The Instigator
AJmartinez
Con (against)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
Mdal
Pro (for)
Winning
58 Points

is civil disobedience still necessary in a democracy?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/16/2007 Category: Society
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 6,774 times Debate No: 532
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (11)
Votes (24)

 

AJmartinez

Con

In the past, there are many times when civil disobedience has brought about a change. Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Rosa Parks are all prime examples. But in today's society, we no longer need to disobey the law in order to bring about change. There are court procedures, you can talk to any official... All of these are nonviolent ways of brining about a change, the only difference is, one is legal.
Mdal

Pro

First I would like to thank AJmartinez for suggesting this debate, good luck and let us begin.

When discussing civil disobedience it is important to remember that the practitioners of civil disobedience (from here on in: CD) are fighting for a cause in which the systems in place (such as the court systems and the system of government) are stacked against the possible practitioners of CD. For the sake of our debate, civil disobedience is the non violent purposeful flouting of laws in place. The usual reason why people will take to civil disobedience is because there are few if any other options available to them.

So we first need to narrow the debate into a specific place, as you phrased the debate it seems like the need for CD has disappeared from the world, yet one needs only look at the systems of ruler ship in China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and North Korea (just to name a few) to see how the system of government in place in these locations are simply atrocious to many of the needs of the governed. (all of the named nations have multiple gross infractions of the UN agreed "Declaration of Human Rights" which is why they have been chosen as examples) CD is required to alert the populace of nations like these to the inequality and injustice being practiced within the state, as well as draw international attention to put pressure on these governments to change their ways.

Thus we can see from the get go that Civil Disobedience is still very important internationally (I am personally from the US, thus when I say internationally, I mean outside of the US).

If we narrow the scope of the debate to just the US, we need only look at situations where the US government, whether at the city, state, or federal level, has created an unfair law which is being upheld by the governing system in place. Democracy does not guarantee equality or justice, the possibility of the tyranny of the majority is ever present. We need only look back 60 years to see the Civil Rights Movement where good people were required to break unjust laws which discriminated against African Americans based on race alone, something which a large portion of the population in the South thought was acceptable and right. Are there situations in the US today where we might find people being discriminated against based on religion, race, creed, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation? You bet.

Are these unfair and, I would go so far to say: Immoral, unjust actions backed by the system of government in place? Yes. I hail from Arizona personally, thus I will use my home town as an anecdotal example of this, however it isn't unique to Arizona, on the contrary it is very common all over the nation.

Homosexual marriage is illegal in Arizona, though the state defeated the referendum to make it illegal in our state constitution, the Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the decision to keep homosexual marriage illegal in the state in three separate court cases. A seemingly arbitrary decision from this poster's purview, as I don't see a legal distinction between homosexual and heterosexual couples. This is a prime example of something many people would decry as unjust, being upheld by the state and city government.

AJ you might respond that people have the ability to fight this sort of injustice (if we can agree that this situation is unjust) with legal action, however as the AZ supreme court has already shown, legal action has proven useless and the majority of people in the state find homosexuality itself distasteful and thus feel that the legalization of it is wrong.

We can see from this view that there are few if any options left to homosexuals who would like to be married in the state of Arizona. They are a prime example of people who would benefit from civil disobedience.

The best, and worst, part of this is that you don't need to use my example of homosexuals in Arizona. You can look all over the country and find minority groups who are discriminated against via the laws on the books.

It is important to understand that in order to win this debate I don't need to claim that CD is the ONLY solution to these problems, only to show that CD still has a place in our society as a useful tool to create change.
Debate Round No. 1
AJmartinez

Con

(ok so for the sake of the round, we will agree that civil disobedience is a nonviolent way of solving issues with society (or however you want to put it). But as for limiting the debate to a specific location, i asked if it was "still necessary in a democracy.")

first, i would like to point out that while civil disobedience starts out as a nonviolent action, there is always the possibility that it could end violently. The Civil Rights movement led to violence , Rosa Parks led to violence, a nd both started out with someone refusing to follow a law they believed was unjust. Definitions may say civil disobedience is nonviolent but there is not guarantee that this can't and won't progress into violence and riots.

