Pardon the lucubration

One of the rationales sometimes offered in justification of civil disobedience -- and it's a rationale that I find more than a little plausible -- is that those engaging in civil disobedience are seeking to transform an unjust society by forcing the executors of that society's laws to to confront the contribution that those executors make to an unjust regime. Thoreau, in the following passage from "Civil Disobedience", seems to be offering this sort of justification.
My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I have to deal with--for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel--and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government. How shall he ever know well that he is and does as an officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether he will treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborlines without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action.

There is a pragmatic problem that threatens to undermine this justification. The problem is that the act of breaking the law tends to cede to the law's enforcers a psychological license to assume the moral high ground. From the point of view of a law's enforcers the civil disobedient's concrete transgression of that law is going to swamp any abstract considerations of societal justice. Which is to say that a police officer responding to an anti-war sit-in is likely to blame the protesters for trespassing, and that the presence of that moral judgment is going to block the kind of transformative reconsideration that the protest was meant to bring about.

So: On the profferred justification civil disobedience intends to bring about change by provoking a crisis which causes citizens to reconsider their support for unjust practices. But, there is a serious worry that civil disobedience might be self-defeating, since its methodology will tend to block just the sort of reconsideration that disobedients seek to bring about.

Where does this leave things? It seems to me that there's something right about the idea at the core of the justification I've been discussing here. Achieving any kind of radical change is going to require just the sort of thing that civil disobedients are aiming for, namely, a crisis which forces citizens and officials to confront the nature of their government. The question is, are there ways to create such a crisis without simultaneously arousing the kind of reactionary sentiment that blocks change?

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