Bending the Moral Arc of Social Justice

Fluttering, Stinging, Buzzing, Unpredictable

You may from time to time be tempted to do a quick Google Search on the Quebec Student Protests that are occurring in Canada. Different search parameters may come in your mind including: Quebec Student Protest 2012, Root Cause of the Quebec Student Protests, or Analysis of the Quebec Student Protests. And as you proceed to type these into the Google search box, the speedy results may be displayed as follows:


  • Quebec student protests: at least 2,500 arrests and counting
  • 300 arrested in Quebec student protests
  • Emergency law considered in Quebec student protest
  • Bill 78 proves a clever distraction
  • Quebec Student Protests: Police Kettle, Arrest Hundreds

And these headlines may influence your thinking and lead you to a train of thought like:  “Is this whole question about how well the police and the law can enforce power, or is the intent of this act a symbolic, non-violent violation of the law, done deliberately in protest against some form of perceived injustice. Then why is the focus in mainstream media on police management and the enforcement of laws, instead of understanding the root cause of this civil disobedience and place it in context of all other similar experiences that have occurred in history.”

You may then contemplate on the bees that have their threatening buzz and vicious sting, circling unpredictably like rogues of nature in a beautiful garden space, as we sit in the armchair of life. Similarly the students in Quebec are considered by many as the rogues of society that have disrupted the garden space we call city, country and society.

But wait, you may think, “those little fluttering, stinging, buzzing, unpredictable objects of nature are actually mostly responsible for the beautiful garden space of life we live in”, as you reach for the spray can, swatter or folded newspaper to squish this object of discomfort into obscurity.

You then hold back as you retake your seat in the life’s armchair, and ponder other great acts of bravery in history that were at one time considered by most people  a disruption to our normal, beautiful living. And you deliberate: “Look at Julia Butterfly Hill who lived in a 180-foot- tall, 600-year-old California Redwood tree for 738 days between December 10, 1997 to December 18, 1999, to prevent loggers of the Pacific Lumber Company from cutting it down. What a great inconvenience to the economic engines of society that would have been. Or Kathy Kelly co-founded Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign of civil disobedience to challenge U.S.-U.N. economic sanctions imposed against Iraq by bringing medicine to Iraq to help alleviate suffering of the innocent ones buried in a myriad of political confusion. Or consider Gandhi’s salt march in a historic act of bravery against the powerful British Empire. “

And as you contemplate these “discomforts” and the challenges of the status quo, a  realization may suddenly dawn on you like the first rays of dawn illuminating the beautiful rose in your garden, that civil disobedience is a philosophical principle and not a legal principle. You may reflect that laws may demand, but conscience shall prevail and that when it comes to integrity, laws and rules fly out of the window as quickly as your bee can disappear as it inadvertently pursues its process of pollination. You may then conclude, that similar to nature’s rogues of the garden that cause transitory inconvenience and discomfort during the comfortable tea-party of our existence, that the human-bee- rogues of society have their function as well as they challenge the status quo and bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.

Bibliography and additional reading:

Voices for creative non-violence

Julia Butterfly Hill

Class of Nonviolence

Contemporary examples of civil disobedience

Zimmerman: The Fruits of Civil Disobedience

The Gandhi Salt March

Quebec student protests: at least 2,500 arrests and counting

300 arrested in Quebec student protests

Emergency law-considered – Quebec student-protest

Quebec Student Protests: Police Kettle, Arrest Hundreds