Law in Contemporary Society

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AngelaMaaloufFirstEssay 3 - 13 May 2024 - Main.AngelaMaalouf
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Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. What is widely admired as France’s motto has been “swindling” everyone. Following the French Revolution, religion was outlawed, and France was “dechristianized” partly with the enactment of laws in favor of the State’s laicity. Yet, the people had replaced it with another opium in which they find comfort––the religion of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, an illusion, in which I do not quite believe. If a religion in any form is still present to pervasively blind our thinking, how can the people of France aspire to a so-called “Liberté”? The French Revolution has yet to occur or at least another one may be needed. Certainly, proponents of the Revolution will argue that it has led to the abolishment of slavery in France’s colonies and gave civil rights to some marginalized communities. I do not question this.
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France finds comfort in its creed, Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. It is admired as its apparent simplicity earns the public’s confidence. This is even more so when the creed is “personified” (see Marianne representing Liberty). However, to me, it is an illusionary myth which creates impossible standards. It may inevitably lead to a conflict with reality. This is particularly so “when old institutions are not functioning effectively is that they induce men to act in direct contradiction to observed facts.” (The Folklore of Capitalism, Thurman pp. 136-140).
 
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But I still do not believe in the “glowing” motto––carved everywhere in the marble of public monuments and schools––because no meaningful sense has been given to the words so loudly proclaimed. In support of this view, I will assert three observations.
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Liberté?
 
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First, Liberté we shall have, as long as it is constrained. France is drowning with stringent regulations. In a dirigiste economy, heavy tax levels weigh it down; inflexible labor laws make it harder for graduates; the cultural aversion to risk and inability to value failure disincentivize entrepreneurialism. Beyond that, the State regulates our freedom of movement: during the COVID pandemic, people were forced to fill out a paper authorizing and tracking their movements. More so, the government created a digital COVID-pass in an application that was supposedly created to protect our health. Rather it was a spy we carried from outside to our home. As Robinson remarked, the system crushes people. As a citizen, it makes us surrender to the State’s control. Some absence would benefit. As a child at school, it makes us surrender to the God-like teacher. At a French law school, there are no dissents but only the highest court. Have lawyers surrendered their voice?
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To understand Liberty, we must consider and listen to its multifaceted meanings across varied contexts. It cannot be isolated. It might suggest new kinds of relationship or new ways of seeing existing ones: in the invention of new terms (freedom), in its restriction vis-à-vis the State, in its adaptation or opportunities for radical change (abortion for freedom of choice), and in its extension within the same language and in other societies (libertinism). This shows that “some important social and historical processes occur within language.” (Keywords, Raymond Williams).
 
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Second, Fraternité we shall seek, as long as we are alike. While liberty and equality are defined as per rights or statutes, Fraternity stems from Judeo-Christian roots (Hebrews 2:12 “I will tell of your name to my brothers”). Ironically, despite the motto’s religious connotation, the State declares itself to be neutral (laicity). If brotherhood were ever embraced, how do we explain that some racial communities cluster together in the same neighborhood? Take Paris: the residents of the 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements are almost all of Algerian and Maghrebi descent while the 16th arrondissement has exclusively residents from the French white “petite bourgeoisie.” This pattern is also replicated at university: friends of similar descent often tend to form a “clan” and stick together. It is also present in jobs from the delivery person to the member of the government. There are, occasionally, few exceptions. Consider Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, born in the overseas department of French Guiana. Although she was offered an equal opportunity to others as a minister regardless of her race, she still faced racist attacks as her “equal” opportunity to rise in national politics expanded. Where was the brotherhood? Do we apply it to certain people and not to others? Is it a selective one? We pick with whom to be brothers and sisters despite a common nation.
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Freedom. Liberty, as per the Webster dictionary, embodies a spectrum of freedoms, ranging from the individual’s freedom to act to a more collective freedom from despotic control. These may also be found in the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. History may reveal that the French Revolution, like its American counterpart, saw liberty as an ideal of political freedom, reestablishing a balance in the State’s controlling powers.
 
