Throughout history, people have had different beliefs on what is the best and most effective way to get justice and gain your rights. Different philosophers have also had contrasting beliefs on what is the most effective means of overcoming oppression and protesting against an unjust law. While Socrates believed that only mere persuasion be used to change an unjust law, King believed that nonviolent direct action is necessary to change an unjust law. Malcolm X disagreed with both of them and thought that using “any means necessary” is the most effective way to change an unfair law. After analyzing these three different beliefs, I believe that King’s nonviolent direct action is the most effective method of protesting an unjust law because it creates a constructive tension, highlights the issue well enough and shows that you respect yourself and others and your only purpose is to gain justice and overcome oppression.
Socrates believed that people should use mere persuasion to overcome oppression. What Socrates means by mere persuasion is to use words and reasoning rather than taking action to overcome oppression or to change unjust laws. Mere persuasion was the most effective way of protesting according to Socrates because when you use reasoning and logic to persuade someone, it is going to have lasting effects because you are not forcing someone to accept what you are saying but they are accepting what you are saying themselves because it appeals to their mind. Mere persuasion can change people’s mind, unlike violence, which will change their behavior. Another reason why Socrates thinks that mere persuasion is the most effective means of protest is because persuasion is something used among human beings. You cannot persuade an animal or a nonliving thing with words, so when you try to persuade someone, you show others that you think of them as humans and therefore assume that they will most likely take a moral decision. Mere persuasion also shows the power of words and as a philosopher and an educator, Socrates needs to show his students and the world the power of words and show what education can do. Lastly, mere persuasion was also the most effective technique for protesting for Socrates because it doesn’t require one to break any law. Socrates believed that a state’s laws should never be broken and its stability should never be threatened. Taking direct action would require one to break a state’s law and disrupt its stability, so Socrates believed that taking direct action would be ineffective. The reason Socrates believed in preserving the peace and stability of the state is because the state has a higher value than an individual, according to him. The individual exists due to the existence of the state. The state provided a place for the individual’s parents to meet, get married and settle down. It also nurtured the individual and provided the individual with education. Socrates also said that even if there are unjust laws in the state, at least there is law and order, which instills hope for these laws to be changed because if there is no law and order, there is no justice. If you take away the state, you take away the possibility of ever getting justice because you cannot get justice in chaos. Direct action is also ineffective according Socrates because it shows that you are not a fair person. A just and fair person doesn’t harm in return. Therefore, Socrates believes that a state’s law should never be broken and direct action should never be taken to change unjust laws. Only mere persuasion should be used even if that means one has to give up one’s life.
Dr. King disagreed with Socrates and believed that non-violent direct action is the most effective means of protest. Non-violent direct action means that you are taking some action to fight unjust and unfair laws, but you never get violent. One reason King believes that nonviolent direct action is effective is because it creates such circumstances that the people, who had been avoiding the issue, are forced to face it. It brings attention to the issue. King calls this creative tension. The non-violent direct action seeks to expose and address the underlying causes of the injustice and unfair treatment. The community which had been avoiding to face the issue is now forced to face it and pave the way for negotiations. Nonviolent direct action is also effective according to King because it promotes positive peace, which places justice over stability and order of the state rather than negative peace, which places the order and stability of the state over justice. A person’s life is valuable and every human being deserves to be treated fairly. Order of the state cannot be given more importance than morals. King states, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” If the purpose for the existence of the law and order is not being fulfilled then one should stop caring about the stability of the state and take a non-violent direct action to eventually make the purpose of the existence of the state fulfilled by getting justice. Lastly, changes do not occur themselves. One has to take an action in order for a change to occur and if one doesn’t take any action, one would continue to get oppressed.
King disagreed with Socrates and said that mere persuasion is an ineffective technique to change unjust and unfair laws. He believed that mere persuasion is ineffective because mere persuasion can require an infinite amount of time. One needs to take action because after a certain time has passed because waiting forever would only lead to more suffering. Moreover, breaking an unfair law is a duty because obeying the unjust law would continue to lead to suffering. Another reason is that sometimes the other side is filled with so much hatred, racism, prejudice or bias that they are not willing to listen and will not negotiate fairly or not negotiate at all. Freedom and justice are not willingly given by the oppressor; one has to take action to get their issue noticed and acknowledged. King also disagreed with Malcolm X’s stance of using “any means necessary” to gain justice. “Any means necessary” implies that violence may be used to in order to change unfair laws. King was strongly against violence because according to him violence created destructive tension. It will only lead to more violence. He was also against violence because he regards violence as degrading. It shows that you do not respect yourself and others enough. Violence also leads to greater tension, hatred and animosity. So, using violence will only make the situation worse.
As already stated, Malcolm X believed in the philosophy of “any means necessary” to be the most effective means of protest because It shows that you respect and value yourself enough to fight for your rights and justice and end the injustices and oppression surrounding you. Using “any means necessary” also shows that gaining justice is your first priority and your biggest aim. It also shows that you have self-respect and you value yourself enough to fight for what you deserve. Malcolm X also believed in “any means necessary” because history has shown that revolutions have brought significant changes and unfortunately revolutions have been violent so violence or at least threat of violence is necessary for violence, and therefore, they are necessary for change too. Lastly, the method of “any means necessary” shows that getting freedom is really important to you because you are doing whatever possible to gain freedom. According to Malcolm X, limiting yourself to one thing would not effective because the oppressor would think that getting justice and freedom are not that important for you. Furthermore, no one is going to give you freedom if you are not willing to do whatever means necessary to get that.
