Welcome to Nebo Literature.

Literature and Justice

        We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.                                                                     ~Aesop, Greek slave & fable author

Literature can enflame our determination to pursue justice.  - Professor Susan Sage Heinzelman

Matthew Arnold claimed that “the study of literature gives you the best vantage point from which to understand an entire society”. While Marshall McLuhan maintained that, “the chances of understanding the meaning of our involvement in the present is very small. It is generally the artists who see what they are living in the present and are always one step ahead (of technology)”.

Great literature can give us a clearer perspective of our own narrow portals of life with all its small time complications.  It helps us to see the big picture rather than our own narrow and limited experiences reveal; it helps us to transcend and globalise our concerns.  It gives us a chance to learn from the giants of the past and can give us a cautionary warning about the direction our society is taking us.

Esteemed by some philosophers as the highest virtue, the delivery of justice demands and rivets attention.  And the opposite is true as well: the perceived miscarriage of justice commands attention, sparking outrage and condemnation leading to diminished credibility, respect and confidence in what should be our most prestigious institution.

Poetry attempts to pierce facades and depict the essence of life. Poetry has a close association with Law.  Early poets, Hesiod, Solon…. used the language of the gods and so were highly revered.   However, poetry appears in decline.  When a poet and a trader were both sentenced to death for similar crimes, the poet's life was spared to appease the gods while the trader was executed.  Today, the businessman would hire the best barrister and escape his crime while the poet would pay his penalty.  And we call this progress.
According to Robert French, Chief Justice of NSW, judges often deploy poetry in harmless attempts of lifting the "quotidian" tedium of the judicial task but as one dismissive critic said:

Allusion(s), marginally relevant but of sound aesthetic provenance, lightly inserted but suggesting vast allusive reserves, certainly enhances the texture of judicial prose, and may even contribute in useful ways to sustaining a learned and authoritative judicial tone.

References to Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare,  Kafka, Orwell, Camus…. all carry intellectual cachet.

The African-American author, Ralph Ellison, in the preface to his brilliant 1952 novel “The Invisible Man”, wrote the following about what he hoped his novel could accomplish:

…a raft of hope and perception … that might help keep us afloat as we tried to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation’s vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal.

The Honourable Madame Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella writes:

I have always seen for law a mission analogous to the one Ellison offers for novels: a raft of hope and perception “… [to] keep us afloat as we … negotiate the snags … toward … the democratic ideal.”    from: http://www.lsuc.on.ca/media/rosalie_abella_justice_and_literature.pdf

Too often the Justice System does just the opposite; it takes us away from noble motives and the democratic ideal.

Justice is one of our most primal instincts (we are hard wired against an injustice) and our most fundamental cherished entitlement.  Even as young children we have an instinctive sense of what is fair and just.   We may not know anything about law, but we recognise an injustice immediately even if it does not concern us directly.   A layman’s definition of justice may be nothing more than us getting what we deserve.  Learned people have tried to define it more specifically for yonks.   

Shakespeare's King Lear has Albany with the final word on natural Justice:

                         “All friends shall taste

The wages of their virtue, and all foes

The cup of their deservings..                 V.3 276

Trust in Divine Justice is a foundation of most religions. 

The Bible

         “All his commandments are faithful: confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity. ...”   Psalm 110, 111. 

         "And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter."  Isaiah 59:14

Old Testament Justice, like Hammurabi’s Code of laws or the proscriptions of Leviticus is all about retribution “an eye for an eye”.  They merely list a series of implacable injunctions against certain acts considered taboo, leaving no room for mitigation.  The New Testament is more about restorative Justice.

In one of the first Hebrew codes of laws, "Rabbi Shimon ben (son of) Gamliel  asserts the three bedrock principles that underpin Western legal systems:

 'The world stands upon three things: upon TruthJustice and Peace. Without these three elements the world cannot be sustained - and further, like the pillars holding up the ceiling of a house, all three are essential - together: There can be no Truth in the absence of Justice and Peace; no Justice in the absence of Truth and Peace; no Peace in the absence of Truth and Justice.

