"If the law is of such nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law." Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau's famous essay on civil disobedience
addresses the question of disengagement from government and a reliance on individual conscience. He feared being absorbed in a mob mentality, in general, and lost in a movement of mindless people who utilized the coercive power of the state in particular. Remember, of course, he spent time in jail for failing to pay taxes during the U.S. invasion of Mexico--a war he considered to be especially unjust. His example inspired Gandhi and Cesar Chavez to think that one of the important principles of nonviolence is: non-cooperation with whatever is humiliating is paramount.
I know some people who refuse to pay their federal taxes because they don't support the military and I know a lot more who wish they could bring themselves to take such a stand against the government.
But a new book suggests that our involvement in the military and its operations is far more complex and raises questions about our collective responsibility and culpability. Nick Turse demonstrates that the military-industrial complex is quite wide
; that is, the number of corporations that do business with the military is quite vast and many of them provide ordinary goods and services that most people use on an every day basis--the the toothpaste and shampoo we use in the morning, the appliances we fill our house with, to the stations we watch on televsion. We literally cannot escape from some kind of involvement with an organization that provides material assistance to the military and its capacity to cause destruction.
Thoreau had Walden to which he could retreat and experiment with self-reliance. In our highly integrated, technology society, it seems that there is less space with which to exercise the first principle of nonviolent ethics.Does the size and reach of the military-industrial complex in modern America morally implicate civilians in any violence, destruction, or human rights violations that the military may commit?
Labels: american democracy, citizenship, human rights, nonviolence