Consider also leading by example. If one group decides to protest before going through the procedures, then they'd set a poor example for the nation and other people who would want to be heard. Its better if the people go through the proper motions before being disobedient. If one group decides to make a full scale protest and are given the attention, then they'd essentially be showing that "hey if we prostest we'll be heard" disregarding the procedures set up to address government.

Let's use an example. Let's say I don't like school cafeteria food, so I get everyone together and we don't attend school until they change it. That hurts our education, breaks the law, and isn't really serving any justice, except our own, which is for more of a selfish reason.

Basically my point is that even though it's helped in the past, that does't mean that it's still necessary. There are alot of cases that have been solved without using civil disobedience. Brown vs. Board of Education is one. Blogging today has grown very popular as a way to get our ideas heard internationally. You dont need to diobey in order to bring about change.
Mdal

Pro

Alrighty AJ, here we go, first I will write on your arguments and then remind you about mine.

Remember (for those who skipped some of the previous arguments) : CD= Civil Disobedience

AJ's 1st Argument:
"first, i would like to point out that while civil disobedience starts out as a nonviolent action, there is always the possibility that it could end violently."

Yes indeed that is very true, the "possibility" of violence breaking out always remains a "possibility" (I can't italicize on this so you can't see me emphasizing "possibility" but I am).
The question comes down to, should people who have no other recourse, no other option in the government, should they be allowed to utilize CD? Does CD still have a place in a democratic society. The answer is obviously yes.
Laws are put in place to serve the people, they are created in order to protect, assist, and keep order within a society. If laws stop doing that for a group of people, and this group is singled out by the laws in place, then this law stops doing its purpose, it stops serving society.
It is important to note that people must not take laws lightly, that a group of people should attempt to go through the channels and pathways in place to get change from inside the government in power, however if this proves impossible then CD remains one of the best tools a group of people can use.

So when you say that the "possibility" of violence outweighs the importance of people who are being discriminated against and having their lives harmed by bad laws, I have to say that you are placing far too much value on the "possible" harm here. Remember it is only a "possibility" (I think I have said that word enough now) that you are fearing and the actual harm to real people is a Reality.

AJ Argument number 2
"If one group decides to protest before going through the procedures, then they'd set a poor example for the nation and other people who would want to be heard."
Civil disobedience almost NEVER comes before people take the easier path in front of them of using the government. Think about it AJ (and all you readers), if you are a minority group (whether an African American in the south, an American Arab today, or a Homosexual in the present)would you rather practice civil disobedience, where you have the near certainty of being thrown in jail, and being harmed and proclaimed a menace or would you rather do something like go to court, where the worst thing that can happen to you is be told that you don't have a case and get an unfavorable ruling. CD is almost always a last resort, however it is still a very important possible course of action.

It is also important to understand that people who practice CD expect to be thrown in jail, they are breaking the law knowingly. They don't think that the government won't enforce their laws, it is merely a way of demonstrating their lack of respect in the law which they break. Civil disobedience is a form of demonstration.

Finally your last Arguement AJ: "There are alot of cases that have been solved without using civil disobedience. Brown vs. Board of Education is one."

I am sorry AJ but you are just wrong on this one. Brown vs Board only occurred after YEARS of civil disobedience led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. this court case only occurred after immense pressure had been put on the government at all its levels, from the city level: Topeka Board of Education, to the state level: Florida, all the way to the Federal level: the march on Washington. While this case went through each of these levels, hundred of demonstrators let the entire nation know exactly the injustice they faced by practicing non-violent civil disobedience. AJ, Brown vs. Board is the PRODUCT of years of civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins and bus boycotts, not the alternative.

