Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Law has built a Democracy, which thrives without it…

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“With the deepest respect, ‘Legal action’, is a contradictory concept” someone once said. I would usually respond with equally sharp retort, but I merely smiled at the jibe. I should smile; the words came from one of our high profile clients. It was at one of those who’s-got-more-nerve meetings where our firm had just detailed justifications for an upward review of our legal fees, and the clients weren’t buying- at least not without a fight. Fired on by our (shamelessly) obsequious response, (My partner was in fits of laughter) the client continued- “Of course! Lawyers never act. They merely argue over the actions of others- in retrospect.” Here, our smiles froze. His eyes twinkled at our reaction. “Damnable quote no doubt, but you must admit, with an unmistakable ring of truth” We stared limply- Retainer-packages do not usually come as big as this client, a fact not escaping his shrewdly narrowed eyes. “Well, Truth is bitter… and who wouldn’t be, when lawyers prefer the company of Lies?” This thawed us greatly, and the meeting momentarily broke up with peals of laughter.

Now, I am reading about one of the miraculously rescued Chilean miners, who last year kept us all gripping the seats in our living rooms. The report reads that this miner, Jose Ojeda is bitter. He wants his little scribble back. Please note that at the time of writing, the said scribble was simply a desperate last act; an agonized shout to a distant world crumpled up in a soiled paper-fragment, a residual stirring of hope. Six months thence, this has changed dramatically. The words “Estamos bien en el refugio los 33”- We are okay in the refuge, 33 of us- have grown iconic and famed beyond possibilities. Unfortunately for the author, the country’s president prefers to display it as a testament of collective heroism. He wants it in the national museum- for posterity. Posterity, with awe-widened eyes, who will ask- under whose government was this feat achieved? His name will echo again and again. In its grave a hundred years hence, his blushing remains will smilingly demur- Oh don’t mention…the pleasure is all mine. But no, Mr. Ojeda wants to be spoilsport and insists “I wrote it, it is mine…and I want it back.”

I cannot help noting how akin to our lot as lawyers the above scenario is. Of course it can be argued that having planted ourselves as the exclusive access to justice; we deserve the accompanying baggage, whatever the hue. We claim to be ultimate life-savers, a last act of hope tossed to the mercy of the four winds. When promises are not met, when amiable negotiations fail, and with all the possible retributions for ill-advised self-help, the lawyer becomes an option.  The client rushes in, desperate lines etched on the forehead, and pleads and begs. “I want justice!” Ever brimming with benevolence, the lawyer throws his weight in, and the client is happy. That is, before the journey to his desired destination is assessed in hard figures and charges.  Once that happens, the client alters his tune… “Pay that much?! For simply filing a few papers, papers containing my own actions, and sworn testimony, come on, I want my brief back!”

Sadly, recent events have not helped ameliorate the issue. The Law’s inadequacy is exposed, even by its foremost proponents. For instance, how long would a war-crimes tribunal or the Internal Criminal Court have spent on procedural compliance and other such lengthy considerations in the matter of the terrorist who the world had until recently been laden with? And what happened? A quick raid, a cursory announcement…closure! Such time-consuming legal concepts as sovereignty and territory were waved aside; yet justice happened…without the law!

Democracy has become a cliché. Almost every nation now practices it. The contemporary quest is now for the purest blend; a democracy where the rights of persons are held in the absolute, a situation that guarantees these rights, over and beyond even the constraints of the law. The people should say when they want to wield their rights, in what form and manner they prefer, and the lawyer has to know his place- a mere interpreter after the fact, and not the dictator of rules of engagement. It promises a glorious picture; an informal world of absolute rights and immediate redress…without the law.

It gets even better. In this ideal world, redress will be obtainable in any manner preferred by the aggrieved. A bullet to the head, a machete cut, a torched, nay… bombed house, a kidnapped spouse; remedies that truly purge one of the bitterness implanted by his enemy. Lawyers in their hypocrisy label enemies, ‘defendants’ and indulge them with a right of reply, resulting in such absurdities as reversal on Appeal. Again, please note that a right should never be reversed, it is absolute! The law had everyone chained. It removed the flesh from life, and created intellectual zombies. In the purest democracy, life will even become more valuable, because death will be merely fluctuations-in-an-enemy-temperament away.

The pure democracy does not need the State. The concept of a State is a lawyer’s creation. In the ideal world, there is no state; there is only a state of being. The lawyer in his craftiness tries to partition humans into small governable units where he can make a living off them in an arbitrary arrangement of rights and duties. He traps them into thinking that remedy for wrong is appropriate only when he dispenses it. He preaches caution and restraint, fostering a timid population easier for him to lord over. He wields a fairness-scale that ignores certain inequalities permitted by nature. Survival is not only meant for the fittest, he yells, eroding the hard-fought terrains of the strong and the fit to accommodate the weak and the lazy. Modern man thus emasculated, merely exists; a puppet navigated along every stringy whims of the law.

The signs are clear. The world is raising a new generation of free-thinkers. These will be led through the rigours of the wild fields and the wisdom of the dark streets. Their palms roundly calloused to blunt the scalding effects of taking the law in their own hands…and crushing it. Admittedly, the Law has existed these long millennia as the last hope of the common man. In the new world of a purest Democracy, there will be no common man; each man is unique, and at liberty to strike home this uniqueness, with a cudgel.

Returning to Mr. Jose Ojeda…when he scribbled the Mayday plea, he rested all his hopes on the only machinery capable of conducting the far-reaching rescue-operations that bailed him and his friends from the earth’s sepulchral bellies. But, with the mountain air wafting across his face and the dizzying ululations of a cheering throng, he rediscovered his powers to exist- to exist as an individual. His helpless submission to state lapsed, and now, he grows strong enough to possibly go toe to toe with the president, his rescuer...for stealing his cry for help.

Insightful! The tridum of State, Law and Lawyers may have built and assured the rights of people. They may have lifted them off the nightmarish visions of a Hobbesian hell and sustained certain civilization. 
But then, the vogue has changed. In the purest democracy, the people dreamily recall the wild impulses and sweetly base instincts which the fine details of the law have repressed…ostensibly for their own sustenance- and issue a resonant demand: “We want them back!”


First Published in Thisday Newspapers: May 24, 2011