Unjust or immoral abuse of law, such as political internment without trial, currently in British Occupied Ireland, may be the consequence of willful criminal acts, such as the theft and destruction of A Royal Prerogative as in the instance of Marian Price or a mistake, oversight, or misinterpretation of law by the British Viceroyal as in the instance of Martin Corey. For Public Civil Disobedience to be effective for remedying such blatant injustices, several necessary criteria must be satisfied.
Effective Civil Disobedience requires legal and moral justification for the actions when made public. This requires, an independent, competent, courageous media and press that will accurately, rigorously investigate and make public report the event, along with the allegations regarding the injustice or immorality of the law. We essentially don't have an ethical mainstream media in Ireland, so we need to create or nurture one ourselves.
Effective Civil Disobedience requires a community concerned with issues of justice and morality, who once made aware, would also be outraged and motivated to speak out and demand that the unjust crime of political internment be rectified. Effective Civil Disobedience requires that principled political leaders put justice and morality before personal and corporate interests and take responsibility to initiate appropriate change in policy.
For those unprincipled political leaders whose actions to date are criminal and collaborative, effective Civil Disobedience requires, that they yield to the public outcry and to the demands for justice by those they meant to represent in British Occupied Ireland. The law is clear regarding the legality of policies such as indefinite detention without charge or trial in any civilized 21st century democracy.
Before advising activists to risk long term internment, personal injury or even death in British Occupied Ireland, it would be prudent and caring to determine whether Provisional Sinn Fein and other parties are making any genuine effort to resolve the issue, as they claim to be in an Executive of British Government power. This needs to be clarified with regard to their public rhetoric, as opposed to the absence of genuine actions, to meet the necessary criteria for effecting Civil Disobedience at their offices along with other British Government offices.
The Press and Media Coverage Criterion is very important part of effective Civil Disobedience: Tragically for our “democracy,” responsible mainstream reporting and investigative journalism has compliantly, succumbed to the pressure and influence of manipulative politicians and corporate power brokers, by under or misreporting the occurrence and magnitude of demonstrations and acts of Civil Disobedience. The mainstream media/press in Ireland have become co-conspirators, part of the problem rather than of the solution.
There are journalists from alternative news agencies and foreign press such as John Pilger, Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Greg Palast and Peter Arnett who maintain journalistic integrity and try to report the news accurately and fairly. However like the few such journalists in Ireland, they are systematically denied access to public officials or are arrested, as in the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street activists.
Article by Camillo "Mac" BicaMario Cuomo, commenting on the political process, once observed, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” Though candidates for public office frequently campaign on a platform of change, when elected, promises remain unfulfilled and what they inevitably deliver is more of the same. Beholden to the special interests and the Super PACS, they govern solely in the interest of the wealthy and the privileged, and remain blatantly unresponsive to the general will, the needs of the majority of the people, and to the dictates of law and morality. Consequently, respected social commentators such as Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Cornell West and others have argued that our system of government is broken. Perhaps as a perceptive and realistic appraisal of the current political situation in this nation or as an expression of frustration with the lack of progress achieved after many years of activism they have concluded that if change is to occur, if justice and morality are to prevail, activists can no longer be content supporting one political party or another or with picking up a sign and participating in a demonstration. Rather activists must ratchet up the frequency and scope of nonviolent direct action – civil disobedience. Chris Hedges proclaims, "Civil disobedience is the only weapon we have left to save not only the ecosystem that sustains life but the nation itself. Corporate forces, unregulated, unfettered corporate forces exploit everything; human beings, the natural world, until exhaustion or collapse."
Is the situation in this nation so dire that civil disobedience is the only recourse remaining, the final option? Can we expect civil disobedience to accomplish what voting, demonstrating, etc., could not? Most importantly, perhaps, should civil disobedience prove ineffective as well, must activists admit that further struggle for justice is futile and the prospect of non violent change unlikely? To answer these questions, it will be necessary to consider in some detail the nature of civil disobedience and the conditions required for it to be effective.
Civil Disobedience (CD)
Though not all acts of refusal and noncooperation will fit nicely into one of the following categories, for purposes of explication I will identify two types of civil disobedience, and then focus upon the one most relevant to social activism. What I term "Private CD" are acts of personal, non public, non compliance with law or policy one determines to be unjust and/or immoral. Acts of Private CD may be motivated by a perceived legal and/or moral obligation to act rightly, to live in accordance with one's principles and the dictates of one's conscience. Henry Thoreau writes, "The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right." Dr. Martin Luther King sees civil disobedience not as a choice, but an obligation. He writes, ". . . non cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good." Though indicative, perhaps, of one's moral character and integrity, since Private CD are acts of personal defiance known only to the civil disobedient, it has little, if any, social value as a means to implement change in the state.
Civil disobedience as social activism, what I will term "Public CD," are acts of public non compliance with a law or policy intended to focus attention and raise awareness regarding a social/political injustice for the purpose of creating "tension," perhaps even outrage, and a public outcry and demand for change. Dr. King explains, Non-violent direct action or public CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
The Citizenry Must Have a Conscience Criterion: As evidenced by the public's support for or indifference to these criminal acts prosecuted in their names, their disinclination to hold policy/law makers responsible for their crimes – to prosecute those who violate the law – and their willingness to vote against their self interest and the interest of this nation by (re)electing them to public office, indicates that many, perhaps even a majority of citizens, are unaware, or apathetic, or untroubled by injustice/immorality, or preoccupied with their consumerism driven lives, and/or easily mislead by those in power. When the President declares proudly that he intends to or has successfully assassinated, without due process, an individual or group in some remote corner of the world while neglecting to mention that civilians were “collaterally” injured/killed as well, not only does his approval rating not suffer, but it significantly increases as Americans celebrate his "accomplishments."
The Political Leaders' Response Criterion: For at least the past 50 years, the ease and frequency with which our political leaders' violated international, domestic, and moral law, as well as their impudence and arrogance in rejecting or ignoring the will of the people is both apparent and appalling. President Lyndon Baines Johnson continued his war of lies and deceit in Vietnam despite protests, civil unrest, and riots that profoundly divided the nation. President Nixon regarded as "enemies" those who opposed his policies. While promising "peace with honor," he ordered the invasion of Cambodia, the bombing of Haiphong, and created an atmosphere of intolerance and paranoia culminating in the slaughter of student protestors at Kent State and Jackson State Universities. Former Vice President Dick Cheney viewed dissent and free speech not as American values and rights guaranteed under the Constitution, but rather as traitorous and as emboldening the "enemy." Demonstrating the intransigence that typified the George W. Bush Presidency, when asked by a journalist about the escalating protests and diminishing support for the Iraq War, Cheney defiantly responded "so what." President Barack Obama shed tears over the tragic deaths of children in Newtown, Connecticut, but remains unmoved by public pleas that he end his policies of targeted assassinations and drone warfare that have killed hundreds of innocent children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere.