Monday, August 26, 2013

On Civil Disobedience (Polemic) by Nick Noyes

I have a confession to make. It's not an easy one to make. I know where it will place me within your judgement: Somewhere in that abyss of moral limbo between heathen and halo, between Ebeneezer and philanthropist, between terrorist and patriot. My confession, and I again confess the difficulty of this admittance, is that I jaywalk.

I just can't help myself sometimes! I'm compelled and unsalvageable in this wickedness.

Now, please allow me—if you can stomach it—to take you into the psyche of a hardened criminal. The jaywalking process is simple, at least to me, an immoral crook: I look across the street to where I want to be next. That looks much better than my current location, I think to myself. I meditate briefly, considering WWJD? I block this holy inconvenience from my mind. I look left, I look right. All clear. I cross the street illegally, subverting in the process all shreds of human decency. No crosswalks for me. No little illuminated stick-man telling me I have 20 seconds left. No woman wearing an orange vest and carrying a stop-sign on a stick to wave me across.

Here’s the story of how I learned the lesson of my ways: One afternoon, I was going to buy some food. Unbeknownst to me, there was hidden somewhere off in the brush an officer waiting for me after an anonymous tip. After I crossed illegally, his sights narrowed in on my indiscretion. He hit the sirens, and the strong arm of the law came down hard. As he approached me I saw the shame in his eyes as he asked me, “Do you know why I stopped you?”

Despite my contempt for all things legally superfluous, I gave the officer respect. “Yes sir, I was jaywalking.” I grovelled at his feet and feigned disgust with myself. I begged for forgiveness: Oh great officer, graduate of the academy, Christ reincarnated with jackboots and shiny metal trinkets, please allow me this indiscretion. I know now—and will know even more-so when I pay this $120 jaywalking ticket—that what I have done is reckless. When I deemed myself competent enough to cross the street without a crosswalk, I acted without regard. What if I was to cause an accident, or what if a group of small children watching were to follow my example? I know I am a bad influence officer. Please forgive me. I don’t want to be responsible for the death of small children.

There’s something contemptible in laws that inspire unnecessary and overzealous subservience to things arbitrary. There is something contemptible in those individuals who uphold these laws. Any person who gives another person a ticket, enforces upon them a criminal charge, or enacts any kind of prosecution for something as arbitrary as jaywalking has no sense of justice.

Most laws come down to the extraction of wealth from the population.

I see people everyday standing like schmucks at crosswalks. Without a single car coming either way, they wait twiddling their thumbs for that little illuminated white stick-man to give them a 20 second countdown. Willful subservience to arbitrary laws created to extract wealth and enforced through fear by officers with unchecked power—a problem, to say the least, especially when I’m running late.

I realize the first-world inanity of protesting jaywalking. In my civil disobedience, I am no Gandhi, I know. However, what I am addressing goes beyond this hyperbolic example. (And unlike Gandhi, I've got places to be. I can't just be sitting around all day.)

When laws exist in order to extort wealth and demand subservience, it is the duty of conscious citizens to break these laws.

Some things warrant punishment and are, at least somewhat, deterred by the threat of legal prosecution, for example: it could be said that more people would be murdered if not for the laws prohibiting it. (That neighbor you used to have? Remember him? Thank God for the law, right?) More realistically, many more traffic accidents would occur if nobody faced the consequences of running stop lights. More homes would be stolen from if it were not for persecutionary deterrents.

But at a certain point—a very unfortunate one—deterrents yield simple profiteering.  Marijuana laws are not about protecting people but about extracting wealth. This is clear when an objective individual analyzes the data and sees that marijuana has never killed anybody, and then this objective individual goes to the grocery store and sorts through glorious varieties of booze and cigarettes. These actually kill people, don’t they?

It is necessary that people stop looking at laws as if they are absolute, as if they are Law, with a capital ‘L’—God’s Law, natural Law—instead of lower-case law, which are for the most part arbitrary and designed to extract wealth from the population, inspire woeful subservience, and should be broken without a second thought, as laws perpetuated by systems designed to extract wealth through fear are illegitimate and corrupt. A system that sticks laws onto every minute aspect of our society for no reason other than to inspire fear and subservience, and I’m the sinner for jaywalking?

Author bio: 

Nick Noyes is a young writer from Sun Valley, NV. Sun Valley is the (record keeping) largest trailer park in the world and a suburb of Reno, the second drunkest city in the US, and is located in northern Nevada, the state with the worst education scores. Nick Noyes is proud of where he comes from, or at least that's what he said in a job interview once. Nick Noyes can be found at Harvey's Bar or at

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