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Henry David Thoreau's article "Self-Reliance and the Duty of Civil Disobedience" discusses the role of civil disobedience in modern society. The essay examines community men, the importance of being a decent citizen, and, most significantly, the majority's foolishness. The philosopher discusses intolerance of injustice, independence from the government, and adherence to ideals, all of which he describes as self-reliance. Thoreau asserts that self-sufficiency leads to good citizenship. He also emphasizes that adhering to values fosters good citizenship. The philosopher's major topic throughout his essay is undeniably obedience to ideals. For instance, when unmasking the notion of surrendering the conscience to the law-makers he says, “Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward” (Thoreau 387). The scholar deciphers the subjects who surrender their consciences, and other men who are mindful of their consciences and make decisions for themselves.
Fundamentally, Thoreau argues that our consciences defines our manhood and that people are left with no other choice but to act on it instead of throwing it to the unfair government. The thinker further emphasizes on this point by comparing men who submit without paying attention to their consciences to “movable forts or magazines” (Thoreau 387). The author backs up his statement by stating, “The only obligation, which I have the right to assume is to do at anytime what I think is right” (Thoreau 387). Whereas the historian’s theme is partly practical, it is reasonable to believe that the theories he lays “Civil Disobedience” and “Self-Reliance” would only work perfectly in a society with healthy and highly intellectual individuals, who are willing to apply the effort required for assessing their thoughts and coming up with their opinions, which they believe are right.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and civil disobedience. Vintage, 2014.
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