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Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12th, in the year 1817. He was a poet, an American author, surveyor, abolitionist, transcendentalist, naturalist, historian, as well as, a great philosopher. He is best remembered for his book Walden, which was a reflection upon what he termed as simple living in natural surroundings. He is also famous for his essay, civil disobedience, which is all about an individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to a state unjust. Henry was very much interested in the idea of survival in the presence of hostile elements, natural decay, and historical change. Moreover, he implored an individual to abandon waste and illusion so as to discover the true meaning in life (Lee, 198).
There are comparisons that can be made between the works of Martin Luther King to the views of civil disobedience, found in the writings of Thoreau. This was a secular society application of non-violence. King constantly used religion to give inspirational strength in his community by following the principles in the bible. While Martin Luther was influenced by Gandhi's principles, they were also based on those of Thoreau. Both Thoreau and King wrote basing on contemporary issues, which had been taking place during their eras. They also pursued the same objective, which was equality and justice among all humanity. Though for different reasons, they had been both incarcerated. However, they were both fighting under the same circumstances. Thoreau was especially sympathetic to the plight of African American salves and would likely have shared the views of Martin Luther King Jr. he would have advised King that, by acting civil, but disobedient, he will be able to protest things he did not think were fair, in a non-violent manner.
In Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau, in relation to what situation King found himself in, could have conjured a definitive argument based on the rights of insubordination experienced during specified eras characterized by societal injustice. Notably, in enduring contemplation of life and its purpose, Thoreau deeply analyzes the conflict between the government and the citizens it governs. He holds the view that the majority of people are held back by the society and government from making deciding with their conscience. People need to rise above the reign of the government so as to realize their own morals and ethics (Lee 199).
On the other hand, Martin Luther King has passion in contending the injustice that was presented in the discriminatory attitude and unfair treatment that was directed towards Blacks. With Thoreau's effectiveness in his persuasion (conclusion, appeals, and practical application), King's situation can be effectively compared to Thoreau's views. Thoreau's Civil Disobedience has been used by Martin Luther King Jr. as guidance to fight against injustice in the society. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a philosophy that was non-violent but direct in action.
Dr. King wrote a Letter from Birmingham Jail, basing on the principles of Civil Disobedience by Thoreau. On one hand, Dr. King was gentle, religious, and apologetic; he focused on what was best for the people. On the other hand, Thoreau was very assertive and aggressive for his own hate against the government of the day. However, both had the same ideas. Dr. King raised awareness and opened doors for the betterment of a group. Thoreau also fought for more individual rights for people. After going to jail, King wrote his own opinion about the experience. He knew he was unjustly put into jail, but, he accepted his going to jail. This meant that the community should beware of the injustice, arise and pressure the government. One important thing to note about King was that, he respected the law by obeying it. He was peaceful and wanted justice, so he believed that the right channel was in following the rules peacefully so as to accomplish all the ambitions.
Thoreau has always believed that people should be real and live for themselves, but not the government. King aims at changing the laws since they are morally wrong and Thoreau aims at changing the law since he does not like it in person. Both Thoreau and King agree that injustice exists. Thoreau looks at injustice as friction, which can wear the machine down. On his part, King thinks that injustice just exists. Tension must then be created directly so as to negotiate with the machine. Thoreau also says that, if the injustice is an important friction of the machine of government, then let it be. It is certain that the machine will wear out. However, if it is required that one is the agent of injustice to another, and then one can break the law. Life that can be the counter of friction can then stop the machine (Lee, 200).
Thoreau views that injustice is a cause of friction. It is brought about by the government. The government is responsible for creating something that worked against itself. It is then that if the friction of the injustice is not stopped, it will go on grinding down the machine. Thoreau has been questioning whether an individual can wait for a long time and what actions he or she is going to take concerning the injustice. Thoreau advices people to use their life to stop the oppression. Both King and Thoreau try to prove that people have the power in their hands to change their destiny.