Civil disobedience is the act of not following certain laws or government orders on the grounds of adhering to a morally superior law or ethical belief. In my case I declare my civil disobedience against most anti-corona laws due to their clear violation of basic human and constitutional rights.
I wrote letters to the federal government, the health ministry and my city’s administration declaring, that I will no longer follow the government mandated rules concerning SARS-COV2. I would of course act considerate, with foresight and care but that I can not in good conscience follow the government orders which I consider unlawful.
Why do we have rights in the first place?
Most democratic countries have a list of rights, we have the UN declaration of human rights and other documents. The historical idea behind those rights is not that they are given to us by the state but that those rights are intrinsically part of being a human. Some traditions think those rights as natural due to our ability for rational thought others think them given by God. The point being that those rights are inalienable. They can not be taken away (except for criminal behavior) and their enumeration in constitutional documents serves as an emphasis of their inalienable status not as a state given privilege.
Then we need to differentiate between two different kinds of rights. Let us call them rights of freedom and rights of entitlement. The first ones are rights like freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association or right to self-determination. These are fundamental rights that are meant to respect and protect any individual as a free human being. The latter are more modern rights like the right to health, right to privacy, right to a minimum standard of living and so on.
The rights of entitlement are meant to be constitutional goals for government action. Laws have to consider and further these rights. They are the essence of a society’s goals and values in constitutional form. They can change over time. In Germany we even have environmental protection in our constitution because our values have changed.
Fundamental rights are not meant to change much. They are what allow us to be individual human beings who are means in themselves and not means for other goals or people. My civil disobedience concerns these fundamental rights.
Can fundamental rights be infringed upon?
Yes that is possible and in fact necessary as soon as the rights collide with each other. Freedom of speech can not be used to call for the murder of someone is a textbook example. That is why most countries have a constitutional court to sort out where to put limits to these rights in relation to others. It is important to note, that no one right superimposes on the others. It also important to note that these rights can only ever be limited by law and not taken away.
For example many governments limit the rights of movement, expression and self-determination when in comes to smoking in public to protect the right to health of those who are subjected to second-hand smoke. But these kinds of limits have to pass certain tests. They need to be the minimum necessary to achieve a suitable and proportionate outcome. And again they can not generally take away or severely limit those freedoms. The smoker can still smoke at home, outdoors or even quit smoking. Today even if someone already had COVID19 or the vaccine that person is still subject to these limits.
When does civil disobedience come into play?
At some point limits to freedoms and rights become so acute and overwhelming that the laws are themselves no longer lawful. Where this point lies is often debatable and subjective depending on one’s own moral reasoning. There are some general guidelines but in the end each one of us has to make an ethical decision and take the risk of being wrong. We all might have different points at which we consider government action unlawful.
That is why civil disobedience is a passive kind of resistance. It does not mean to take up arms, to attack government officials or to call for violence. But it allows us to protest in public, to exercise our constitutional and human rights as we see them ourselves under utmost ethical and moral deliberation or at least as they used to be respected by the government before it embarked on the unlawful behavior as we see it. It questions the legitimacy of government action when other forms of protest seem to be unavailable (like the courts, press or public protest) or can not provide a timely solution.
Why I think the anti-corona measures are unlawful
Many people debate lockdowns and mask mandates by pointing out their ineffectiveness and harm. And I might even agree with them. But they are essentially arguing a utilitarian point. They are saying that these measures are simply harmful (and yes harmful to our freedoms as well) and do not really help contain the virus spread. Therefore they argue from a cost-benefit point of view where the dangers to our freedoms and rights is part of the cost equation.
While I think it is right to question the effectiveness of these measures, to scientifically evaluate them and study their outcomes it is besides the point. Theses measures are in themselves unlawful, unconstitutional and unworthy of any country calling itself free or democratic.
There is no “superright” to health that overrides everything else. We do accept sickness, accidents and death for many other causes and need to apply the same perspective towards this life risk. And just because it is a transmissible virus does not make it the governments task to suddenly fight it by all means available. We citizens are perfectly capable of assessing the risk and to act accordingly.
The media and the politicians often paint a picture like we are fighting a war against SARS-COV2. Notice the words “fight, battle, frontline workers, defenses” and so on. We are not at war. There is no front line. It is neither a fight nor a battle. It is a concerning situation that requires a response from different actors in society (and foremost a medical response at that) but it is not a fight for survival of our countries or societies.
