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It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. Options
Daemon
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM
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It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
MTC
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:48:35 AM
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The quotation is from Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience which became part of the intellectual underpinnings of the student protest movement in the 1960s:

To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?— in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? 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 subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.


Miriam...
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 7:48:05 AM

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As humans, I know of no other way to exist with each other, if we do not exist in a state of love with our fellow people of the earth.
Hupomone
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 9:32:27 AM
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If what one deems "right" contradicts the law, he should choose his battles carefully, for there will be consequences.
capitán
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 11:07:42 AM

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"I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. "

Thanks for the context, MTC.

It seems to be more than a difficult task and quite risky to be men first and to be guided by morality and autonomy rather than be guided by what others dictate. People are a flock of sheep that merely follows the shepherd, be this the law or religion. If an ill behavior is cultivated by people because it is legal, then nobody does anything about it; if this ill behavior is cultivated by people because "god says so" then, as dogma as it is, people follow it.

The laws people can manipulate, the word of god anyone could claim to be following, but to make a stand, having your own convictions defending them with your own criteria of what is right and wrong, this is to be men first.

However, when something one thinks is right goes beyond the law, then it is dangerous to do something; to do it certainly takes courage and strength. Not everybody can do this, if everybody could masked characters like batman, vigilantes and superheroes wouldn´t exist in comics today.
GabhSigenod
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 11:59:34 AM

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Someone might want to speak up for anarchy.
MTC
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 2:15:28 PM
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I am in complete agreement, capitan.

What is moral is not always legal, and what is legal is not always moral. Consider the following examples: A man drowns in a pool while another man stands by and watches. Is that behavior moral? Most people would say "no." Is it legal? The surprising answer is "yes" under the English common law. For a discussion of the controversial "no duty to rescue" rule see http://jonathanturley.org/2009/04/10/no-duty-to-rescue-rule-court-holds-that-newyork-transit-workers-had-no-obligation-to-help-woman-being-raped-in-station/ So what is legal is not always moral. On the other hand, many of the laws under the German Reich, though "legal" by definition, were immoral by any standard. So what is legal is not always moral. Ultimately an individual must exercise his or her own conscience about what is right or wrong, and be wiling to accept the consequences.



Bully_rus
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 3:54:14 PM
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Daemon wrote:
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


It's OK, if clearance between two respects reasonable.
jcbarros
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 4:23:09 PM

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The law is a result of the various social tensions existing in a society at a given time. As such it has nothing to do with moral as an absolute value. although many believe the opposite.
Verbatim
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 8:54:20 PM
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Daemon wrote:
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


Certainly Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" has been invoked in modern contemporary times and in more than one country, that in itself being sufficient to render it
the capacity for more than just literary context. And more often than not the essay has not been exploited for promoting misconduct, whether against the legitimate interest of
democratic governments or fellow citizens. There is a lot of merit in the way its pronouncements have been invoked, non-violently.

But one must be ready to ask this question: Which "right", whose right? Is there such an absolute right that we are willingly ready to accept, particularly in a complicated
society such as we live in today? And if individual conscience were to be turned free how would that be reconciled with, say the greater good or the safety of the next man?

If what's "right" were to prevail for instance in the case of abortion against the "law", how far could someone's conscience take one with civil disobedience against those who lawfully avail themselves of the law as patient or medical practitioner?

The essay was inspired by no more than the injustice of having spent one night in jail, over 100 years ago. What of Bradley Manning, his court martial is finally coming up?

Here are two more excerpt from the three part essay. From Part 2: [6]"As for adopting the ways which the State has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man's life will be gone. I have other affairs to attend to. I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad...."
And in the next paragraph: "[7] I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them. I think that it is enough if they have God on their side, without waiting for that other one. Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already."
Mind you, slavery was a clean cut issue of "wrong" having been done to our fellow man.

Thoreau speaks with the urgency of impatience sometimes, and not too concerned about democracy as some have noted. But can he be taken literally?

Miriam...
Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 9:20:26 PM

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I agree with J.C.; laws do not always exist for the sake of morality, but rather, to be able to co-exist better.

On the other hand, in regards to G.S. comment, I think anarchy can only be lived successfully in isolation. I think that is why many people choose that life style.

But ultimately, I agree with Capitan and MTC, in that, we must first be Men--not mice.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013 10:37:03 AM
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I also agree with Capitan in HALF of what he says,.....

However, I don't agree that this is an option only for the male of the species. You guys can be men if you want to - I'll stick to trying to live my life as a moral woman.

I don't take issue with the male noun in the quotation itself: it was another day and another age.But to perpetuate this usage on a language forum is somewhat disturbing to the whole other half of the population.

Mariam: Damn, girl! How you gonna get to be a man? (Or is "Miriam" actually a name for both women and men up on your star?)
FounDit
Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013 11:40:20 AM

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I think it is an ideal, a standard which may be impossible for a society to live by, but it seems to me that the greatest of all standards by which humans should live is: respect and consideration.

When one decides what constitutes respect and consideration for oneself, then projects that outward on to one's fellow human beings, understanding they would also desire the same, then a foundational rule is established. All laws, therefore, should then be enacted based upon that foundation.

Instead, what we have is a mish-mash of laws that must state specifically, and in detail, exactly what the action is that is unlawful, rather than the disrespect and inconsideration that was the action.

By creating laws in this manner, we create a system by which we must continually, and forever, be enacting laws based on the creative minds of criminals who find ways around the details.
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