Anyone who knows me very well will know that I don't hold much respect for government. They seem to need a lot of our money in exchange for not much service. And every now and then they demand that I surrender my rights. I've never been very good at surrendering my rights... and as a result I end up in conflict with "the authorities" now and again. But I think that the occasional conflict with government is what produces social justice in the first place. We didn't proactively legislate an end to segregation, for instance. It took Rosa Parks demanding the right to sit in the front of the bus just like everyone else that set in motion the social movement necessary to change a very crappy law. Rights are something that must be asserted in our every day deeds. They only exist because people like Rosa point out that they exist.
A great quote I've always really liked on the topic of rights is from Benjamin Franklin, who said that "those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both." Without our help, governments often produce crap, take more and more of our money while doing it, and mistakenly demand that we surrender our liberty in exchange for security in the process. Since governments almost never actively seek the help of the great unwashed, sometimes the best way of actually helping them, and in turn ourselves, is through civil disobedience. I don't think that good civil disobedience is often pre-planned, though the way Ghandi did it also really seemed to work wonders! To me, civil disobedience usually just kind of happens when someone like Rosa stands up for her god given (or "natural" if you're an atheist) rights, and then doesn't back down when they are threatened with the long arm of the law. Disobeying immoral laws is our job as citizens and stewards. Yes, Rosa's actions meant a lot. But so do yours and mine!
As good stewards, I feel we also have a responsibility to use the electoral process to further real and substantive good. I ran for Mayor in Edmonton's 2013 Municipal Election to draw attention to an attempt by our City Council to expropriate parkland throughout the city, and one specifically in our community. By doing so, I drew enough negative publicity to our current Mayor, who had been the councillor in the ward where the park was being expropriated, that I and a group of vocal and concerned citizens were able to reverse council's decision to sell our park. Our activism worked. I got called a lot of names in the process! But I will never mind the insults of those sitting in the stands. They don't mean a lot to me. There is something about being the guy actually doing the doing that has always appealed to me...
So I'll sign off with this great quote about the man in the arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
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