…occasionally, even the Law gets wet!
Yea; its knotty business and Lawyers are a stiff crowd. But on this spot the ties droop a notch and the starch comes off the collars to allow some hilarity seep in. This weekly buffet will be freely served and the bar is all set with the right spirits. WARNING: Any minute, we may suddenly disappear from your screen without notice, locked up “at milord’s pleasure” for Contempt.
A quiet lawyer is a classic oxymoron. Better still, a curiosity. It
gets even curiouser and curiouser (apologies
Miss Alice) when the quiet lawyer is also… a lady.
She sat alone, unmoved
by the surrounding din. No it wasn’t a riot; it was break-time at another of
those Law conferences. I had just shaken off the claws of a friendly colleague, and was trying to
clear the buzz his circuitous arguments had implanted in my eardrums.
She sat. No drinks, no
snack. Young and well-dressed; but with that subtle wall of frost that
constrained admirers to a safe distance.
I pulled out the chair beside her, ignoring the fact that I was being
ignored. With these private persons, the prospect of good company is usually
limited, but when they are lawyers, the novelty is gripping. I silently
‘I think that last
speaker was way off the mark, don’t you?’ The voice startled me. I turned
sideways and encountered cool brown eyes.
‘I beg your pardon.’ I
failed woefully at replicating her poise.
Her voice was strangely
even. It took the shine off the huskiness, giving an oddly ventriloquist feel. ‘I
mean the SAN that spoke of Democracy as
the last hope of civilization. His premise was all wrong. Democracy as we
see it today is actually a scam on human rights and good governance’
‘I find it hard to
agree with you’ I smiled. ‘Everybody knows Democracy is oftentimes a huge pain
in the neck. But exploring its alternatives may not leave one a neck in the
She smiled too. ‘Do you
really believe that? Or is it because
our profession has no place in any other government system, that our voices usually
soar the highest in eulogizing the so-called government of the people?’
‘It is not merely so-called, it is real. Government by a functional
Constitution’ I was gradually getting fired up.
‘Oh come on! You and I know
that the Constitution merely stipulates the rules of engagement between the State
and the rest. And the scales are not
‘Again, I disagree. The
spirit of the Constitution comes alive through us; the lawyers.’
‘Really?’ It was a
husky whisper of mockery.
‘Yes.’ I chimed. ‘Our practice is actually
summarized in the phrase: rights and their protection.’
‘Oh come on,
‘I will not tell
a lawyer what rights are…you know them yourself’ I was getting irritated at her
‘That is the
point.’ Her tone remained oddly even. ‘Rights as we know them today are
actually part of the grand conspiracy to deny them’
‘Now, you have
‘It’s ok. The picture
is all there, but you choose not to see it. The Constitution you hail does not contain
any right which is not immediately snatched back in the next sentence. Take for
instance, the Right to Life. What does it protect you from? Violent death only, not so?’ It does not
add anything to your life, and thus offers no protection from death by
starvation or neglect. It dangles your basic needs tantalizingly before you,
and then goes ahead to brand them non-justiciable.
Humans need food, shelter and clothing.
If you cannot provide these, you should at least give them education to
curb their natural resistance. Deny them this as well, and the State sits on a
landmine.’ She paused to flick a stray strand
of hair from her face. ‘Now, you talk of Fair hearing. The common man walks
into a courtroom, and watches the judge throw away certain reprieve for
technicalities. If he raises a protesting voice, he runs the risk of a new
punishment… for contempt. Yes, that is how much his value is held in contempt;
at the whim of the Bench.’
‘There is a right to
Appeal, remember’ I quickly threw in.
‘Of course there is,
with leave of the court.’ She
scoffed. ‘Back to your touted rights; I can toil, save and own land, no doubts.
But in the same breath, that right is snatched from me on whatever grounds the
Executive of the day deems public policy.’
‘The general rights of society
outweigh that of a mere individual; that needs not be over flogged.’
‘And who is ‘society’
if not a conglomerate of the individual sub-units? That is the precise problem
with your Democracy. It focuses on
the majority…and the voices of the minority might as well be the clucks of
‘But there is a specified
Constitutional medium for the minority to take over power: Votes! And we are at
hand to protect these, even post-elections’
recite the rote; that in itself being the bane of the lawyer. A bloated sense
of importance at the crucial services we deliver to humanity makes us deaf to
the creaks and groans underneath the system. And it continues, until the entire
world is afire.’
‘I can’t believe
you…you actually preach anarchy?’ I mustered my most self-righteous glare.
‘I don’t need to. It is
already happening. Today the world burns; disaster is no longer remote, but comes
in a chain reaction. Info-tech breaks down territorial borders and reveals the global
master-plan of devious leadership. Apocalyptic writings on the Wall are no
longer supernatural, they are on Facebook. Support is no longer built by
dispersible crowds on hidden street corners, it is built online…’
global arsonists; what do they advocate...?’
‘A return of
power to the individual; the State has failed.’
‘A turn to scattered
fragments of selfish interests…?’
‘No, that is
what presently obtains in the State.
The new trend is for people to
actually rule themselves.’
‘Funny, but is
present rulership composed of spirits?’
‘No. But in its
current design, the state is a faceless institution, and hides the evil
components. It needs to be given a multiple face: everyone personally accountable
for their acts.’
‘A voyage into
the absurd…what next will you advocate… kill all lawyers?’
‘No, no. Just
have their tongues out- Cicerosque’
‘Well, Justice will
be better served in silence. The noise we bring gets distracting.’
‘So how will
people enforce their rights when lawyers grow mute?’
‘At least those
are more honest than stabs of manipulative counsel and pliant judges’
‘You know, I can
have you arrested for these views.’
‘Go ahead then…You
only prove my point better: Mr. Human Rights’
‘So how do you
propose to solve society’s issues in this new freer world?’
‘Simple. No more
elections. No Executive. No National Assembly. A decentralized referendum’
‘Still a rule of
the majority, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, of real
people not congressmen.’ I had no answer to that.
She continued. ‘The
police disbanded, armed forces, same. If we don’t have them, we won’t need
‘Oh, paradise on
earth then..? You describe post-Armageddon?’
‘No, it is
easily achievable in our lifetimes. The State steadily crumbles our humanness.
The movement is to ensure something is left.’
Her eyes had acquired a glaze.
‘Maybe we need
to get back to the hall’
‘May I have your
‘Oh…I’ve run out
of them…so sorry’ (My wallet swarmed with my business cards)
‘Ok then’ She
whispered airily. ‘See you at the other side.’
I stood, and
politely waited for her. She stretched under the table and picked up a set of
crutches and struggled up. I caught a glimpse through the long skirt- her two
legs were withered.
She propped herself
on the crutches and smiled up at me. ‘Oh,
don’t look so stricken. Happened when I was still a teenager. Mum and dad could
not afford the surgery, and the State said: sorry, Healthcare is not a right.’
I stood, staring
at her retreating figure and listening to the fading click of iron crutches on
the marbled tiles.
First published in Thisday Newspapers: February 8, 2011