this debate's sake, that the minority believed Abortion was immoral, and the majority thought it okay.) So what does the minority do? Persist, and not in the way my opponent twisted my wording (good job). Persist in the appropriate channels. They continue to make their point, make their arguments more available, and they may well sway the public. But if not, then there is not any reason to break the law. That would be breaking their social contract, and it would be the FIRST breach, not the second, because the government is fulfilling the majority's opinion of just laws, and the minority is not being oppressed. Thus CD would be an inappropriate and unjustified breach of the social contract.
Now, on to my side of the flow to reaffirm before-mentioned points.
First, it is in the nature of the true democracy that people's voices are heard. Not necessarily implemented, but heard. people make their points, and then take a vote. So a true democracy would already have just laws.
Second, justifying CD justifies breaking the law for any reason. It justifies anarchy. If breaking the law is justified, what reason is there to adhere to those laws? none.
Third, there is no guarantee that an individual's views will be implemented, as my opponent tried to make me say (sorta). Like i have said, a democracy ensures that every person's views are heard. Once the views are presented, the people would take a vote based on those views and on their conscience. Of course there is no guarantee your view will be the law, but your view will affect the people making the laws.
Fourth, CD is now ineffective. As i quoted in my last argument, There is a "roach effect", where since the internet and media makes more information competing for our attention, the information we give our attention to, and the media gives us, ahs to be the most important, the most eye-catching. So to get our attention, CD campaigns must become more and more radical in their methods and approach. I am not, as my opponent implied in his last argument, arguing that CD is inherently radical simply because it is outside the law. I am arguing that the methods the users of CD must be more radical to even get attention. This opens these campaigns of CD to violent tactics, because sure as hell that will get attention. But at the same time that would marginalize the group. And you said, "just because the rally or sit-in may not make the six o'clock news does not affect its appropriateness as a weapon to fight injustice." I disagree. One of the primary functions of CD is to gain attention. The main way CD is successful is, as you said, highlighting the "injustice", or gain attention. If it does not make the news, far less people are reached, far less attention is gained. The only people who know about the rally or sit-in could well be people involved and people who happen to pass by. And that is why CD is ineffective in our time.
I believe that is all the points i wanted to make, i hope i didn't miss anything or confuse things for people. SO to close, as a reminder of my final points,
The resolution encourages violence. Supporting such a resolution could be viewed as support for violence.
A situation where the majority oppresses the minority is not likely or possible in a true successful democracy. Persisting in legal boundaries would be the appropriate way to "fight injustice".
People's views are already heard in a democracy.
Justifying breaking the law is immoral and can lead to anarchy, as it leaves no reason to abide by laws set forth.
And civil disobedience is ineffective in our age.
That is why i negate the resolution: In a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice. Thank yoy
andrewsnell

Pro

andrewsnell forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by GOOFYTU 9 years ago
GOOFYTU
I will say that chuckles, you had very good taglines and support, but andrew did hit some majorly important issues:

First, Injustice is objective and justice is subjective.

Justice is different for everyone. Injustice is the same.

Ex. If a soldier shot and killed a civilian, but the same man thought the civilian was an enemy target, which side gets to take the justice? Or, both sides would agree that the soldier did something wrong and that an innocent man was killed due to the lack of information.

No one really knows a universal "right and wrong" in Justice.

*andrew wins due to first arguement*

Secondly, If C.D. states that people can break the law because it is unjust or immoral, then couldn't that lead to anarchy?

Both sides must realize that the resolution states "in a democracy, C.D. -IS- an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice."

Okay, so if you can support the present, can you present the outcomes of C.D.?

If people could break laws that they do not feel is necessary, then there would be no order in a government. Anarchy would come of it.

*tie*

Now, andrew states: CD is NOT necessarily non-violent.

If C.D. was not non-violent then it would not be called CIVIL disobedience in the first place. It is ABSOLUTELY necessary to state that it is NON-Violent. Don't say that it isn't otherwise you may be seen as conceiting your case.

*Andrew wins*

This was avery intersting debate and I hope the best to both as you take these points to your school. I am an NFL judge and hope to see both of you succeed to NFLs. See you in Las Vegas!!
Posted by Chuckles 9 years ago
Chuckles
I'd be fine with that. That's weird with the counter though.
we can repost the debate. Oh, and i finally got the notes back from my teacher after the debate. today. a lot of good it did me!...and it won't let me post an email.
Posted by andrewsnell 9 years ago
andrewsnell
Chuckles:

Evidently, there was a problem with the countdown counter for the last round of debate. I have a completed third round argument. I would like to send it to you, for your PFD edification. Alternately, we could repost the resolution and copy/paste our arguments for the public. Your call.

Andrew
Posted by andrewsnell 9 years ago
andrewsnell
What the heck?!--the counter said I had 35 minutes left to post? I tried uploading my case, but it would not let me.
Posted by brokenarrowdebater 9 years ago
brokenarrowdebater
YAY!
public forum is amazing!
Posted by AJmartinez 9 years ago
AJmartinez
a good debate, but i think Chuckles' second point, that CD can cause anarchy isn't very strong. there's not enough evidence to support it.
Posted by UberCryxic 9 years ago
UberCryxic
Wasn't this same debate also featured in that new movie, 'The Great Debaters'? Anyway, I would say, for a number of reasons, which I won't go over here on account of indolence, that sometimes civil disobedience is appropriate when trying to gain justice...in any society. Not always, but occassionally.
Posted by Chuckles 9 years ago
Chuckles
and about that "the resolution is violent" thing...my coach dared me to do it.
Posted by Stargurl 9 years ago
Stargurl
this topic is completely different than from last's month in PFD. This one is very elastic and evasive, whereas the Iran involvement by US was more realistic. This debate will definitely help me for next tournament
Posted by Chuckles 9 years ago
Chuckles
yeah, we had a good class discussion and i had some awesome points, thing is, i can't remember worth a poo. but i like the topic, even though it's really LD like. and the LD topic is basically the old PF topic.
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