Law in Contemporary Society
Same old bullshit, no matter how prestigious the school.

My brother woke me up that morning; he told me there was a cool movie on TV where America was under attack. He was joking. At first he had thought it was a movie, but then it kept on going. My first thought was is this a revolution? My first emotion was satisfaction -- something about seeing America brought to her knees. It was strangely refreshing to see such a smug and powerful entity so weak and vulnerable.  

My sentiments may outrage you. That’s understandable. Keep in mind I’m from a generation of violent video games and frequent news feeds of people dying. Why would this situation stand out as something I should have felt especially sympathetic towards? I was moved by the destruction of American symbols, not the deaths of those involved. That part was sad. But surely, my dissociative powers were strong.  

My friends came home from school. I had played hooky. They joked and told me that people were suspicious of me because I wasn’t there. We sat and talked -- people want to be able to explain traumatic things. I told them I thought two things were going to happen: we would go to war and we were going to lose some rights.  

The next day, I took the train downtown to meet with this group that was organizing protests against the World Trade Organization. Overnight, they became a peace group. My friend Nasri pointed out how eerie it was that there were no planes in the sky. This was Chicago after all. O’Hare was the busiest airport in the world. He was afraid though -- afraid of change; afraid of the reaction. I ended up leaving this group.  

I wasn’t an overnight patriot. That term, patriot, was funny. Suddenly patriot was a flag you had to wave regardless of whether you were dissenting or agreeing just so people would listen to you. Patriots slapped flag stickers to their cars (and didn’t take them off when the stripes turned yellow), threw bricks at mosques and said the pledge of allegiance every morning. I told myself I wasn’t like that, but I was fooled. I had thought I was different from the sheeple because I thought about things. I was rational.  

A rational person finds a difference between terrorism and collateral damage. Collateral damage isn’t deliberately targeting innocent civilians to push an agenda -- it's just a description of what happens when agendas get pushed. Ok, that’s the distinction. It’s even a principled distinction! Surely, the principle of intentional killing being worse than unintentional killing is well-founded. Now we have good guys and bad guys. All we had to do was sunder reality and place intentional and unintentional into two separate and neat buckets.  

But even if this distinction is principled, is it a good one? Do we want to have this distinction in this context? What purpose does it serve? What values does it purport to support? What does it hide?  Presumably, if we make these sort of distinctions, less innocent people would die. We might think, that if we’re really interested in making this distinction then we would be appalled if it was used as a justification for killing more innocent people.

I suppose such foolishness is an occupational hazard (expectation) for us would-be lawyers. We grow up being good with logic and rationalize often. We’re reinforced to do it by our teachers and sometimes our parents. Rationalizing helps give shape to the chaos of the world. It can explain that which we do not actually have the explanation for.  

A side-effect of all this is that we become sort of platonic. At least, that’s the best way I can describe the trend I’ve been seeing. We practice distinguishing cases from other cases, principles from other principles, fact patterns from people, without any real thought as to why and what happens when we do. Our cultivated need to have an orderly story is exploited. Logic becomes self-executing -- some sort of underlying order that behavior guides itself from.  

Of course that’s bullshit. Just watch people and you’ll see otherwise -- although you may miss it if your gaze doesn’t leave the bubble it’s in.


Webs Webs

r4 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:14:20 - IanSullivan
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