Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience in 1894, it can be seen as his response after being arrested and spending time in Jail for none payment of Poll Tax. With Local Authorities becoming more and more aggressive with regards to non payment of Council Tax, and people wondering exactly where their money is being spent, I feel that this essay is relevant today as it was when written.
Recently I spent some time looking into and investigating “freeman movement” and lawful rebellion. You can find a lot of information on the internet coming from a variety of different sources and points of views. After trawling various sites and forums I realised that a lot of what was being said and hinted at within the freeman movement (and lawful rebellion) had firm roots in Thoreaus Civil Disobedience.
Some years ago, the State met me in behalf of the Church, and commanded me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman whose preaching my father attended, but never I myself. “Pay,” it said, “or be locked up in the jail.” I declined to pay. But, unfortunately, another man saw fit to pay it. I did not see why the schoolmaster should be taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster; for I was not the State’s schoolmaster, but I supported myself by voluntary subscription. I did not see why the lyceum should not present its tax bill, and have the State to back its demand, as well as the Church. However, as the request of the selectmen, I condescended to make some such statement as this in writing: “Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any society which I have not joined.” This I gave to the town clerk; and he has it. The State, having thus learned that I did not wish to be regarded as a member of that church, has never made a like demand on me since; though it said that it must adhere to its original presumption that time. If I had known how to name them, I should then have signed off in detail from all the societies which I never signed on to; but I did not know where to find such a complete list.
The above is a direct quote. As can be read Thoreau indicates that he hopes to extract himself from societies that his implied consent had made him a member. This is incredibly similar to what Rob Menard, John Harris et al speaks of today. In his first line Thoreau said he accepts the motto – That government is best which governs least – and further expands it to say – That government is best which governs not at all. It is clear from my reading of Civil Disobedience that Thoreau saw that there was a possibility that we as individuals and human beings should be able to go beyond democratic mob rule of governance we appear to be striving for:
Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly
Civil Disobedience was written 117 years ago. Today in the UK we seem to be in exactly the same position, with regards to the State and governance. It is clear that those who govern show very little respect to those who are “governed”. So much so that we as individuals are not treated in a way that I would perceive to be correct. Are we to accept that the style of Government that we are accustomed is the “best” and we should put up or shut up? Should we not realise that those who are in Power are not there for the benefits of those who are being governed?
To me it seems barmy to hand over your life to the Legislator. Legislations are created and changed and the majority are unaware of the implications of these changes. The trust that we put in the hands of the legislator is incredible (although it might be clear from this post that I don’t actually trust the legislator). As more and more Legislations are created we as individuals are handing more and more of our freedom over. We are essentially allowing our lives to be take from us. I feel that it’s quite clear that the Legislature can not be trusted, and as such we should be making steps to remove ourselves from legislation, not encouraging more and more statutes, laws and bylaws to be created. Generally once created these legislation’s are very rarely removed.