Power Differentials And The Paradox Of Weakness

This is really a continuation of the same topic as the last few posts.

Okay.  So what can explain the fact that a proposition deemed self-evident as long ago as 1935 (the proposition being that it violates a criminal defendant’s right to due process of law if the government, through its police and prosecutors, deliberately uses perjury and fabricated evidence to convict him) becomes controversial as of 2009, with the United States Government itself proclaiming that there is no “free-standing” constitutional right not to be framed by the government?

Well, in the first place the moral and intellectual regression hasn’t occurred only in the courts, although it is more acutely felt there, because courts are supposed to be the place where power is ultimately tamed and subordinated to justice.  Indeed as I look back over the three years I’ve been writing this blog it would be fair to characterize the whole thing as a chronicling of how, in a multitude of modern contexts, the worship of naked power has displaced any notions of fair play or justice in the popular mind and especially in the political leadership of the United States, and elsewhere.

Like uncultured pagans, in other words, we revere the powerful and the strong merely for being powerful and strong, and we despise the weak and the sick and the powerless merely because of that.  And there’s nothing else to it, no further thought – or in particular, effort – is made to ameliorate that state of affairs in part because in the end nothing is really seen as being wrong with it. 

It is this kind of society that makes a celebrity out of Kim Kardashian; in which the “economy” is plagued by a steady stream of hucksters and charlatans who exploit others at will and with no consequence; in which plaintive pleas for change are ruthlessly suppressed by force; in which people can be easily whipped into a feeding frenzy at the prospect of the perfect scapegoat for ritual sacrifice – the beautiful and alluring young woman; in which freakish and overpaid gladiators exercise a monopoly on glory inasmuch as the society at large no longer comprehends glory at all, but merely a bastardized caricature of it.

And so obviously, this kind of society will also feature a government that insists upon its power to punish arbitrarily, at whim, manufacturing its own justification in a vestigial and hollow tribute to a long dead civilized concern for truth and justice – in other words, just fabricating a pretend case to be processed through its pretend courts. 

And everyone must be forced go along.  Pretending doesn’t work when someone – even one lone person – lifts the veil. 

Of course, this is an indirect acknowledgment of what is underneath. 

But I digress.

There are degrees of barbarism, of course.  Taking the long view we are as yet only mildly barbaric.  But it’s important to bear in mind that once things have degenerated into the barbaric, there is no principled reason why they should not descend further, to whatever depths of human debauchery constitute the lower limit.

The only check on the trend is the principled resistance of the few remaining civilized actors who are willing to, or who are put in the position of having to, making what must be under the circumstances a sacrificial effort. 

And there’s a good reason the effort has to be sacrificial.  The forces of barbarism are barbaric precisely because they worship only power and strength, and so to overpower them in the end only reinforces them.  It is self defeating.  Even if you succeed, it’s only a speed bump on the already well paved road to moral oblivion.

And so the only way to truly conquer barbarians, who worship power and strength, is through weakness.

And this is the genius of passive resistance:  to make manifest the paradoxical strength of weakness, the power of powerlessness.

The techniques are familiar, or should be.  Striking is one of them:  not an attack, not an act of any kind, really.  A refusal to act.  Resignations in protest.  And so on.

The barbarians exploit, impoverish, punish and imprison the just.  And the innocent.  Fight back only by stating it plainly until they can’t help but see it themselves.  Be patient, but be implacable, too.  Never give in. 

This is the job of lawyers.  And civilization itself depends on it.

So there’s a lawyer’s strike across the pond.  Good for them.  But I’d rather see one over outrages inflicted on clients than over lawyer pay.  If you effectively address the first the second will take care of itself.


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