King Vs.thoreau


King vs. Thoreau


By acting civil but disobedient you are able to protest things you don’t
think are fair, non-violently. Henry David Thoreau is one of the most important
literary figures of the nineteenth century. Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience,”
which was written as a speech, has been used by many great thinkers such as
Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi as a map to fight against injustice.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor that headed the Civil Rights movement.
He was a gifted speaker and a powerful writer whose philosophy was non-violent
but direct action. Dr.King’s strategy was to have sit-ins, boycotts, and marches.
Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was based on the principles of
Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David
Thoreau are exceptional persuasive writers. Even though both writers are writing
on ways to be civil but disobedient, they have opposite ways of convicing you. Dr.
King is religious, gentle and apologetic, focusing on whats good for the group;
while Thoreau is very aggressive and assertive for his own personal hate against
the government.
Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau have the same
ideas, but view them differently. Dr. King wants to ultimately raise awareness and
open doors for the better of a group. Thoreau wants more individual rights for
people. Dr. King is explaining his view of conscience:
I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is
unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the
conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the
very highest respect for the law (Martin Luther King, p. 521).
This quote shows Dr. King’s opinion on going to jail. King knows that he was
unjustly put into jail. He accepts going to jail even though he was put in jail
wrongly. The community then knows of the injustice and should pressure the
government. The other thing that happens is King is respecting the law by obeying
it. He is a peaceful man and wants justice, but believes in following the rules
peacefully to get the job done. Thoreau feels that conscience plays a more
personal role.
Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide
right and wrong, but conscience?... Must the citizen ever for a moment, or
in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every
man a conscience, then. I think that we should be men first, and subject
afterward (Henry David Thoreau, p.581).
Thoreau is questioning why majorities make the rules. He is questioning
democracy. He’s telling us to question anything we do and why we should give
into the government if we do not agree with a rule. Why should we be individuals
with brains and have thoughts of our own if we are not allowed to think for
ourselves and do what we want? If we believe we are free, why do we have so
many rules? Thoreau believes we should be real to ourselves and live for
ourselves, not the government. King wants to change the laws because they are
morally wrong and Thoreau wants to change the law because he personally
doesn’t like it.
Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King both agree injustice exists.
Thoreau thinks of injustice as friction or tension that can wear the machine down.
King thinks that injustice just exists and tension must be created with direct
action to negotiate with the machine. Thoreau explians,
If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of
government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth,-
certainly that machine will wear out..., but if it is of such a nature
that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another , then, I
say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the
machine. (Henry David Thoreau, p.587).
Injustice is a cause of friction, which is brought on by the government.
The government has created something that is working against itself; if the
friction of the injustice is left alone it will continue to grind down the machine.
Once again Thoreau questions if you can wait that long and what are you
personally going to do about the injustice. Thoreau says use your life to stop the
machine. Dr. King explains, “ injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of
destiny. Whatever affects one