For pity is the virtue of the law

Image: Lady Justice – William Cho/Creative Commons

For pity is the virtue of the law, 

And none but tyrants use it cruelly.

Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

Alcibiades, 3.5.10

Once upon a time a political leader said: “No one is above the law in this country…There is a process to be followed.”

I choose here to forego the naming of that leader. My interest lies in the discussion of significances.

“Which law are you talking about?” you may ask. Is obedience to every law a moral duty? 

Well this post has some tests for you.

1.The German Enabling Law 1933

On the 23 March 1933, Hitler introduced the Enabling Law to the Reichstag. This law gave Hitler the right to rule by decree rather than by laws passed through the Reichstag and the president. It was a legitimate enactment of its time, duly passed by the German parliament.

The Law: Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich: To Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich

Der Reichstag hat das folgende Gesetz beschlossen, das mit Zustimmung des Reichsrats hiermit verkündet wird, nachdem festgestellt ist, daß die Erfordernisse verfassungsändernder Gesetzgebung erfüllt sind:

The Reichstag has enacted the following law, which is hereby proclaimed with the assent of the Reichsrat, it having been established that the requirements for a constitutional amendment have been fulfilled:

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act_of_1933 6/11/19

Many people disobeyed this law. Tortured people. Dead people.

Here are some famous words from Pastor Martin Niemöller, appropriate for us at this point in time:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

So where would we stand with this law if it were passed today?

Or what about this example?

2. The Carlsbad Decrees

An attack on university and school free-thinking, the Carlsbad Decrees were a set of laws passed by the German Confederation in 1819. The Decrees were motivated by fear of insurrection. The French Revolution of 1789 and the Napoleonic Wars  were stark memories in August,1819. So Klemens, Prince von Metternich and his political colleagues aggressively decided to punish dissent and so guard against a repetition of 1789.

Germany as a unified, single nation did not exist at this time. It was instead a military style confederation including Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Mecklenburg, Hanover, Württemberg, Nassau, Baden, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and electoral Hesse. Metternich, Austria’s foreign minister, was the dominating force of the group.

It is important now to look at the provisions of the Decrees, you know, laws no one is to be above. Metternich et al. proposed these decrees: (1) that the Diet of the German Confederation (Bund) implement censorship of all periodical publications; (2) that the Burschenschaften or nationalist student clubs, be broken up and schools and universities placed under constant surveillance for dissent; and (3) that a powerful inquisitorial commission be set up at Mainz, to detect and remove conspirators. The decrees were agreed upon by the representatives of the German states on September 20, 1819.

They crushed dissent for many, many years. In 1848 revolution was partly successful in reducing the effect of the the Decrees. At least Metternich resigned and went into exile.

Now comes the vital question. Is obedience to such laws today a moral duty? That is a thought for all of us.

Now here is a third example.

3.The Butler Act: the law against the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools

It is forbidden…to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals…

An Act…prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools in Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butler_Act 7/11/19

One high school science teacher in Tennessee famously defied the Butler Law. John Scopes was indicted in May 1925 for teaching Darwinian science. He was convicted and fined insignificantly at a trial that gave us Inherit the Wind, a notable 1960 Stanley Kramer film and a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

Source Film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inherit_the_Wind_(1960_film) 7/11/19

Source Play: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inherit_the_Wind_(play) 7/11/19

Source Scopes Monkey Trial: https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/science/bioscience/butler-act-the-law-that-outlawed-evolution/ 6/11/19

So what would you have done if you were in John Scopes’ shoes?

Let us move on. Here is another law for us to think about.

4. Australian Conscription Law 1964

The National Service Act 1964, passed on 24 November, required 20 year old males, if selected, to serve in the Army for a period of twenty four months of continuous service (reduced to eighteen months in 1971), followed by three years in the Reserve. The Defence Act was amended in May 1965 to provide that CMF (Citizen Military Forces) and conscripts could serve overseas. Over 63,000 men were conscripted and over 19,000 served in Vietnam. 15,381 conscripted national servicemen served from 1965 to 1972, sustaining 202 killed and 1,279 wounded.