These freedoms are so valuable and innate to ourselves that no government directed goal, no matter how noble and effective, can infringe on them this severely. Especially as government goals are often conflicted, a compromise, based on ulterior motives like reelection and generally often fit to a whole population with little regard to individual circumstances.
That is why we have fundamental rights in the first place. Because we have learned that governments are filled with humans who naturally make mistakes, are self-interested or simply do not and can not know the outcomes of each political decision. Therefore we safeguarded these rights against daily meddling through the political process by making them the basis of our constitutions and by putting up strong barriers against laws limiting them. Now the these rights and freedoms can be limited by simple decree instead of a deliberate legislative process with high majority thresholds.
Therefore I declare my civil disobedience against these 10 unlawful infringements
- I will not restrict my movement to 15 km around my city.
- I will meet family, friends and other people whenever and in what numbers we see fit but I will respect those who do not wish to meet.
- I will hug or touch people who are not part of my household whenever we see fit but I will respect those do want to keep a physical distance.
- I will invite as many people into my home or visit other people’s homes as all parties concerned see fit.
- I will not wear a mask in public and especially not outside as long as I am not sick. If a business or office asks me to cover my face because they do not want to get in trouble I will oblige out of respect for them.
- I will not let myself get tested when I do not feel sick as I refuse to dehumanize myself and other people as potential pathogen spreaders.
- If I test positive for SARS-COV2 I will not imprison myself at home but I will most likely stay home whenever I feel sick. I reserve the right to leave my home whenever I feel like it and I will be considerate enough to avoid close contact while sick.
- I will most definitely not keep my daughter 2 meters away from other kids on the playground.
- I will leave my home at any time I see fit and will ignore any kind of curfew
- I will resist mandatory vaccinations (should they be made so) because I alone under consultation with a medical professional whom I trust decide what kind of pharmaceutical compound enters my body.
I wrote letters to the several government agencies. I am fully aware that a couple of fines might await me at some point. I have a polite and compassionate written letter with me outlining these arguments in short form for any official stopping me. Even though appeals to the constitutional courts are still open to me their decisions will not be made in a timely manner.
A secondary effect of my letters and my civil disobedience is to let my elected officials now that some citizens disagree with their policies. I think in this time politicians make decisions together with so-called experts it is important for citizens to voice their opinions. After all an official’s right to rule (elected or not) is based on their citizen’s mandate. It is not a natural or god given right to rule but a privilege that can be revoked.
Even though it should be obvious I want to state a few things to make sure I am not misunderstood.
- I very much care about the people who suffer or even died from COVID19 and their families. But I doubt very much that the old and frail (who are mostly dying from the virus) could in good conscience want to see their children and grandchildren suffer for them. It it also morally wrong to imprison those in care homes with little human contact as to protect them from the death that would eventually happen anyway. A family member of our own died alone in here little room and except for one person we were unable to see her or say goodbye. The point being neither the young have a choice in their sacrifice nor the old a choice if they want to accept it.
- I think the vaccines are a great achievement for humankind and especially the mRNA technology holds a lot of promise. I myself and my family have all the recommended vaccinations. I simply do not trust the current regulatory systems and think these vaccines are not well enough tested. As I am a healthy 40 year old with little risk who does not work with vulnerable people I opted to skip vaccination until more information about the safety and efficacy is available.
- I very much do not belief in any kind of conspiracy or plan. I do however belief that the information available from the government or the WHO is one-sided and unbalanced. I also would not trust any information that comes from China for very obvious reasons. I also belief that the media reports on COVID19 in an unbalanced way and often neglects to put numbers or studies into their proper context. I think the cause for this is not a conspiracy but the way our media works in this hyper-connected and partisan social media world.
- Rejecting those laws does mean I advocate reckless behavior. I would stay home if sick, I’d call my doctor before arriving unannounced at her office and I would wear a proper mask when visiting highly vulnerable people. I also sneeze into my arm, I wash my hands and I would always try to keep some distance towards strangers. Things I’d actually consider respectful anyway pandemic or not.
- I also do not question my governments general legitimacy. They were voted in by us and a few politicians will voted out this autumn by us. We have free and fair elections, a free if somewhat mono-cultural press, independent courts and multiple parties vying for votes with at least one party against most measures and another being rather skeptical. It does not mean I reject every other law. If time and money would permit it I’d go through the courts which many people do as well.
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