Due to his beliefs and reasoning, Malcolm X thought of mere persuasion and nonviolence to be ineffective means of protest. Mere persuasion was ineffective according to Malcolm X because mere persuasion values the stability of the state greater than individual’s moral rights. It would give the wrong message to the oppressor that you are not determined to get the unjust law changed. He also believed that mere persuasion is ineffective because it requires an infinite amount of patience but one cannot wait for forever and needs to take an action when persuasion doesn’t do anything. Furthermore, he reasoned that turning back to the same sources who have already denied to give you your moral rights would not help you at all; you need turn to yourself and get justice yourself. Malcolm X believed that nonviolent direct action is ineffective because non-violence does not show the true value and worth of a person; it shows that you don’t value and respect yourself enough to overcome oppression. Another reason is that non-violence allows others to continue to mistreat you and it is a “shame” to be nonviolent if the other side is using violence. Lastly, he says that non-violence is easy and anyone can be non-violent. He states, “Anyone can sit. Well, you and I been sitting long enough, and it’s time today for us to start doing some standing and some fighting to back that up.”
I agree with King’s philosophy of non-violent direct action. Non-violent direct action is the most effective means of protest because it creates a constructive tension. It creates a constructive tension because if you were using mere persuasion, a lot of people will not get aware of the issue you were facing with and may not get affected by your issue because it doesn’t affect them. However, when you use non-violent direct action, you do things like sit-ins and marches, which can disrupt the daily life of people and will catch attention of people and you direct their attention to the issue. If their daily life is disrupted, they are going to have to solve the issue somehow so their life stops getting distracted. Non-violent direct action is also effective because it shows that you value yourself and others enough to not disrespect anyone. It is easier to lose temper and get violent but it is harder to keep yourself composed and deal with the situation calmly even when you are getting mistreated. Responding to hatred with hatred will only create more tensions and make the situation worse. Lastly, non-violent direct action is effective because it shows that your only purpose is to gain justice and overcome oppression. It would show people that you are a peacemaker because you are non-violent and the only reason you took direct action is to change the unjust law. You do not harm anyone by getting violent. The oppressors would take notice of this and can have a change of a heart by seeing that despite being disrespected, you are not disrespecting others in return, which is something very hard to do.
One objection to my stance can be that non-violence shows that you do not respect yourself enough to overcome oppression and it is shameful to not overcome oppression. If you respect yourself enough, you should do anything necessary to overcome oppression. However, I disagree with the objection because you would actually disrespect yourself by disrespecting others. It would be more shameful to disrespect others than to not overcome oppression because disrespecting others would make you the same as oppressor and what could be more shameful than being compared to the people who oppressed you. A just and moral person would never disrespect anyone. Another objection to my stance can be that violence will bring more attention to the issue than non-violence can. However, that would be negative attention. Violence will just shift the purpose of the movement and direct action because people will give more attention to the violence you caused rather than why you got violent and what compelled you to get violent. Also, the protesters should not stoop to the level of the oppressors who do not have respect for the protestors and treat the protestors in an unfair manner because then there would be no difference between the oppressors and the ones getting oppressed, therefore, violence should never be used as a tool to overcome oppression.
Being stuck in a situation where you are oppressed and you have to think of ways to overcome it can be challenging. Different philosophers had different beliefs on how to overcome oppression and fight against an unjust law. Socrates believed that mere persuasion should be enough to change an unjust law. He believed that one should be patient and never break the laws of the state. Malcolm X believed that mere persuasion is not enough and a non-violent direct action must be taken while Malcolm X believed that “any means necessary” be used to overcome oppression. King’s stance appealed the most to me because you are taking an action against something unjust but at the same time you are peaceful and non harmful. It has the power to transform hatred into love and understanding.
Plato. (n.d.). Crito. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/crito.html
King, M. L., Jr. (1963, April 16). Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Malcolm X. (1964, April 03). The Ballot or the Bullet. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/malcolm_x_ballot.html
I have a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and minoring in History.
I have worked in various fields ranging from academic research to freelance translating to editing to customer support and data entry. These include editing my old university's newspaper as well as co-leading their creative writing team; serving as a junior member in the history department's research network; publishing music and film reviews for several different magazines and webzines; and translating papers and books for numerous researchers in various languages, including Russian, Spanish, and Romanian. I am also a skilled typist, with a rate of at least 70 words per minute, and have myself digitized dozens of books and essays for both private and commercial use.
I have a very strong work ethic, and make sure to prioritize the task I am given so that it is completed as quickly as possible. I am organized and disciplined, ensuring a job done professionally and efficiently.
I have a background of 8 years in writing profession and currently pursuing also as an editor and proofreader. I have a knack for writing and thus, it was obvious to enhance my skills and serve others. Currently joined ‘Member of Association of Professional Writers and Editors’ a