Water Charges & Civil Disobedience: Unjust Laws are to be Broken



What is important is that we do what is right, not what is legal. Sometimes these things overlap, often they are in conflict. What the struggle against the water charges has shown clearly is that a slave mentality of blindly obeying the law will never lead to a better world. We must attend to real justice, not the judicial system.

There's a famous quote from US historian, author, and activist Howard Zinn:

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders …and millions have been killed because of this obedience …Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves … [and] the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.

It's a mistake to think that the law exists to reflect what is ethical and unethical. That's a myth. The law is a set of arbitrary rules created by a powerful elite, adjudicated by an elite, and enforced by the gangs of that elite. Often that law legitimises horrendous violence and deprivation, everything from starvation, to rape, to burning people alive, to war, to censorship.

We have seen this simple fact play out right in front of us. The HSBC Swiss bank account tax evaders - to the tune of €3 billion - got off scott free, while people taking direct action and protesting effectively got arrested and jailed, and even put on 23-hour lockdown. That's not about ethics, that's about maintaining control and maintaining this political and economic system. Putting spikes on the ground to stop homeless people sleeping somewhere is legal, smashing those cruel spikes is illegal. This is to sustain our inhumane regime of private property (different to personal property, clothes, home, books, etc).

The law is not our law. It may be modified by politicians we elect, but that's a very detached relationship. We don't have proper input. Furthermore, the basis of, say, the law in Ireland was written close to a century ago. Why do the elites of the past get to determine our present and future?

The constitution is not a sacred documented handed down to us by angels, it's a piece of paper written by fallible humans with their own selfish interests. This isn't unique to Ireland by any means.

Politicians love to wax lyrical about our glorious democratic system as a way to defend locking up protesters (looking at you Senator Lorraine Unelected/'Attack on Democracy' Higgins). But our system is only democratic insofar as we don't live in North Korea. Elections consist of appointing a temporary oligarchy who make critical decisions about our life for us, and use the state apparatus to force those decisions into effect.

Be proud to break unjust laws and do the right thing. Standing in solidarity we can make a new and brighter world without a system rigged against us.