As to your example, I find it pretty unconvincing to compare the bad food at your cafeteria to the Jim Crow laws or the British occupation of India. A better example would be if all girls in your school had to do twice the homework as boys but they could never get A's. Instead the best grade they were allowed to get were B-'s... If the ladies of the school tried to get it changed by request to the administration, and by trying to demonstrate about it to no avail, than it makes perfect sense for the ladies of the school to stop going to school, or better yet to go to school but never enter the classroom: a flagrant as well as peaceful disregard for the rules made by the school administration.

Do you think it would be wrong for the girls to practice civil disobedience in my example?

Back to my arguments made.
1. CD should always be available to people in a democracy because the tyranny of the majority has existed and continues to exist. Thus this form of demonstration is important.
- In support of this argument I brought up the example of Homosexual Marriage in Arizona and around the US in general.
-I also alluded to other issues where people are discriminated against by the government, and where their voice isn't properly heard, on the other side of the political divide from the homosexual marriage issue, many religious organizations feel that their rights are abridged because of their inability to practice religion in schools. This ruling (against practice of religion in schools) has been upheld multiple times throughout the course of the debate, however it still stands.

2. My major other point so far is to point out that it seems to you, AJ, that there are no people out there in democracies who aren't getting a fair shake, and whom the government doesn't rule against repeatedly no matter what. This seems on its face to be false, if it was true than everyone would be pleased as punch with the government (something that is obviously not the case).
Debate Round No. 2
AJmartinez

Con

First, I would like to thank Mdal for this very interesting debate. Now, i shall respond to our previous discussion.

in response to your question, "Should people who have no other recourse, no other option in the government, should they be allowed to utilize CD?" There is another option. No one ever said that they had to go to court officials, but if they wanted to they can. Boycotting, is not a form of civil disobedience but can also be very effective. and as I stated before, blogging is also a very good way to get your ideas out internationally.

"Laws are put in place to serve the people, they are created in order to protect, assist, and keep order within a society. If laws stop doing that for a group of people, and this group is singled out by the laws in place, then this law stops doing its purpose, it stops serving society." Remember, in this debate, we are talking about a democracy. If a law gets to that point, then the government has failed.

Now to respond to your arguments:
1)CD should always be available to people in a democracy because the tyranny of the majority has existed and continues to exist. Thus this form of demonstration is important.
-When the founding fathers decided to create a democratic government, did they not in a sense agree to follow the "majority rule" law? True, not everyone will be happy, but at least a vast amount will be satisfied versus a small few.
--You mentioned something about "inability to practice religion in schools". If such inability exists, then at least part of our first amendment has been taken away. no one can stop someone from praying in school or reading the Bible, Qua' ran, Torah, etc. but even if that were the case, you wouldn't have to refuse to got to school or class... there are other options that don't necessarily revolve around CD.

2) My major other point so far is to point out that it seems to you, AJ, that there are no people out there in democracies who aren't getting a fair shake, and whom the government doesn't rule against repeatedly no matter what. This seems on its face to be false, if it was true than everyone would be pleased as punch with the government (something that is obviously not the case).
-I stated before, it is true that not everyone will be happy, but when they decided to live under a democracy, they agreed to follow "majority rule". They can't complain about it, just like the people who don't vote (excepting cases of ineligibility) can't complain about the president. People in a democratic society have the power to bring about change. The real question is, how will they use that power?
Mdal

Pro

IF YOU READ ANY ROUND READ THIS ONE, IT WILL CLARIFY THE DEBATE :D

Before I get into my closing arguments I would like to note that I made a mistake in an earlier point about Brown vs. Board, on that topic I mentioned that it was a result of the civil rights movement and in that I was wrong. Brown v. Board occurred in 1954 before the full blown civil rights movement. I will further address this in my last arguments, but I want to up front about my mistake.

Also I would like to thank AJ for a fun debate topic and I hope that these basic arguments will be useful for you in your upcoming tournament.

On to the arguments, yes?

Since this is the last round of the debate I am going to crystallize the debate for all you judges out there and remind everyone of the major points of this debate and some points which have not been addressed by AJ in the debate.

