Law in Contemporary Society
As Eben so quietly pointed out in class, it is easy to damn Joe Stack. Flying an airplane into a building and killing someone is wrong. Was Joe Stack a bad person? That is an easy question to answer and does not lead to anything that I don't already know. A better question is: What does Joe Stack teach me about being a lawyer?

Who was Joe Stack? He was an engineer. Joe Stack was also person who saw injustice and tried to correct it as an engineer would, at least originally. He tried to hack the system. Similarly, John Brown attempted to make change by using his skills as a surveyor and quartermaster. Martin Luther King preached to organize, motivate, and persuade people. David Walker sewed pamphlets into the suits he tailored. All these people used their profession in a creative way to try to correct what they perceived as injustice.

Whether their tactics were effective is of little interest to me as a future lawyer as they were not legal tactics. Studying their strategies is more helpful but only as far as they can be applied to the legal profession. Judging them as good or bad people is of no use to me at all. What is helpful, and admirable, to me is that all of these men refused to crank or listen to the bullshit machine that rationalized the injustice that surrounded them. What caused them to stop the crank varies but they all did it and tried to do something about that injustice.

As a future lawyer, I am in a position to change injustice in a manner that is accepted by society. A lawyer's job, to paraphrase Eben, is to make change through the use of words. A lawyer has unique access to and influence on those who control the use of the state's power. Unlike Joe Stack, I will be able to affect change in a way that was not available to him. But in order to do that, I will first need to stop listening to the bullshit machine. That is what I learned about being a lawyer from Joe Stack.

-- JohnAlbanese - 26 Feb 2010

I like where you went with this John, I hadn't made the connection between each of these individuals we've been discussing quite the same way you did. Looking at what effect their professions, and therefore their respective sensibilities, had on their efforts to change what they perceived as injustice definitely makes sense. Just one more thing I think there is to be gotten from our discussion concerning the unfortunate case of Mr. Stack is the fact that one good lawyer with his "feet in the street" could have prevented all this from unfolding. (Honestly, it wouldn't even take a very good lawyer to have prevented this, I could have told you it's impossible to become a church and get tax-exempt status before I got here.) Point is, someone with an education like the one we're getting could have given some pretty commonsense advice, made a thousand bucks, and prevented a tragedy. Granted, we covered that in class pretty thoroughly, but I don't see any harm in reiterating.

Something to think about now is what, exactly, can a lawyer do to cause this 'change with words' we've been hearing about? How do we, as members of this profession, make the things we desire come to be? Sometimes, as is now apparent, all it takes to make change is giving someone decent, reasonably priced counsel that will keep them from making a mistake, fighting a battle they cannot win, and in the end losing more than their time and money. But, most of the people this happens to are not Joe Stack, most people who get bitten by the system are not going to go to such extremes; most of the time the lack of a lawyer is not going to cause the world to burn. How then do we choose who we help, if we're looking to affect this change? What Eben said earlier (and more recently) resonates - we must plot our course, and use our resources to their utmost. Keep the end goal, the big change, in mind while we focus on the fight in front of us, and use those smaller, more immediate victories to fund (emotionally, financially) the campaign. Eben's depiction of Brown v. Board, the events leading up to that decision, provide an example of how it can work. It seems to me to be the case that education is still an area that lends itself to planting the seeds of what change we're seeking; a far-reaching, still inherently unequal, system full of (mostly) underpaid, overworked, under-appreciated people, the majority of whom I've met are looking for ways to create that very same change. Anyway, like I said earlier, nice post John. Thanks.

-- MichaelHilton - 27 Feb 2010

I've been having a bit of a tough time with the story of Joe Stack. On the one hand - he's a tragic figure, one who I think we all can agree (as Eben told us) should have been afforded a lawyer. But what really is the lesson here? Is it that we should go work for ourselves in far-flung places to help troubled individuals on a case by case basis? That was not a rhetorical question. I am sincerely confused here. Michael - your reference to Brown v Board helps a bit. But I don't know that the tax system works in that mold - how can helping individuals subvert it slowly lead to across-the-board change? I know our government is unfair; I realize that American life is unfair (and I realize that income inequality leads to all sorts of societal ills), and that once in a while people crack under the pressure of it. People need guidance and support; a lawyer could have helped him work through the system to reach a more comfortable and desirable outcome. Maybe I just need to conceptualize a better road map for how a million Joe Stacks could actually change something.

-- JessicaCohen - 27 Feb 2010

"We quote an American prison psychiatrist who goes so far as to say he’s never seen a serious act of violence that wasn’t provoked by loss of face or humiliation, and so on."

I grabbed that from the article that you posted, Jess. I thought it was interesting because Eben said something about this in relation to suicide bombers; I can't remember precisely what it was, but it was something about how psychologists who studied the psyches of failed suicide bombers found that almost all of them revealed that their humiliation was an impetus for their actions. I think we can see a lot of humiliation in the suicide note of Joseph Stack as well.

-- AndrewCascini - 04 Mar 2010


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r7 - 17 Apr 2010 - 14:50:23 - NonaFarahnik
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