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April 11th, 2007
08:26 pm
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The scofflaw is the enemy of civilization itself. It's a bad sign for a country when scofflaws are seen as heroes. An outlaw is one thing, but even the "romantic" outlaw doesn't attack the very idea of having laws that apply to everyone; the outlaw doesn't defend the sociopathic claim that because of his money or his "talent" the laws that apply to the rest of us shouldn't apply to him.

-- bradhicks [here]

... Now, see, he gets the phenomenon exactly right, but I'd argue with the term he chose. "Scofflaw" is overly broad, and ignores why people are disobeying the rules.

A jaywalker is a scofflaw, but that has nothing to do with money or talent. A medical marijuana smoker is a scofflaw, but they are trying to improve their own quality of life in a harmless* way. A poly triad is a group of scofflaws, but if they had their druthers, they wouldn't want an exception for themselves -- they'd want laws that more accurately reflected the ways sentient beings can express love for one another.

There is, however, a group of people that habitually agitates for laws which they personally feel free to ignore. This group cheers as their media darlings and political superstars denounce the moral outrage du jour, then leaps up to defend those same superstars when they indulge in some of the same vices they decry.

They talk about the sanctity of marriage while stumbling through a series of divorces that would make Britney Spears blush; they hide narcotic habits and cry out for punitive measures against drug dealers; they exhort godly living and drop millions of dollars at gambling tables; they talk about the sanctity of life while the state they govern executes a record number of death row inmates, or*** while painting in exceptions to anti-abortion laws for their own family members.

To most people, this group is not called "scofflaws."

Please, call them "hypocrites."

Or Republicans.**

* Read this as "mostly harmless", if you must; I'm not trying to force an argument here about drug use. The point being that, while there may be nebulous and tenuous ways in which pot smokers are threatening society, none of them deserve mandatory-minimum years-long sentences and the rabid monomania that federal law enforcement seems to focus on the drug war with.

** Okay, this is a low blow ... but I think a fair one. All the spoiled members of the modern nobility -- and this includes most prominent politicians of both parties and all corporate officers -- suffer the same "freedom for me but not for the masses" conceit. The difference is that, while Democratic politicians may occasionally, accidentally vote for something that benefits the public, the GOP party platform is to actively fight for policies that maintain the elites' privileges.

*** Edit: I'll retract this particular example; see comments. George W. Bush hypocrisy is easy enough to find and further examples are left as an exercise for the reader.

Current Location: ~calorg
Current Mood: cynicalcynical
Current Music: Disco tunes. (Good taste scofflaw!)

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:April 12th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
Um, I'm dismayed to defend Bush, but there's a particular bit of common misinformation that annoys me tremendously. The governor of Texas is nearly powerless to commute death row sentences or pardon inmates. There's an independent legal board (the majority of whose appointments would have been made by the previous, Democrat governor) which issues "recommendations" for pardon, and it's prohibited by Texas law to issue any pardons lacking such a so-called recommendation; in practice, the governors pardon every single person who gets the nod from that board. The number of death penalties is the fault of Texas' fucked up court system in general, but Bush himself isn't culpable.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
Thank you for the information. I've retracted the point accordingly -- truth is important.

I did a little more Googling, and frontline's take seems like good further reading.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
Although, as US president, he does have the power to commute death sentences and pardon people, and still hasn't taken that opportunity.
Date:April 12th, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
I knew about the elected judges (the process has produced some notoriously incompetent ones), but not the lack of public defenders. Yikes.

The war angle would have been easier as far as hypocrisy is concerned, I think.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 04:46 am (UTC)
Hey, what's wrong with small government that stays out of people's affairs? Yes, that's not the MODERN definition of republican, but I'd rather not the state do everything for me.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
I sympathize with your desires. Unfortunately, as you recognize, the party of Terri Schiavo and the party of Guantanamo Bay is unlikely to provide you with any satisfactory answers.

I really -- and I mean this honestly -- I really wish you and people like you luck in taking your party back.

If the GOP was a party of small government and staying out of people's affairs, then I would still have some disagreements with them (as I do with the Libertarians), but I would respect those positions. Hell, I voted for Schwarzenegger. But George W. Bush's modern GOP is actively dangerous to the country we both love.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
Hey, I'm sure Terri's party would have been reasonable. Terri's PARENTS, however...

As it stands, I'm not happy with the way things are, but in a participatory democracy, it's more worthwhile to try to change said party.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 05:45 am (UTC)
If someone had brought this up in my journal, it would have given me an opportunity to address something that didn't fit in the space I set aside for this argument: the difference between a scofflaw and an outlaw.

An outlaw is simply someone who disobeys the law. A romantic outlaw is someone who would rather live within the law, but who isn't allowed to, because of some injustice. A heroic outlaw is someone who goes outside the bounds of the law for greater justice.

A scofflaw is someone who mocks the very idea of law, the very idea that justice might ever be done, the very idea that any external law might ever be fairly applied to their own actions.

I can't remember if I read it in Burkert, or Mikalson, or maybe even Otto, but something that struck me years ago was a speculation as to why it was Athenian law that every year, every citizen had to sit through the whole Oedipus trilogy by Sophocles. In the under-discussed third play in the trilogy, Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus has sought refuge from the Furies, who are determined to utterly destroy him for the sin of patricide, in a temple. He agrees to have his fate heard and decided by jury trial, and Zeus himself rules that it is his will that the the gods themselves accept the verdict of the jury. All through the heroic period, Zeus endorses vengeance ... because during the heroic period, there is no rule of law to provide an alternative. But even the gods themselves, especially justice-loving Zeus, understand that law is better than vendetta, that even in a world where judges take bribes and juries are fallible, men and gods alike are better off in a world that's committed to impartial law and impartial justice.

And that, I'm saying, is what makes the scofflaw the enemy of all civilization, because the scofflaw undermines the very idea of impartial law and impartial justice.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 08:02 pm (UTC)
Aaah, OK. Sounds like a terminology issue, then.

So a jaywalker would (typically) be an outlaw, a medipot smoker a romantic outlaw, and (depending on your take) a poly group heroic outlaws? That makes sense.

The one reason I would still disagree with the word "scofflaw" is that I still think hypocrite is a better description of the phenomenon that is destroying civilization. Someone who "mocks the very idea of law" is an anarchist; they may think that the best rules are no rules, but at least they pay lip service to the idea that everybody should live by the same rules. Whereas someone who mocks the idea that "any law might ever be applied to their own actions" is typically someone who loves the idea of law -- as long as it's applied to keep all the rabble and/or heathens, and not the elite that they're part of.

I'd never heard of Colonus - thanks for the trivia.
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Date:April 12th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
There's a reason you've probably never heard of the third Sophoclean play: it was written much later than the first two, and is mostly Athenian propaganda. Most classics books concentrate on Antigone, and if they are thorough, the other two.

Hell, I was required to read Antigone in high school. Never was forced to read the other two, but that didn't stop me from reading them. :-)
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