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Third, Égalité we shall be granted, as long as we fit in the standardized “can.” Here, I admit equality after fraternity seems like a confusing repetition. But let us say that equality is some strange variant of the fraternity principle. Botherhood might look at our interactions with others in society to embrace them as equal whereas equality focuses on how the government sees us as all “equal.” France’s model, as presented by politicians and varied institutions such as universities, is to provide everyone the same opportunities, regardless of any distinction based on race, origin, and religion. Such reluctance to recognize any difference is envisioned to protect “l’égalité de tous devant la loi.” (i.e., everyone’s equality before the law). This proposition naively assumes that equality before the law will lead to one in our social interactions, educational and professional possibilities. Aligned with a certain constitutional interpretation of its Republic, France has long been against granting specific rights or measures to “minorities” such as the American affirmative action (before the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., 600 U.S. (2023)), thereby rendering them non-existent. Invisible minorities remain inside the standard “can” in the equal or rather identical way as everyone else and struggle to fit in a can either too small or too big for them. Since in theory distinction is not supposed to exist, how is France able to combat discrimination and uncover underlying biases? In fact, it is not. Recent terrorists’ attacks and riots amid international events have divided the French society, fueling the population’s fear or hate towards minorities. As a result, there is growing tension between the so-called blind “égalité” and the racial, gender and cultural backgrounds faced with prejudice. The proposition that equal opportunities are offered to everyone is just illusion. For instance, it falls easily when looking at the consistent low percentage of women students (roughly 30%) enrolled at l’ENA – the university for the members of the government (Liberation, 2020). If so little people from minorities enter university, does that mean that, despite equal opportunities to learn, these voluntarily chose not to enter? Is being given an equal opportunity, enough to be able to take it? There might be reasons not to, especially if the baseline is to become standardized and leave behind the richness of each individual’s background.
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Restriction re: the State. Yet, the evolution of history has shown that liberty was sometimes constrained by the State when the very same liberty was supposed to guard against it. For instance, France’s imposition of COVID-tracking measures to supposedly safeguard public health highlights the tension between the individual’s freedom of movement and the State’s limits on personal autonomy and privacy.
 
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Liberté: I will be free, so long as limited in mind and ability
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Restriction re: Culture. Additionally, Liberty’s contours, notably for the freedom to act, are shaped by culture. In France, a cultural aversion to risk and failure fosters a climate disincentivizing entrepreneurial endeavors. This aversion, coupled with hierarchical structures within the workplace, educational and legal institutions, engenders submission to authority, stifling innovation. For instance, the absence of dissenting voices within law schools raises questions about the erosion of individual agency in the face of institutional power. Have lawyers surrendered their voice? As Robinson remarked, did the system crush the people?
 
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Fraternité: I will be your sister, so long as your twin in mind and body
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Extension. Nevertheless, in another context of abortion rights, this freedom to act was expanded in France since 1975 and here, the meaning of “liberty” has stayed the same ever since (See 2024 enshrinement of the abortion freedom in the constitution). This sheds light on the contextual nature of Liberté––the freedom to make choices regarding one’s body contrasts with the limited individual’s choice when facing institutions.
 
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Égalité: I will be your equal, so long as we both fit in the same can, can we?
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Evolution within language. Finally, Liberty and libertinism may also be associated as keywords with the same latin root liber. While libertinism might not necessarily equate with prostitution, the semantic relation with liberty could be used to shed light on the recent debate about the decriminalization of sex work. France has historically prohibited libertinism and regulated prostitution. However, another French-speaking country, Belgium, has given an expansive meaning to liberté regarding the use of one’s body, as it approved in May 2024 a labor law for sex workers to get health insurance and pensions. Thus, these varied meanings of liberté within the same language (French) again underpin that liberty is contextual depending on the legal framework within which it evolves, culture and history.
 
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Limited. Twin. In A Can. I will never be far from evil.
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Fraternité?
 