Source 1: https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/vietnam-moratoriums 7/11/19

Source 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_Australia_during_the_Vietnam_War 8/11/19

A young teacher named William White was a great influence on me not only in my position as a teacher but for me as an active demonstrator against the ignominy of Australia’s participation in the invasion of Vietnam.

His Words:

First, I am standing against killing – the taking of human life… Morality, to me, is based on the respect for life. I respect people, I respect their feelings, I respect their property and I respect their equality, on the basic conscientious assumption that they have, as I have, the unquestionable right to live.

Secondly, I am standing against the war itself as a national and international policy. As war, by definition, has always incorporated killing, I would have been opposed to any war on this basis.

On the third front I am opposed to a state’s right to conscript a person, I believe very strongly in democracy and democratic ideals—and I believe that it is in the area of the State’s right over the life of the individual that the difference lies between totalitarian and democratic government. My opposition to conscription, of course, is intensified greatly when the conscription is for military purposes. In fact the National Service Act is the embodiment of what I consider to be morally wrong and, no matter what the consequences, I will never fulfil the terms of the act.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_White_(conscientious_objector) 7/11/19

There are some more words on the Vietnam war worthy of note. Inspiring words.

They belong to a time when political speakers dared to proclaim ideals instead of simply meeting requirements of focus groups. This is some of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition in November 1966, Arthur Calwell:

My fellow Australians. There are many issues in this election which you must consider carefully and well before election day.

I shall state the policy of the Labor Party in regard to most of them tonight, and I will deal with the remainder during the course of the very short campaign of less than three weeks which the Government has allowed.

The most important issue in this campaign is Conscription, the conscription of a section of our twenty year old youths, against their wishes and their wills, to kill or be killed in the undeclared, civil war in Vietnam and the threatened extension of conscription to all twenty year olds and other age groups to increase our unwarranted and unnecessary commitment.

We can prevent all this happening by defeating the menace on next Saturday fortnight.

The Menzies Government made the first blunder over Vietnam nearly two years ago. It blundered equally badly over Suez in 1958. The Holt Government is determined to increase the extent of the Vietnam blunder.

So unimpressed are our men of military age, about the need to fight in the war in Vietnam, that none of them will volunteer. No one can deny this fact; not even our own bellicose Prime Minister.

The Government, having failed to attract volunteers, has resorted to conscription to maintain our army. It asks for your endorsement. I hope you will refuse it most emphatically.

Conscription is immoral, it is unjust and it is a violation of human rights. It must and will be defeated.

Source: https://electionspeeches.moadoph.gov.au/speeches/1966-arthur-calwell 6/11/19

So time now has passed. Knowing what we know today, in a time slip back to 1967, where would you stand with this law?

All right, I confess. Here is a picture of me today wearing my 1970s “moratorium” badge.

Yes it’s me, royciebaby.

Now time for scrutiny of another law.

5. South Africa’s Apartheid Law 1948

This system was called apartheid. Suddenly, a white person and a black person could not marry. Black and white people could not share a table in a restaurant, or even sit together on a bus, and black children and white children were forced to go to different schools.

Source: https://www.ool.co.uk/blog/imprisonment-nelson-mandela/ 7/11/19

What do you think? Would you be above or below this law?

Perhaps Nelson Mandela’s words give the best guidance we can find:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.

Nelson Mandela

Source: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/367338.Nelson_Mandela 7/11/19

After eighteen years of confinement on Robben Island, working at hard labour and being allowed but one visitor every six months, Mandela was finally freed and became South Africa’s first black president.

_______________________

Yet another law draws our attention.

6.The Unlawful Oaths Act 1797

This obscure Act has a weird place in British trade union history. Its use challenges us law abiding citizens.

Really! It is linked despicably to the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Who were these historic figures?

They were six farm labourers from the village of Tolpuddle who were convicted in 1834 of swearing unlawful oaths and transported to Australia for six years. That conviction is now recognised as a virtual miscarriage of justice. 

The injustice is linked to the British fear of trade unions. Fear has long been a useful propaganda tool of those who fashion harsh laws.