Rabbi Shimon ben (son of) Gamliel was speaking out against the oppression of the Hebrews by the Roman Empire.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is putatively the earliest form of literature extant.  He was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in today's Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C.  Discovered in the late 19th C., The Epic of Gilgamesh is a narrative tale about the friendship between the King of Ur and Enkidu, a feral human raised in the wild. A priestess, the Goddess of Love, Shamhat, a sacred prostitute, is sent out to offer herself to Enkidu, the wild brutalised man, and they make love continuously for seven days.  Enkidu is transformed by that experience, and becomes socialised, humanised and empathetic. When Enkidu decides to marry, the two strong men fight over the “Prima Nocta” right of the King to sleep with Enkidu’s bride on her wedding night.  When the fight ends in a draw, the two men, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become great friends and travel the world together.

It’s a kind of Anti-Garden of Eden story, where instead of sexuality being a fall, it’s an initiation into what it means to be human.  It can also be seen as a demand for freedom from oppression and for equitable justice.

 Aeschylus was also poet, philosopher, soldier, and like the poet, Solon, a fighter for justice, but his genius lay in drama. As Solon was creator of democracy, Aeschylus was creator of tragic drama and he used his art form as a weapon for democracy, law, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. During his time political upheaval threatened to sweep away democratic justice.

Amidst that first crisis in 458 B.C., Aeschylus produced the Oresteia, the greatest tragic drama in human history. It is a window into the evolution of Athenian justice, the principles underlying its law, and the threats to justice inherent in human passions. The play is a transcendental plea. For democratic justice. The third part of the trilogy its final act portrays a courtroom trial in which the mental state of the defendant is central with all the elements of what today we call legal insanity. The Oresteia, immortalized and carried the message of justice through millennia. This powerful drama kept alive the idea of humanistic justice, through the eclipse of the Roman Empire and submersion in the Dark Ages, through the Renaissance when the classics resurfaced, to the British Isles, and to our courtrooms. The Oresteia became the vital voice of Solon’s justice that enabled it to survive.  Isaac Ray Corner, A history of justice: origins of law and psychiatry, Walter A. Bordenn, 

Euripides’  Revenger’s  Tragedy, Medea, first performed in 431 BCE, is every Family Court’s Judges’ worst nightmare.  Medea, falls in love with Jason of the Argonauts, betrays her father, the King Aeetes of Colchis and kills her own brother,  to help Jason claim the Golden Fleece, but is then abandoned in Corinth by Jason when King Crean offers Jason the throne if he marries his daughter Glauce.  Medea, in vengeful spite manages to kill both Glauce and King Crean before resorting to filicide, killing their two sons, in retribution, before her flight to Athens.

Natural Law, the idea of a moral code integral to and inseparable from whatever it is that makes us human—is tested in the events of Medea when characters make decisions contrary to their nature, when Jason, a husband, abandons his wife or when Medea, a mother, murders her children. Medea's decision to kill her children, even as a form of retribution, was as shocking to the ancient Athenians as it is to us today. It was then, as it is now, considered a violation of Natural Law.

Sophocles in Antigone poses the conflict of Natural jurisprudence and State Justice.  Following a dispute, her two brothers, having killed each other; the King Creon, decrees that her exiled brother Polynices’ corpse be left outside on the hillside to be devoured by dogs and vultures.  Antigone is determined to obey the divine laws by giving her brother Polynices a proper grave on the simple moral point that “he is still my brother”.  In her arguments with her sister, Ismene,  she asserts:

“but I will bury him: well for me to die in doing so.  I shall rest, a loved one with him whom I have loved, sinless in my crime; for I owe a larger allegiance to the dead than to the living… But if thou wilt, be guilty of dishonouring laws which the gods have stablished in honour.”   

When Creon charges her for breaking his law, she defiantly counters:

Yes, for it was not Zeus who made that edict…nor deemed I that your decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten unfailing statutes of heaven.  …

Die I must… But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain; for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can there be any gain but in death?

So for me to meet this doom is trifling grief; but if I had suffered my mother’s son to lie in death a corpse unburied, that would have grieved me; for this, I am not grieved.

And if my present deeds are foolish in your sight, perhaps a foolish judge arraigns my folly.

Other relevant Sophoclean Quotes:

“There is no greater evil than men's failure to consult and to consider.” 

