Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher, essayist, and environmentalist, had a strong sense of being born an individual with certain rights which ought to be considered inviolable by local and central government of his time.
He wrote an essay - "Civil Disobedience" after he'd been hit with a poll tax for the little cabin on a green patch of ground where he lived happily alone, surrounded by nature.
The bill was for six years and he refused to pay. He was imprisoned, but someone paid his fine and he was released after one night in the slammer which, to his fury, was observed as an admission of his guilt.
The thrust of his stance was that there should not be such imposition placed upon a citizen while the State did not behave properly in defence of obvious civil rights; he being an ardent Abolitionist against slavery, for instance.
He believed he ought not support the laws which made him uncomfortable and went against his conscience. The system was not conducive to this gentle man of simple tastes, who happened to be educated and saw the injustice everywhere, yet he was expected to condone and be a part of the ruling class.
He wrote: "I am not against government, rather am for better government. Government should govern without infringement of the rights of the citizen who wishes to be free to make decisions.
"I ,Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any society which I have not joined. I was not born to be forced...they can only try to force me to behave like themselves. When government says to me 'your money or your life' why should I be in haste to give it my money?"
He was even expected to give money to a preacher whose church his father attended, Church and State worked hand in glove then, also.
He was acutely aware of the arbitrary (in)justice meted out by the rulers to citizens who had committed no crime.
Henry would have his work cut out today, also, should he come into contact with our Enda (days?) Phil (the fluter) or Michael (the pursed purser). He could well be expected to be followed to the grave for his poll tax, and if he walked among us in this century he'd be liable to say: "Hold on a minute, I've been here before!"
We are all slaves today of the type of governing systems which, since the illusion of western "democracy" is exactly the same as the times Henry lived in. Pay up, or else, is the insane and only call of our "sophisticated" democracies all across Europe.
It matters not that austerity is only for the masses while the rulers never lose.
Oh, Henry, would that you were here now to go on "The Late Late Show" and give us the pep talk we so badly need.
Every viewer takes notice of everything said on that show, since Oliver J. Flanagan said there was no sex in Ireland before it aired.
The last sentence is a bit of fun,but there is nothing funny as Ireland is hauled every which way with the rules changing by the day as Brussels, Berlin, and Paris, decide, with our compliant government, what is worst for us.
We are in constant economic and personal crisis, not of our making.
Robert J. Sullivan is a freelance writer based in Bantry, Cork
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