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This draft does the basic job well: it tells us what your idea is, and sets the range of your artillery. Your writing is clear and forceful. The routes to improvement therefore seem to me substantive.
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While liberty and equality are defined as per rights or statutes, Fraternity stems from Judeo-Christian roots. Ironically, despite the motto’s religious connotation, the State declares itself to be neutral (laicity). If brotherhood were ever embraced, how to explain that some racial communities cluster together in similar neighborhoods? Perhaps fraternité and its primary meaning have been shaped by a dominant class (Keywords, Williams). In our case, it might be the French white “petite bourgeoisie” in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. By contrast, the “non-dominant” class forms clusters elsewhere: Consider the residents of the 18th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements of Algerian and Maghrebi descent. However, these communities have created their own sense of fraternité, which is also embedded in the French ordinary language through alterations. They often refer to each other as “frère” (brother), suggesting that they too have a restricted vision of fraternity within their cluster since they’ve been excluded by the dominant class. This in line with Mencken in The American Language who mentions that “the non-respectable classes”—we could analogize to the excluded minorities—seek “a way to describe themselves, since society has denied them a position of dignity, they create a language of subtle satire and attack.” (The Folklore of Capitalism, Thurman). Perhaps this is also the result of a colonial history, which may be read into the meaning of fraternity.
 
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Reducing the French Revolution to three words is surely impossible. There have been two empires and five republics since the calling of the Estates General. History is quite a bit more than a slogan. So perhaps the frame should be adjusted to fit the scale of the drawing. Similarly, to describe laïcité as the prohibition of religion seems to leave out rather a good deal of the last quarter-millennium in the hexagon.
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Égalité?
 
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Any society's primary myths are mythical. None will, or can, withstand a deliberate unpacking of its baggage. Every poem is hypocritical, if that's the way you want to read. A look at Raymond Williams' Keywords and Thurmond Arnold's Folklore of Capitalism might be good starting places for an effort to take interpretation in more sympathetic directions. I too have little sympathy for the bombastic quality of French self-assessment, much as I prefer the tragedies of Shakespeare to those of Racine. But we can make more for our own educations out of listening actively, despite the drums and the trumpets, than by responding as would Falstaff, with a fart.
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France’s model is to provide everyone the same opportunities, regardless of any distinction based on race, origin, and religion. It naively assumes that equality before the law will lead to one in our social interactions, educational and professional possibilities. Aligned with a certain constitutional interpretation of its Republic, France has long been against granting specific rights to “minorities” such as the American affirmative action (before the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., 600 U.S. (2023)). Invisible minorities remain inside the standard “can” in the equal or rather identical way as everyone else and struggle to fit in a can either too small or too big for them. Since in theory distinction is not supposed to exist, how is France able to combat discrimination and uncover underlying biases? In fact, it may not be. In tension with égalité, recent terrorists’ attacks and riots amid international events have divided the French society, fueling the population’s hate towards minorities.

Perhaps, listening to each other might make us realize our kinship, read into the meaning of equality and fraternity.

I will be free, your sister and your equal, so long as I listen to you. I will never be far from you.

 


AngelaMaaloufFirstEssay 2 - 24 Mar 2024 - Main.EbenMoglen
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Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. What is widely admired as France’s motto has been “swindling” everyone. Following the French Revolution, religion was outlawed, and France was “dechristianized” partly with the enactment of laws in favor of the State’s laicity. Yet, the people had replaced it with another opium in which they find comfort––the religion of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, an illusion, in which I do not quite believe. If a religion in any form is still present to pervasively blind our thinking, how can the people of France aspire to a so-called “Liberté”? The French Revolution has yet to occur or at least another one may be needed. Certainly, proponents of the Revolution will argue that it has led to the abolishment of slavery in France’s colonies and gave civil rights to some marginalized communities. I do not question this.
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 Limited. Twin. In A Can. I will never be far from evil.
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This draft does the basic job well: it tells us what your idea is, and sets the range of your artillery. Your writing is clear and forceful. The routes to improvement therefore seem to me substantive.

Reducing the French Revolution to three words is surely impossible. There have been two empires and five republics since the calling of the Estates General. History is quite a bit more than a slogan. So perhaps the frame should be adjusted to fit the scale of the drawing. Similarly, to describe laïcité as the prohibition of religion seems to leave out rather a good deal of the last quarter-millennium in the hexagon.