“Oh it's terrible when the one who does the judging judges things all wrong.”  Antigone

Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer exposes the evils of organised institutions of 14th C. England by giving us an intimate view of a portrait gallery of characters.  He is renowned for his wit and use of Chaucerian irony; praising a character, but undercutting it with subtle wit. Only one character survives Chaucer’s sarcasm unscathed – the lowly Parson. All of the other Pilgrims prove to fall short of their projected image.  The Church, the Aristocracy and the assumed pillars of the community are not spared his subtle but caustic condemnation.

The moments in the Canterbury Tales when "justice", be it legal (in, say, the Wife of Bath's Tale) or comic (in, say, the Miller's Tale) is ultimately done: it's clear that justice, in Chaucer's world at least, is not always just.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare embodies the moral relativism of the Post-Modernists. One can never be sure whose side he is on. When Shylock denounces the Christians for their slave trading, he is giving back as good as he got for their abuse of his usury. Despite some leaning towards monarchy, the plays contain more than enough regicide and Bad Kings to satisfy the staunchest Republican. Where he does show his hand is his intolerance of pretence or affectation.  He lampoons pomposity and is bigoted towards posturing and all forms of hypocrisy. He also leaves us in no doubt of his cynical attitude towards the failure of Justice.

We live in a Post-Modern world of subjective values, no absolute truths and a pluralistic world of varied cultures, beliefs and values, “where we all dutifully believe six impossible things before breakfast”. 

 The Western world has accepted empirical knowledge, egalitarianism, feminism and tolerates  wide, diverse forms of life styles.   To someone from Shakespeare’s time this would appear chaotic, confusing and distressing. 

King Lear

Only after he has lost his power, does King Lear see reality for what it is.

In Act 2, Scene 4 Lear calls upon heaven in most pitiful manner:

LEAR […] O heavens!
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Show obedience, if you yourselves are old,
Make it your cause. Send down, and take my part!”

Lear abdicates his throne and loses his kingdom by the conspiracies of his daughters Goneril and Regan supported by Edmund. At Dover, Edmund-led English troops defeat Cordelia-led French troops and Cordelia and Lear are imprisoned. Cordelia is executed in the prison and Lear dies out of the grief of his daughter’s death. Despite all the suffering that good undergoes, evil is punished. Goneril poisons her sister Regan due to jealousy over Edmund. Later, she kills herself when her disloyalty is exposed to Albany. In a climactic scene Edgar kills Edmund in Act 5, Scene 3 and says:

EDGAR
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us.
The dark and vicious place where thee he got
Cost him his eyes.”

the gods are Just” because they punish the evil for their evil actions.

In his Perceptions on Justice speech:  4.6. 150 – 175, Lear reflects on how earthily justice sides with power and money.
                                

”Plate sin with gold,

And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;

Arm it in rags, a pygmy’s straw does pierce it.”

Plato had already been perceptive enough to see Justice could be used as trickery. In The Republic, the character Thrasymachus argues that justice is the interest of the strong—merely a name for what the powerful or cunning ruler has imposed on the people. The rich and powerful make the laws to preserve their positions from the “little people”. Plato argued that justice is internal to the soul, requiring not laws, but discrimination and virtue.

If you want true Justice it can only come from the Gods:

Albany                       “This shows you are above,

You justicers, that these our nether crimes

So speedily can venge! “   IV. 3. 78 – 80.

Albany also has the final word on natural Justice:

                         “All friends shall taste

The wages of their virtue, and all foes

The cup of their deservings..                 V.3 276

Henry VI,'' Part II

When Shakespeare wrote;  ''Let's kill all the lawyers,'' it was the corrupt, unethical lawyers he was referring to.   ''The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers,'  stated by Dick the Butcher in, Act IV, Scene II, Line 73. Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare was supporting attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.

Macbeth

In the Porter scene, Shakespeare is mocking many professions and here he could be ridiculing Lawyers or more likely clandestine Catholic priests masquerading as pedlars:

          Faith, here's an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God's sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.  
(Act II. Sc.2)

Shakespeare is well aware how adept lawyers can be with linguistic tricks, eristic reasoning to win arguments:

O! some authority how to proceed;

Some tricks, some quillets,

 how to cheat the devil.             Love's Labour's Lost, 1598

 

In this exchange between Lady MACDUFF and her son, who are about to be killed by henchmen of Macbeth, Shakespeare raises the whole question of the conflict between the forces of good and evil:

LADY MACDUFF

Every one that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged.

