If you’re not one to play by the rules, then Disobedience Day, celebrated on July 3 each year, is a day you just can’t miss out on. If we were being fancy and literary, we’d probably use the term ‘carnivalesque’ — but whichever way you slice it, it’s about letting loose and being a bit subversive in your own right. Subversion has been popular throughout history, in fact, the very wheels of history have often turned based on subversive events of every kind. Be it through bloody revolutions, ‘flower power,’ listening to rebel rock & roll, or just standing up for the underdog; everyone can find it in themselves to break free of the constraints society has imposed, even if it’s just a little bit. Essentially, at its core, Disobedience Day is about non-violent protests of issues, laws, or causes which are perceived to be unjust, so we’re in no way encouraging kids to disobey their parents, or for anyone to use this as an excuse to rail against “the Man.” The true spirit of this day is in trying something different, standing up for yourself or someone else, especially if you’re burdened by rules or structures which have been misused or made life just too mundane.
History of Disobedience Day
Though the exact origins of Disobedience Day and any record of its first observance are not to be found, the existence of several days pertaining to civil or social disobedience suggests that this day intends to promote education on civil disobedience. We have good reason to believe that this day has been founded to encourage people to live a little by breaking free of some of the more oppressive rules or structures they may be stuck within. It can also be a great day to find out more about what the core tenets of Civil Disobedience are.
We have only to flip through the pages of our history textbooks to see how disobedience has helped change the world when done in the right way and with a true spirit of justice. From the Civil Rights Movement in America in the 1950s-60s to the freedom struggle in India against the British Empire (1930s-40s) to the Suffragette movement in Britain in the 1920s — non-violent fights against varying forms of oppression are peppered across the world, both big and small. If you think about it, obedience to someone else has been ingrained in every human being since birth, as we are told to first obey our parents, then teachers, bosses, and other social authority figures and/or institutions. And though no man is an island, no one is a mere robot either — it’s also ingrained in our very souls to seek freedom and meaning of our own. So why not use Disobedience Day to your own advantage, by making it your own in whatever uniquely ‘you’ way you want to. The key is to be respectful and mindful of the fact that everyone can make this day their own, so no encroaching on that fundamental right!
Disobedience Day timeline
“Antigone” is one of the first plays which highlights civil disobedience as a theme.
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “The Mask of Anarchy,” makes waves with its theme of civil disobedience.
Henry David Thoreau becomes best known for his essay on ‘resistance to civil government.’
In India, Gandhi makes civil disobedience a trend by going on a ‘Salt March,’ defying the British Empire.
Martin Luther King Jr. is a key figure in the advent of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.
Disobedience Day FAQs
Is disobedience a crime?
Civil Disobedience can be defined as “a symbolic, non-violent violation of the law, done deliberately in protest against some form of perceived injustice.” Therefore it is illegal, but not reduced to just dissent, protest, or disobedience of the law in general. What differentiates it from these is the intent, non-violent mode of protest, as well as the expectation of legal punishment/consequences. The purpose is to draw attention to the law which may be unjust and have it gain greater visibility in the light of peaceful submission.
What are the three methods of civil disobedience?
- Sabotaging any trade or business activity, which could extend to boycotts or even damaging of goods.
- Strikes and labor resistance
- Breaking laws that are perceived as being unfair or unjust.
What is civil disobedience?
Civil disobedience, also called passive resistance, the refusal to obey the demands or commands of a government or occupying power, without resorting to violence or active measures of opposition; its usual purpose is to force concessions from the government or occupying power.
How to Celebrate Disobedience Day
Make it a cinematic experience
Movies often hold the power to move us, so why not watch some of the great movies on disobedience to gain some inspiration; or to appreciate the courage of many who have risked much to be disobedient for the right reasons. Off the top of our heads, some great movies include — “Gandhi,” “Freedom Writers,” “Footloose,'' “The Great Debaters,” and the list goes on and on. There’s truly something for everyone, and it was rightly said by Roger Ebert that cinema is “a machine that generates empathy.”
Do something extraordinary
What is something you have found yourself wanting to do for a while now, but you held back because of the perceived impropriety of it? Well, today’s the day we give you a free pass to live a little, so long as that means you still respect the rights and freedom of others around you. Change your routine up a bit, or play hookey for a day, just don’t tell anyone we told you to! Go be extraordinary, you deserve a break from the rules.
Educate yourself on civil disobedience
There is so much to read and learn from acts of disobedience that have helped change the world in some ways. Whether small or large, use this opportunity to better inform yourself about the key elements of civil disobedience, and how it has reared its head across nations and contexts, at various epochs in history. We’ll help you get started with our list below!
5 Acts Of Disobedience That Shaped History
Egyptian Revolution of 1919
The Egyptians and Sudanese started what is considered to be one of the earliest successes of civil disobedience, against British occupation.
The Purple March of 1989
In South Africa, the anti-apartheid movement started by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu led to protestors at a march being doused by water cannons with purple dye.
No Seat for Racism, 1955
Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat for a white man leads to a change in bus segregation laws.
A policy of passive political resistance was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle against British rule, which won India its independence.
The Singing Revolution, 1986
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania gained independence from the Soviet Union by singing songs about their own non-Russian heritage, much to the chagrin of the Russian Empire.
Why We Love Disobedience Day
Disobedience is universal
If it wasn’t clear before, we hope it’s clear now that disobedience (or civil disobedience in particular) is something that defines the human experience the world over. We are social animals to be sure, but far from mindless marionettes, hence it’s great to know that the will to be free is part of what makes us human and therefore relatable to all people everywhere.
Appreciation for those who dared
The great thing about Disobedience Day is that it’s a time where we can learn more, reflect on, and just appreciate the bold and courageous people who dared to disobey. So much of perhaps the freedom we take for granted was bought at a cost by someone else, so it’s worth learning more and being more appreciative.
A chance to break free
Go ahead, blast the radio on full volume and dance, or tell your boss you mysteriously came down with the flu. Whatever is outside your norm, do it. Disobedience Day is a great space to have a break from the everyday or mundane and to take a bit of a risk (though not at the cost of bridging harm to anyone or anything else).
Disobedience Day dates