In 1799 and 1800, the Combination Acts (anti trade union laws) had forbidden “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions, and were laws created partly because of political fear generated by the French Revolution. In 1824, the Combination Acts were repealed due to their unpopularity and replaced with the Combinations of Workmen Act of 1825. This law legalised trade unions but severely controlled their activities.

In 1833, six poorly paid labourers from Tolpuddle, a village seven miles north east of Dorchester on the River Trent, formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to agitate for relief from pathetic low wages. Current wages were seven shillings a week and reduction to six shillings was imminent. Their aim was ten shillings.

William Lamb, Second Viscount Melbourne, Home Secretary at the time, was particularly hostile towards trade unions, and seems to have seen the six villagers from Tolpuddle as convenient scapegoats to inhibit future combinations. So George Loveless, a Methodist preacher and the  leader, his brother James, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and Thomas’s son John, were relentlessly pursued by officers of the law.

The Workmen Act of 1825 made prosecution difficult. So the prosecutors turned to an archaic naval law designed to prevent mutiny: the Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797. This did the job as the six men had sworn an oath to protect the Friendly Society, so the humble labourers were successfully sentenced to transportation for six years in the Australian colony.

Transportation to Australia was a very harsh punishment. The voyage was dangerous and convict life was a cruel imposition. There was strong popular agitation in England in support of the Martyrs. A thousand fold petition was lodged with parliament.

After three years of this popular support, the men were allowed to return home with pardons and with heroic status – 1837-1839.


Source 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolpuddle_Martyrs 8/11/19

Source 2: https://www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk/welcome 8/11/19

So what do you think? The Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797 – a law to be obeyed in all circumstances? Had anyone the right to be above this law?

_______________________________________

Perhaps now this is a good place to share some philosophical points of view.

Here is the first.

If we acknowledge that the rule of law IS important, let us say the alternative to chaos, what then are the desired characteristics of any law passed?

For strong advice I recommend a visit to Australia’s Magna Carta Institute .

Here from me are some of the characteristics of the good law, based on my visit to the Magna Carta Institute.

  • The legislature, executive and judiciary must be separate.
  • Open and transparent laws must be made by elected representatives of the majority of the population.
  • Criticism of the law and administration will be free and open through assembly without fear.
  • No one is above the law if it is applied openly and free of fear.
  • The law is to be known and available to all so all can comply.
  • There will be no torture and fair government litigant rules must apply.
  • The legal system will be independent, impartial, open and transparent and deliver a just and prompt trial.
  • All accused are presumed innocent until guilt is proven, and may remain silent without incrimination.
  • No one can be prosecuted, civilly or criminally, for any crime not part of the law at the time of committal.
  • No one is subject adversely to a retrospective change of the law.

Now we come to a second philosophical point. It relates to a saying that is a standard part of legal studies:

Lex iniusta non est lex (An unjust law is no law at all)

Saint Augustine’s famous maxim calls out to us in the light of the laws we have discussed in this post. I leave it to you to decide.

So here I stand, thinking about the realities of the rule of law.

Maybe times will arise in the future when we feel duty bound to defy convention.

Let us hope that the consequences of our actions, whatever they may be, will lead to happier lives and peace of mind.

This?

Image: Creative Commons https://www.africmil.org/tag/unicef/ 9/11/19

Or This?

Image: Creative Commons  https://thenounproject.com/term/injustice/89997/

royciebaby

Let us shut our eyes and talk about the weather…

Image Source: Creative Commons: unsplash.com

Once upon a time there was a Weatherman. He was a friendly fellow, unimposing but trustworthy. People listened to his words with respect and planned their future accordingly.

Like warmth in winter or a cool breeze in summer he was always a welcome part of any day. His persona reached out to people as part of a traditional way of life. His was a trusted voice of the seasons.

Then suddenly things changed. In the twinkling of a bloodshot eye this scion of a reputable family all at once lost his reputation. He became a blackguard, a villain, a malefactor, a gangster without a gun. 

With frightening speed respect turned into disdain. Savage words molested him.

Lies were said to leave his mouth like fleas in a medieval plague. His judgement was seen as contaminated by myth and non sequiturs. He was anti social, confirmed by the masses as a destroyer of jobs.