Son:  And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?

LADY MACDUFF:  Every one.

Son:  Who must hang them?

LADY MACDUFF:  Why, the honest men.

Son: Then the liars and swearers are fools,

for there are liars and swearers enow to beat

the honest men and hang up them.

It is evident, Lady Macduff has no answer for her son, but we can assume that she acknowledges the fact that evil forces often outnumber the good in the “earthly” world as her next observation demonstrates:

LADY MACDUFF

I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly:

In past times, solitary evil forces were defeated by the combined strength of good, however, the rise of corporations and institutions have allowed evil forces to unite.

The concept of poetic justice originated in the 17th century requiring that vice be punished and virtue rewarded, and also that logic triumph over whim or caprice.  This is also the origin of the anonymous declaration used in court oaths: “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Dickens and the legal System

Dickens started his working career in a legal office where he became grounded in legal language and procedures.  Most of his novels illustrate the inadequacies of the legal system in helping the poor, who then need to resort to their own wits to survive on the streets often putting them in harm’s way. Bleak House is his great novel of the law and it tortuous machinations.

The stock plot device of the impoverished orphan child, a representative victim of such a Victorian legal institution as the Poor Laws who is morally saved when elevated into gentility by a secret inheritance, sustains the plots of Oliver Twist and later Great Expectations.    

URI:   http://hdl.handle.net/2123/409

Dickens was a writer of Social Reform. Society is fundamentally flawed -   In the novels written during the 1850s Dickens came increasingly to associate everything he found amiss in the world about him with the concentration of power in the moneyed middle class.

Institutions which had traditionally existed to safeguard the general welfare seemed to him to have passed into the hands of vested interests, committed to perpetuating rather than reforming existing evils. Society in its institutionalised aspect has replaced the individual malefactors of the earlier novels as the true villain.  It was the institutions of society that were corrupt and self-serving.  

It is my contention that Marx and Engels were instrumental in sending a shiver up the spine of the capitalists. Marx overlooked the shrewdness of the Capitalist rulers. When confronted by loss of power they adapted, compromised and made concessions. Far sighted Statesmen in the 19th century (Bismarck, Talleyrand) introduced socialistic programs to alleviate class discontent such unemployment benefits, old age pensions, accident insurance. With the rise of unions and negotiated contracts, the proletariat’s conditions improved and the need for revolution disappeared. Today most proletariat (working class) people have middle class lifestyles and been appeased.


Charles Dickens observed in 1852: "The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself."   i.e. trial lawyers. Judge Rothwax: ‘ … we have a system that is run entirely by lawyers for their own interests and for their own benefit.’ Yale law professor Fred Rodell: ‘The legal trade is nothing but a high class racket.’    Apart from everything else, the rules for concealing evidence enable lawyers and judges to engage in endless technical discussion on whether evidence can be admitted. Bleak House is another great novel of the law and it tortuous machinations.

Like Plato and Shakespeare, Dickens demonstrates how the legal system favours the rich and famous rather than universal good or society’s losers through no fault of their own.

We see the role of poetic justice in the character of the cruel “Mr. Bumble” in charge of the orphanage and other charitable institutions in the town. He is a sadist and enjoys excessive torturing of the poor orphans. He marries “Mrs. Corney” for money and become master of her workhouse. Here his fate takes a twist as he lost his post as a beadle and his new wife does not allow him to become a master of her workhouse. She beats him and humiliates him as he himself had done to the poor orphans. Right at the end of the novel, we come to know that both Mr. and Mrs. Bumble end up being so poor that they live in the same workhouse that they once owned.

Dickens was not the first to say:   “The law is an ass” ;  

In Oliver Twist,  a court prosecutor says that

 "...the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction",

 Mr Bumble replies:

If the law supposes that, the law is an ass — an idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law’s a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.

In fact, 'the law is an ass' is from a play published by the English dramatist George Chapman in 1654 - Revenge for Honour:

Ere he shall lose an eye for such a trifle... For doing deeds of nature! I'm ashamed. The law is such an ass.

