Civil Disobedience: Mahatmas Gandhi and Martin Luther Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1678 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

¶ … Civil Disobedience:

mahatmas gandhi & MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

As two of the greatest political/social leaders of the 20th century, Mahatmas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. stand as global symbols for the power of civil disobedience and through their unfailing and courageous actions, the world became a much better place in which to live and demonstrated that one individual can indeed make an enormous difference in society. Both of these men were political leaders of high caliber and were greatly admired and imitated by those who either knew them personally or were part of their social milieu. They also altered the very foundations of their individual countries through civil disobedience with Gandhi initiating and leading the movement to force Great Britain to give up its control of India which eventually led to independence and King as the leader of the Civil Rights movement which led to social equality for all Americans.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Term Paper on Civil Disobedience: Mahatmas Gandhi & Martin Luther Assignment

According to Louis Fischer, Mahatmas Gandhi "out-soared immortality as no other human being (and) his social impact upon the world (remains) unequaled" (67). However, in order to fully understand Gandhi's use of civil disobedience, one must ask the question, "What was the secret of his spell upon his country and people?" (Clement 78). Descriptions like "Hindu saint" and "father of his country" are empty and misleading, but if forced to pin a label on Gandhi it would surely be that he was one of the key public figures of the 20th century, a manipulative idealist and a person who reshaped society for good or ill. Of course, leadership was a prime ingredient for both Gandhi and King and a list of traits which outstanding leaders tend to possess would aptly describe their characters, behaviors and beliefs. Gandhi, as well as King, had them all -- a sustained energy, deftness and timely ruthlessness in handing and manipulating people, the capacity to think to the purpose and somewhat intuitively, a zest and fluency with ideas, the ability to bounce back constructively when thwarted or criticized, a love of running things as they saw fit and a never-despairing passion for a cause which in their eyes could only be achieved through civil disobedience. Thus, for Gandhi, "non-violence and civil disobedience (was) the most appropriate methods for obtaining political and social goals" (Chew, Internet).

Of course, Gandhi's passion was aimed at liberating his people from the bondage of the British Empire which taught England a very important lesson, being that the power of civil disobedience must never be ignored or viewed as a superficial method of change. In essence, Gandhi's legacy is one of triumph over adversity and can be directly linked to his personal outlook on civil disobedience.

The character of Gandhi, as contrasted against his use of civil disobedience, was one of peace, benevolence, love and understanding, not to mention a huge ability to withstand constant criticism and the inner strength to command utter patience with those whom he despised and saw as manipulators and invaders. The historical events related to Gandhi's use of civil disobedience to free his country from tyranny and oppression are prime examples on how non-violent activities can led to change and new ways of thinking. The attractiveness of Gandhi's civil disobedience lies in his unwavering attitude and ability to bring people together, even under the direst of conditions. Obviously, in the case of Gandhi, I am convinced that civil disobedience worked beautifully, for it freed millions upon millions of people from virtual bondage and allowed India to determine its own destiny without interference from Great Britain.

As pointed out by Melvin Sylvester, the tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "involved non-violent passive resistance to racial injustice (which) was the right prescription for (America)" ("A Tribute...," Internet), but what I find to be the most fascinating aspect of Dr. King is that he took his ideals "from Christianity (and) operational techniques from Gandhi" (, Internet), meaning that the techniques used within his organization to fight racial injustice were based on Gandhi's non-violent, civil disobedience.

In King's monumental "Letter From Birmingham Jail," written while imprisoned in April of 1963 for parading without a permit, the word "unjust" appears many times in the text as an allusion to the injustice suffered by the American Negro during the most turbulent days of the Civil Rights movement in the South. This demonstrates King's understanding on the power of civil disobedience, due to "unjust" being the root reason why non-violent disobedience is necessary in the first place.

In his "Letter," King declares that "Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality," a reference to the city of Birmingham, Alabama, "the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States" (Lincoln 156). This statement is a reflection of King's non-violent campaign against the injustices of segregation which makes up the body of the text and takes the reader on a journey of discovery and enlightenment.

As to injustice, King alludes that "The answer (for injustice) is found in the fact that there are two types of laws. There are just laws and there are unjust laws"; "Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all" (Lincoln 157). These statements make complete sense as seen through the eyes of Dr. King, for he believes that any law which is unjust, i.e. A law that discriminates against an individual or a group, must not be obeyed; a person has a "moral responsibility" to disobey such laws for the good of society but only through non-violent disobedience, much like Henry David Thoreau's unwillingness to pay his taxes and spend time in jail and Gandhi's disobedience which sent him to prison several times and placed his life in great jeopardy.

King continues his discussion on the word "unjust" with "How does one determine when a law is just or unjust?" which he answers with "An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law." King then mentions St. Thomas Aquinas, who declared that "an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law," a reference to the laws of man designed and ordered by God. King then states that "Any law that degrades human personality is unjust" (Lincoln 157). Thus, due to the fact that unjust laws destroy human potential, King decided to use civil disobedience to obtain racial justice for black Americans who had struggled since the Civil War to become equal citizens under the law.

Following this, King alludes to a "more concrete example...of unjust laws," being "a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself," a reference to hypocrisy, where one group makes a law which itself does not obey. King then elaborates on this with "An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote" (Lincoln 158), an allusion to the fact that blacks were not allowed to vote; therefore, any and all laws enacted were not applicable to them because they had no word in enacting the law. Once again, this shows why King chose to use civil disobedience in order to illustrate the idea that his people were being controlled by unjust laws enacted by a government that did not consider them as first-class American citizens.

Finally, King adds that "There are some instances when a law is just on its face but unjust in its application" which alludes to more hypocrisy on the part of lawmakers and judges. Such a law "when it is used to preserve segregation and to deny the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Civil Disobedience: Mahatmas Gandhi and Martin Luther.  (2005, March 8).  Retrieved June 21, 2021, from

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