Who were the Weatherman’s assassins?

You may be wondering about the precise causes of this sweeping change in the Weatherman’s destiny. Well, that change has a lot to do with shadowy forces dedicated to maligning science. Look – I’ll show you.

They cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.

United States Senator Jim Inhoffe,

I’ve instinctively known this from the get-go, from 20 years ago! The whole thing is made up, and the reason I know it is because liberals are behind it! When they’re pushing something, folks, it’s always bogus. 

Rush Hudson Limbaugh

Ah the poor Weatherman! Such a dutiful soul he was. Intent on service. Careful in his ways. Meticulous. Always pleased to be an active source of information. 

How sad the tempest of scorn has made him! Self harm is in his mind. Reputations can be so vulnerable, especially when they interfere with large scale business planning. Words can be takeover bids. Here are some more examples.

Nobody can argue that there isn’t climate change. The climate’s been changing since time immemorial.

Do I believe there is global warming? No, I believe it’s all a load of bullshit. But it’s amazing the way the whole fucking eco-warriors and the media have changed. It used to be global warming, but now, when global temperatures haven’t risen in the past 12 years, they say ‘climate change’.

Well, hang on, we’ve had an ice age. We’ve also had a couple of very hot spells during the Middle Ages, so nobody can deny climate change. But there’s absolutely no link between man-made carbon, which contributes less than 2% of total carbon emissions [and climate change].

Michael O’Leary, Boss of Ryanair in 2010

“Listen to me,” says another seer with language queer, “climate change science is absolute crap.”

Reference: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-10/tony-abbott-climate-claims-dont-add-up/9034204 9/10/19

Another dignitary flaunts a lump of coal didactically in a very public place – a devious alliance.

Image Source: https://10daily.com.au/news/politics/a180903atv/scott-morrison-on-that-time-he-carted-coal-into-parliament-20180903 22/10/19

Then there is a voice from on high – very high – piercing the air with such nonsense a brain seems missing:

I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways…Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.

No need to write the name

History is not spared by some as a tool of scepticism.

Carbon pricing harkens back to the idea, you know, that Massachusetts had to deal with, the witchcraft trials. The idea that witches change the weather. Now they’re claiming SUVs and our coal plants are changing the weather

Marc Morano

Source: https://www.desmogblog.com/marc-morano 22/10/19

The efficient market hypothesis underlies much climate scepticism.

When economies get richer they not only make people wealthier, they generally provide immense environmental benefits. And so if you actually believe, if someone actually believes that global warming is a crisis that must be addressed…I think it would be much better to free up the economy and get rid of the EPA rules and a lot of the Department of Energy programs and let the economy boom forward.

Myron Ebell

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/trump-epa-climate-science-myron-ebell-2016-11?r=US&IR=T 22/10/19

What are these people whose words I quote, these sellers of doubt?

Why, they are intruders consciously maligning reality with a purpose. They have a mission statement to retain and promote destructive, established industries.. They tempt lawmakers with the profits from self interest.

What do they do to me?

They shake me. They conjure outbursts from me. They revive words I have found in my past, and they cause me to implode mentally.

Like this, with George Orwell and 1984:

The heresy of heresies was common sense.

war is peace

freedom is slavery

ignorance is strength

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

They re-link me to the Worldly Goods of the Everyman I once studied at university …

Everyman: Yet in my mind a thing there is;

All my life I have loved riches;

If that my good now help me might,

He would make my heart full light.

I will speak to him in this distress. –

Where art thou, my Goods and riches?

Goods:  Who calleth me? Everyman? What hast thou hast!

I lie here in corners, trussed and piled so high,

And in chest I am locked so fast,

Also sacked in bags, thou mayst see with thine eye,

I cannot stir; in packs low I lie.

What would ye have, lightly me say?

Everyman: Come hither, Goods, in all the hast thou may,

For of counsel I must desire thee.

Goods: Sir, and ye in the world have trouble or adversity,

That can I help you to remedy shortly.

Everyman: It is another disease that grieveth me;

In this world it is not, I tell thee so.

I am sent for another way to go,

To give a straight account general

Before the highest Jupiter of all;

And all my life I have had joy and pleasure in thee.