There is even evidence that it had been written by around 1620.

Political and Social Justice in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s father, William Goldwin, was an early advocate of more liberal ideas popularised by the ideals of the French Revolution (he and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft were called the ‘English Jacobins’).  His major contribution was towards a more rational society especially as applied to Political Justice.  It is not surprising that the young Mary would include varied instances of injustice in her first novel.

There was a sense of justice in my father's upright mind, which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to love strongly.

 1)  Justine’s false arrest and execution for a crime she did not commit

all judges had rather that ten innocent should suffer, than that one

guilty should escape.  (132)

 The saying has its origin from Genesis 18: 23 – 32:

Abraham drew near, and said, "Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it? ... What if ten are found there?" He [The Lord] said, "I will not destroy it for the ten's sake."

Enlightened judges, Sir John Fortescue and later Benjamin Franklin based  justice on this premise as well, however more authoritarian leaders such as the Salem witch trials Judges, Bismarck, Stalin and Pol Pot took the opposing view that:

 "it is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape;"

Lewis Carroll - Alice In Wonderland

Alice takes us down the rabbit hole to that other Tea Party, where Humpty Dumpty patronisingly explains to Alice that the meaning of a word is simply determined by “who is to be master -, that is all” and Alice learns from the White Queen, that with more effort and practice in these post-modern, post-ironical and post-cynical times, “we can all be expected to dutifully believe six impossible things before breakfast”.  Alice yearns for “something to make sense around here” but finally concludes that “This is just a house of cards”. 

George Orwell  -  1984 

Alice could identify with Winston Smith “He remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, products of self –deception. Only surrender and everything else followed.  It was like swimming against a current that swept you backward however hard you struggled and then suddenly deciding to turn around and go with the current”.

“It needed also a sort of athleticism of mind, an ability at one moment to make the most delicate use of logic and at the next to be unconscious of the crudest logical errors.  Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.”


Perhaps the most frightening warning about the tyrannical power of the law comes from Franz Kafka:

Franz Kafka  - The Trial  - of Joseph K

Kafka’s 1924 novel, illustrates the banality of terror through the abuse of power and gave us the word "kafkaesque" to describe similar situations of powerlessness in today’s  both totalitarian and democratic world.   The main character, Joseph K. struggles futilely against a secretive and tyrannical court system, only to be abruptly executed at the end with a knife to the heart.  The novel exposes the absurdity of life under an unaccountable power system out of control. 

According to Richard Flanagan, arguably the greatest German writer of the 20th century was Franz Kafka, who was, of course, Czech. His tales of alienation, of guilt, of not being what you seem, could perhaps only have been written by a German-speaking Jew who grew up in a Catholic Slavic city like Prague. But what that makes Kafka – German, Jewish, Czech, Slavic – is perhaps not the point. He is a writer being true to the multitudes within himself that are one and many.

Arthur Miller – The Crucible

Evil is not only sanctioned by the court, it can be perpetrated by it. Miller depicts the  Judges — Hawthorne,  Danforth — Outsiders who carry a lot of power as absolutely confident in their unmistakeable judgements.

They are the gate-keepers who decide who lives and dies.  Arrogant and highhanded, they refuse to entertain evidence contrary to their mindset.  At the end their only twisted defence is that they “cannot turn back as twelve have already been hanged”.  "The perverse logic; the only satanism is the satanic majesty of the state".    (Peter Craven)  

Despite their claims of seeing through lies and recognising only truth, they are truly evil because of their blind arrogance and wilful ignorance.

The final irony is that the court — set up to restore and maintain order, merely creates mayhem, chaos or anarchy. At the end of the play, cows are wandering the roads and orphans are roaming the streets.

JOSEPH HELLER, Catch-22

Hierarchical Justice is prominent in military mind sets.  On an R and R visit to Rome during the war, a soldier asks, “What can the authorities do to us?”  The reply is:  “They can do anything we can’t stop them from doing”. 