**Major Arguments** (and why I win 'em) :D

1st Major argument
Pro's (my) argument: CD is needed because it fulfills a unique and important aspect of political demonstrations. It should only be used regularly as a last resort but it is still very important for people to be able to use civil disobedience as a way to have their needs met.
Con's (AJ) argument: There are still other options available to people who have been harmed by the government, people can blog and boycott.

***(Why Pro wins this one)***
Simply put there are NO other options which can carry the same potency and political intensity which can excite people's passions and convince people straddling the fence on an issue as civil disobedience. Be honest with yourself: Which makes a stronger statement in a democratic society? (and thus create the stronger possibility for change)
1. An impassioned blog article which may be well written and well researched (or not...we don't really know), but not guaranteed to be read or taken seriously (blogs haven't yet really proven their political prowess yet)
OR
2.Seeing a group of people peacefully break the law to make a political point, willingly sacrificing their freedom for the sake of showing the injustice which the group of people is suffering at the hands of the government.
It is obvious that the first option just doesn't come close to power of the second option contains, the feeling of self sacrifice for a just causes rings true for any honest unbiased observer (thus the reason for the success CD has had over the world and here in the US)
If you agree with this point that Pro should get your vote, because I have proved the necessity of CD within a democratic society, if I haven't convinced you yet read on.

2nd Major argument
Pro Argument: Tyranny of the majority is real and terrible and can dramatically hurt minorities who will have no legal recourse to the discrimination they suffer. CD is one of the important tools which are available to discriminated minorities and must be available to people who are being harmed by bad laws created by the government.
Con Argument(s): "I stated before, it is true that not everyone will be happy, but when they decided to live under a democracy, they agreed to follow "majority rule". They can't complain about it..."
ALSO
Con Argument against the nature of bad laws created by governments:
"Remember, in this debate, we are talking about a democracy. If a law gets to that point, then the government has failed."

***(Why Pro wins this one too)***
First people should not be forced to tough out majority tyranny. If we were to agree with AJ on this point we would be alright with slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and segregated schools.
For some further examples on the "badness" of the tyranny of the majority, I let De Tocqueville talk for me.

In the chapter "The Unlimited Power of the Majority", De Tocqueville cites two examples of the tyranny of the majority.

During the war of 1812, a newspaper in Baltimore had taken the opinion of the other side, and "excited the indignation of the inhabitants". The mob attacked printing presses, the militia was called out, but did not respond. The only way of saving those threatened was to throw them into prison. The prison was then forced upon and the editors killed. The guilty were acquitted.

The other example is that of black voters. The blacks were ostensibly allowed to vote, but De Tocqueville is told that they "volutarily abstain from making their appearance" at the voting booth, because they are afraid of being maltreated. "The law is sometimes unable to maintain its authority without the support of the majority". The majority, De Tocqueville concludes, have the right not only to make the laws, but to break them as well. It is only another instance of the importance of mores and values.

I give these examples to show that first of all, Tyranny of the Masses should not be allowed free reign as AJ seems to think it should, it goes against an objective morality which a group of people has. It should be allowable for a group of people to practice peaceful civil disobedience in our day in age if they find the majority against them and they find the laws supported by the majority to be immoral and wrong. Merely because the majority wills it so does not make the majority right. It is here that I will mention the Brown V Board case, that was a perfect example where the majority was overthrown by the minority in the Supreme Court, yet the Supreme Court's rulings weren't listened to and enforced completely until years later after years of protesting and civil disobedience the court's ruling was eventually upheld and put into practice. (you can see how I made my mistake earlier)

So we can see how Tyranny of the Majority is bad, and CD is one of the only recourses a downtrodden minority has to powerfully speak their mind, thus we still have a strong need for civil disobedience in a democratic nation.

