Happy Civil Disobedience Day aka MLK Day

Forget all the other bla bla, designed to keep the ignorant ignorant and distracted by the politically expedient in terms of contrived antagonism. MLK is important, but it’s because, like Gandhi, he took Henry David Thoreau seriously and put it to the test.


Well, at least someone out there got it right. Dr. Martin Luther King: strategies and tactics of civil disobedience.

Every year the third Monday of January is designated as a federal holiday in the United States in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. Aside from Ghandi, King’s name is the one most often associated with nonviolent civil disobedience. But his legacy is misunderstood if this is the end of the discussion and if the context within which his tactics were successful is left in the dustbin of history.


Got it? Ok then, more here:

That should do it, if you’re paying attention. Don’t forget that the changes MLK, Gandhi and others have orchestrated in civil society came not by “working within the system,” proposing endless bills for legislatures to debate, or even voting. They came principally and most fundamentally from explicitly disobeying laws.

I know, it’s so old fashioned. People love laws, now, and the more the better. They even call their masters “lawmakers.”

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  1. Todd on January 20, 2014 at 15:04

    “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” -Thomas Jefferson

    Love that quote from TJ, too, even though he knew slavery was wrong, but couldn’t free his own.

    Read Letter from Birmingham Jail this morning. Really a moving letter that should be read from time to time by all.

  2. Jake Braekes on January 21, 2014 at 05:01

    We all love MLK, except those who had to live through the violence caused by his provocative actions. So MLK picks a neighborhood in Chicago for a “freedom” march that is loaded with Displaced Persons (DP’s) from WWII, and there is a reaction. He preached non-violence but centered himself in situations to cause it. Sorry, MLK does not get the secular saint award. Time has not diminished the purposeful violence left in his wake. Gandhi he wasn’t and isn’t.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 21, 2014 at 07:58


      That’s convenient, since violence already happens because of the general antagonism, so they make a serious attempt to preach non-violent resistance and get tagged with fomenting violence because it was happening already, even if its measurably less.

      Go Google ‘did Gandhi foment violence’ or something like that and see that the same sorts of critiques are out there about him. But in both cases, their words are there to be taken at face value, and they mean what they mean. They don’t mean the exact opposite and they are not responsible for the acts of individuals.

  3. EF on January 21, 2014 at 07:49

    “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

    Great line from Civil Disobedience – it assumes that people are inherently good but that was a tenet of the transcendentalist movement.

    Essentially the Golden Rule (mentioned by a certain smarty pants in a recent raucous podcast)

  4. CL on January 22, 2014 at 09:26

    I agree with this philosophy and the standard… however,I also freely admit that I personally lack the courage to truly follow the path in most instances (i.e. I pay my taxes, I generally “obey the law” even in those instances where I do not necessarily agree.)… not something I am necessarily proud of but there you go.

    Richard… I’d be interested to hear if you also believe in this in theory or are truly a practitioner?

    I enjoy your blog and am in agreement with you on much, and even when I am not fully on board, I often find your arguments compelling. Thanks for all of your posts.

  5. Richard Nikoley on January 22, 2014 at 11:35


    It means what it says. It’s Civil Disobedience, not an individual hunger strike.

    I put stuff up like this to plant a seed but I wish no one to be a martyr, and I certainly won’t be. Basically, you need too many people on board, in solidarity, that it makes prosecution impractical on the one hand, a negative exposition for the state on the other, should they cherry pick for prosecutions.

  6. CL on January 22, 2014 at 11:54

    I hear you on the martyrdom point… there needs to be critical mass for hope of a real and effective change.

    I do sometimes feel as though we rant and rave about state control (though you do not know me, myself very much included in my own circles), but we (or at least I) lack the conviction to move the ball forward by practicing non-violent disobedience as MLK / Ghandi / Thoreau advocated.

    At some point, isn’t that where the rubber meets the road?

    Anyway… please keep up the thought provoking posts… makes us all think a little bit more.


  7. Richard Nikoley on January 22, 2014 at 13:15

    “At some point, isn’t that where the rubber meets the road?”

    Yes, the fewer and fewer voter sycophants in society, the closer you come to the point where the State can’t effectively deal with shit without exposing what is the point of the civil disobedience.

    The thing about evil is that it’s smart.

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