In Response to Civil & Uncivil Disobedience

I write this in response to Michee Jacobs’ post about civil disobedience. I was initially drawn in by the mention of Henry David Thoreau and my own knowledge that his name is likely to follow any literary considerations of civil disobedience. My own work with Thoreau and his subsequent essay, Civil Disobedience, was under the Thoreau-Harding project here at SUNY Geneseo and dealt with the life of the man who wrote Walden as much as it dealt with questions of morality and ethics. Thoreau and his family are really outliers of their decade and were known to hold some very progressive ideas in juxtaposition to the time period. I appreciated Jacobs’ point that civil and uncivil disobedience have a need to coexist though my own understanding was that a choice was always made between the two.

Though Jacobs’ didn’t directly touch on it, it seems that civil disobedience is meant to be an alternative to the violence and rioting of uncivil disobedience. If I read correctly, this was referenced as “good cop bad cop” and speaks to the efforts being similarly motivated, balanced, and working to achieve a single end. In the end the efforts of the good cop are made visible and the larger society scorns the behaviors of the bad cop in a way that doesn’t acknowledge any kind of interplay. This reasoning is the closest I can imagine to why my own initial reaction was in opposition to a necessary duality in disobedience.

I’m reluctant to claim any position of civil disobedience within Jemisin’ trilogy. There are times when Essun departs from Fulcrum teaching and acts out without consequence, but we see now change from her choice to refuse the structure that controls her. Alabaster might be called an uncivil force due to the destruction of the Fulcrum that he orchestrated. These actions could be said to be rogue, divergent, or even terrorist. I find it important to mention the Rift and it’s causer, because after Alabaster does this there’s a loss of ability to civilly or uncivilly disobey. Before the Rifting one might attempt to buck the system by small divergent acts or simply surviving outside of the oppressive power structure of the Fulcrum. Post-Rifting the only thing left to do is survive because Alabaster’s actions have ultimately destroyed the base of the Fulcrum’s oppression. With the majority of the known land tumbled into ruin, martial law, or cannibalism, the only front to resist becomes the one sustained by the surviving members of the society that were complicit in orogene oppression.

In writing this I realize that there’s a question of whether or not civil structure has been destroyed or not by the Rifting. There are still individual comms resembling human city states that still maintain a law though “the Law” is in its essence collapsed. Citizenship and state power is greatly diminished due to the fall of the Fulcrum and it’s support system’s collapse. The differing responses to the early stages of the Rift’s fallout as seen in Jija and Nassun’s journey should serve as proof that there’s a lacking homogeny.

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