**Arguments AJ missed which are pretty important**

Examples I supplied, including:
*the unfair school practices
"As to your example, I find it pretty unconvincing to compare the bad food at your cafeteria to the Jim Crow laws or the British occupation of India. A better example would be if all girls in your school had to do twice the homework as boys but they could never get A's. Instead the best grade they were allowed to get were B-'s... If the ladies of the school tried to get it changed by request to the administration, and by trying to demonstrate about it to no avail, than it makes perfect sense for the ladies of the school to stop going to school, or better yet to go to school but never enter the classroom: a flagrant as well as peaceful disregard for the rules made by the school administration."

*Homosexuals in Arizona
"Homosexual marriage is illegal in Arizona, though the state defeated the referendum to make it illegal in our state constitution, the Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the decision to keep homosexual marriage illegal in the state in three separate court cases. A seemingly arbitrary decision from this poster's purview, as I don't see a legal distinction between homosexual and heterosexual couples. This is a prime example of something many people would decry as unjust, being upheld by the state and city government."

In both of these examples there are hypothetical (in the case of the ladies in the unfair school) and real (the actual homosexual people in Arizona)people who have no recourse but CD. The reason why AJ most likely didn't respond to these examples is because it makes logical sense for these people to be practicing civil disobedience and thus reveals the continuing need of civil disobedience in a democratic society. (thus proving the PRO, yay!)

Thanks for reading.
Debate Round No. 3
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by AJmartinez 9 years ago
AJmartinez
tyler in response to your question, its all pretty much the same thing. If there are other options besides CD, then yes it is necessary. If indeed there are other and better methods to fight for justice, then no CD is not necessary. That is whta Mdal and I were debating about...
Posted by Mdal 9 years ago
Mdal
I tried to be as clear as possible, however that means that I wrote a small novel...so hang tough and read it through with me, I think it makes some pretty good sense in the end.

-Mdal
Posted by tylerklatt 9 years ago
tylerklatt
I have a question that i don't know if it has been addressed in the aboe debate or not. But after determining whether or not CD is necessary, is Civil Disobedience an appropriate tool in the fight for justice. What i'm getting at is that are the other, rather better, tools to be utilized in the fight for justice?
Posted by Mdal 9 years ago
Mdal
I am blushing because of my mistake in time lines in the Brown vs. Board comment...I will address that in my next debate.
-Mdal
Posted by marxandlennon 9 years ago
marxandlennon
Brown vs. the Board was the start of the civil rights movement , not the end of it. the movement did lead to the '64 civil rights bill, but Brown was decided back in 1954, before Rosa Parks or the Montgomery Boycott. Good debate otherwise.
Posted by AJmartinez 9 years ago
AJmartinez
to Mdal:
i just want to say thanks again for this interesting debate. I'm currently developing my cases for our upcoming tournament, and i wanted to see what i could work on. thanks again.

to our readers:
thanks you for reading, and if you have any comments please post them.
thanks
Posted by hattopic 9 years ago
hattopic
Too true, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that
Posted by tylerklatt 9 years ago
tylerklatt
in response to the comment below that "Also, you claim that Civil Disobedience is illegal and violent. All three of the people you used as examples practiced non-violent civil disobedience. And as for the legality of it, the right to demonstration is protected under the first amendment." The fallacy of this is that people practicing CD are in fact, by choice, breaking the law. CD is not protected by any amendments, because it is simply breaking the law. The entire premise of CD is to knowingly disobey a law to show the problems of the law.
Posted by Mdal 9 years ago
Mdal
Just so you guys know, if anyone disagrees with me or wants to help me or AJ out in these comments I will respond to them in my last argument.

(Figure you might wanna know that I DO read this stuff)
:D
-Mdal
Posted by hattopic 9 years ago
hattopic
I'd just like to point out that two of the examples that you mentioned (Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr.) both practiced civil disobedience in a democratic society.

Also, you claim that Civil Disobedience is illegal and violent. All three of the people you used as examples practiced non-violent civil disobedience. And as for the legality of it, the right to demonstration is protected under the first amendment.
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