Bureaucracies have become so commonplace and ingrained that we seldom question their purpose and authority, yet, according to anthropologist and anarchist, David Graeber, they inform every aspect of our existence – “bureaucracy has become the water in which we swim”.  According to Dom Amerena in Spectrum, April 4 – 5, the best artistic satires occur in Kafka’s The Trial and in Heller’s Catch-22.   According to Graeber, bureaucracies derive their power from the veiled threat of state sanctioned violence against non-compliance or even criticism. 

Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning. Garrotting. That's what justice is.

To Kill a Mockingbird,  Harper Lee

There is no greater hero that Atticus Finch and no greater siblings than Scout and Jem.

We all need that one novel that makes us feel heroic

It’s hard to keep one’s moral compass in a world where morals are bent all the time and doing the right thing sounds great on paper but rarely happens in real life.

Reading To Kill a Mockingbird will set you straight in lightning speed. You’ll gather some courage and wish you WERE Atticus Finch.  His address to the court is one of the most inspiring examples of Natural Justice.

We all need that one novel that makes us feel heroic. We all need the novel that inspires us to be better and do better and the one that lifts us out of a trough when we’re feeling pathetic and your confidence is less than zero.  Ruth Ostrow

Atticus advises Scout that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  

When Scout finally meets the bogey man, "Boo", next door she says:  “Atticus, he was real nice."   

He replies: "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”


Albert Camus in The Outsider (The Stranger) has an Algerian man, Meursault, on trial for murder - he killed an Arab for the simple reason it was hot.  At his trial, his mistress, Marie, is bullied during the cross-examination into giving the opposite evidence she intended.  The evidence against him is compounded by the fact that he failed to cry at his own mother’s funeral.  Meursault feels that because his lawyer advises him not to speak in his own defence, he is not really involved in his own trial and feels totally disconnected or alienated from it and life in general.  

According to Richard Flanagan,  he learned the danger of telling the truth, which leads to the execution of Meursault. For I had learnt the imperative of lies.

 “All I can say,” Camus wrote in his great novel, The Plague, “is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims – and as far as possible one must refuse to be on the side of the pestilence.”

For Camus, resistance was the heroism of goodness and kindness. “It may seem a ridiculous idea,” he writes, “but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”

Camus understood moments such as Australia is now passing through with asylum seekers not as wars that might be won, but aspects of human nature that we forget or ignore at our peril.

The plague bacillus,” Camus writes, “never dies or vanishes entirely … it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and … the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.”

“ The misery and greatness of this world: it offers no truths, but only objects for love,” Camus wrote in his journal. “Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it.”

Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, claims “He who controls the narrative controls history” 

Much of our perceptions of the Legal Judicial world is derived from court room dramas, which may give us a distorted view of reality.  Perhaps the most damaging influence has been the visceral approach of Judge Judy.

Literature can raise people's awareness of social injustice and become a catalyst for change.  Until the 1980's police corruption was endemic in the eastern states of Australia.  Dramatists and TV productions had some influence in promoting reform.  David Williamson’s The Removalists (1971) raised the issue of widespread Police abuse of power and authority through brutal violence as did  a television series The Scales of Justice, highlighting the issues of casual corruption in the Police Service.  ABC Television exposed widespread corruption in various documentaries.    These created a climate for public discussion, illustrating that literature can be an effective force for changing attitudes.

Honest police officers were a rarity in those days as one comedian quipped:

They found another honest policeman the other day. 

 What does he look like? 

We don’t know; we haven’t dragged him out of the river yet.

*************************************************************************

Justice is an ideal well worth preserving; as the hoary chestnut goes: "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

Justice and Tyranny

Richard Flanagan claims that humour is the justice that the law never is.

The road to tyranny is paved with pebbles of silence, fear of others, division, lies, national myths of imaginary threats, and the coarsening of rhetoric.”

Aldous Huxley’ cautions us:

The thin and precarious crust of decency is all that separates any civilization, however impressive, from the hell of anarchy or systematic tyranny which lie in wait beneath the surface.

The search for happiness and the belief that man is a freedom-loving animal is a delusion. Rather, John Gray says, it’s tyranny we often seek – with rather more zeal than we like to imagine.  Tyranny offers relief from the burden of sanity and a licence to enact forbidden impulses of hatred’. 

Benjamin Franklin:  When we fear the government, we have tyranny; when the government fears us, we have liberty - a free democracy.


[Go Back A Page] [Top Of Page]