When a nation is facing a rapidly deteriorating situation, it only takes a single voice of confident resistance to revolutionize an entire culture. This is not an exaggeration. Human history is full of examples of heroic individuals who displayed courage where others would have exercised caution. Their secret, was moral conviction.
Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks encapsulated the spirit of moral conviction when she said, “I have learned over the years that when one mind is made up this diminishes fear; Knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Authoritarian regimes understand the unstoppable power of moral conviction, which is why they arbitrarily enforce irrational social regulations and controls. It is their attempt to ensure that our minds can only understand morality in the context of blind obedience.
By removing volition and rationality from the field of morality they are able to reduce a nation’s entire moral code down to one question: To obey or not to obey?
The difference between an authoritarian nation and a free one is that free nations are built on principles not personalities. And the two fundamental principles that protect us from tyranny are individual rights and objective law. If and when either of these are compromised, we should, as a matter of moral conviction, resist.
Moral conviction is an attribute of the individual and is a function of choice. Without choice you neutralize the sense of empowerment one can experience in doing what’s right. Therefore the concept of morality cannot exist without choice.
The recognition that individual rights are a prerequisite to morality and that the freely chosen is more metaphysically powerful in creating a just society than any kind of social engineering or government interference, was the basis on which democratic political theories were formulated.
Preserving our political principles and ideals is the cause of our times. As the late civil right hero Martin Luther King once said.
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid….You refuse to do it because you want to live longer….You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”