Therefore I pray thee go with me,

For, peradventure, thou mayst before God Almighty

My reckoning help to clean and purify;

For it is said ever among,

That money maketh all right that is wrong.

Goods: Nay, Everyman, I sing another song,

I follow no man in such voyages;

For and I went with thee

Thou shouldst fare much the worse for me;

For because on me thou did set thy hand,

Thy reckoning I have made blotted and blind,

That thine account thou cannot make truly;

And that hast thou for the love of me.

Everyman: That would grieve me full sore,

When I should come to that fearful answer.

Up, let us go thither together.

Goods: Nay, not so, I am, to brittle, I may not endure;

I will follow no man one foot, be ye sure.

Everyman: Alas, I have thee loved, and had great pleasure

All my life-days on good and treasure.

Goods: That is to thy damnation without lesing,

For my love is contrary to the love everlasting.

But if thou had loved moderately during,

As, to the poor give part of me,

Then shouldst thou not in this dolour be,

Nor in this great sorrow care.

Everyman: Lo, now was I deceived or was I ware,

And all may wyte* my spending time. *blame

Goods: What, weenest thou that I am thine?

Everyman: I had wend so.

Goods: Nay, Everyman, say no;

As for a while I was lent thee,

A season thou hast had me in prosperity;

My condition is man’s soul to kill;

If I save one, a thousand I do spill;

Weenest thou that I will follow thee?

Nay, from this world, not verrily.

Everyman: I had wend otherwise.

Goods: Therefore to thy soul Good is a thief;

For when thou art dead, this is my guise

Another to deceive in the same wise

As I have done thee, and all to his soul’s reprief.

Everyman: O false Good, cursed thou be!

Thou traitor to God, that hast deceived me,

And caught me in thy snare.

Goods: Marry, thou brought thyself in care,

Whereof I am glad,

I must needs laugh, I cannot be sad.

Everyman: Ah, Good, thou hast had long my heartly love;

I gave thee that which should be the Lord’s above.

But wilt thou not go with me in deed?

I pray thee truth to say.

Goods:  No, so God me speed,

Therefore farewell, and have good day.

Do you get what I mean? The speakers I criticise, like Everyman, are obsessed with worldly goods! We must not let crass loyalty to what we own destroy the world.

The effect on me of those climate deniers is cataclysmic. So the brilliant Edgar Allan Poe’s words come back and haunt me thus…

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zig-zag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened –there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind –the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight –my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder –there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters –and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the “HOUSE OF USHER.”

The sceptics can also make me visit Creative Commons…

Source: Creative Commons https://glacierhub.org/author/kristin-hogue/ 18/10/19

Or cause me to seek out better opinions…

The Margaret Thatcher speech at the Second World Climate Conference on Tuesday November 6, 1990 comes to mind here. It is a view so nobly different from her later stand. No iron from her. Maybe irony.

But the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.

Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No-one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order. It’s because we know that, that we are here today.

[MAN AND NATURE: OUT OF BALANCE]

For two centuries, since the Age of the Enlightenment, we assumed that whatever the advance of science, whatever the economic development, whatever the increase in human numbers, the world would go on much the same. That was progress. And that was what we wanted.

Now we know that this is no longer true.

We have become more and more aware of the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.

In recent years, we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.

We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavours have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs. 

Source: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/108237 9/10/19

Now here is Margaret Thatcher with a different voice:

So in a speech to scientists in 1990 I observed: whatever international action we agree upon to deal with environmental problems, we must enable all our economies to grow and develop because without growth you cannot generate the wealth required to pay for the protection of the environment.

Wow! What a reversal by the Baroness. Why was this so?

Consequences?

Source: Creative Commons https://glacierhub.org/author/kristin-hogue/ 18/10/19

Forgive my ramblings though if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. But to end, I must try to be compos mentis.

Here’s To The Weatherman

Poor lad. The jumbo jet pilot trusts him with his life. The coal baron mangles him with contempt.

Closing Words

An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion. 

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

As to the weather – just relax. Everything’s fine.

Image: Creative Commons Jeff Atwood June 4, 2009

royciebaby