Any society's primary myths are mythical. None will, or can, withstand a deliberate unpacking of its baggage. Every poem is hypocritical, if that's the way you want to read. A look at Raymond Williams' Keywords and Thurmond Arnold's Folklore of Capitalism might be good starting places for an effort to take interpretation in more sympathetic directions. I too have little sympathy for the bombastic quality of French self-assessment, much as I prefer the tragedies of Shakespeare to those of Racine. But we can make more for our own educations out of listening actively, despite the drums and the trumpets, than by responding as would Falstaff, with a fart.

 

AngelaMaaloufFirstEssay 1 - 23 Feb 2024 - Main.AngelaMaalouf
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"
Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. What is widely admired as France’s motto has been “swindling” everyone. Following the French Revolution, religion was outlawed, and France was “dechristianized” partly with the enactment of laws in favor of the State’s laicity. Yet, the people had replaced it with another opium in which they find comfort––the religion of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, an illusion, in which I do not quite believe. If a religion in any form is still present to pervasively blind our thinking, how can the people of France aspire to a so-called “Liberté”? The French Revolution has yet to occur or at least another one may be needed. Certainly, proponents of the Revolution will argue that it has led to the abolishment of slavery in France’s colonies and gave civil rights to some marginalized communities. I do not question this.

But I still do not believe in the “glowing” motto––carved everywhere in the marble of public monuments and schools––because no meaningful sense has been given to the words so loudly proclaimed. In support of this view, I will assert three observations.

First, Liberté we shall have, as long as it is constrained. France is drowning with stringent regulations. In a dirigiste economy, heavy tax levels weigh it down; inflexible labor laws make it harder for graduates; the cultural aversion to risk and inability to value failure disincentivize entrepreneurialism. Beyond that, the State regulates our freedom of movement: during the COVID pandemic, people were forced to fill out a paper authorizing and tracking their movements. More so, the government created a digital COVID-pass in an application that was supposedly created to protect our health. Rather it was a spy we carried from outside to our home. As Robinson remarked, the system crushes people. As a citizen, it makes us surrender to the State’s control. Some absence would benefit. As a child at school, it makes us surrender to the God-like teacher. At a French law school, there are no dissents but only the highest court. Have lawyers surrendered their voice?

Second, Fraternité we shall seek, as long as we are alike. While liberty and equality are defined as per rights or statutes, Fraternity stems from Judeo-Christian roots (Hebrews 2:12 “I will tell of your name to my brothers”). Ironically, despite the motto’s religious connotation, the State declares itself to be neutral (laicity). If brotherhood were ever embraced, how do we explain that some racial communities cluster together in the same neighborhood? Take Paris: the residents of the 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements are almost all of Algerian and Maghrebi descent while the 16th arrondissement has exclusively residents from the French white “petite bourgeoisie.” This pattern is also replicated at university: friends of similar descent often tend to form a “clan” and stick together. It is also present in jobs from the delivery person to the member of the government. There are, occasionally, few exceptions. Consider Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, born in the overseas department of French Guiana. Although she was offered an equal opportunity to others as a minister regardless of her race, she still faced racist attacks as her “equal” opportunity to rise in national politics expanded. Where was the brotherhood? Do we apply it to certain people and not to others? Is it a selective one? We pick with whom to be brothers and sisters despite a common nation.

Third, Égalité we shall be granted, as long as we fit in the standardized “can.” Here, I admit equality after fraternity seems like a confusing repetition. But let us say that equality is some strange variant of the fraternity principle. Botherhood might look at our interactions with others in society to embrace them as equal whereas equality focuses on how the government sees us as all “equal.” France’s model, as presented by politicians and varied institutions such as universities, is to provide everyone the same opportunities, regardless of any distinction based on race, origin, and religion. Such reluctance to recognize any difference is envisioned to protect “l’égalité de tous devant la loi.” (i.e., everyone’s equality before the law). This proposition naively assumes that equality before the law will lead to one in our social interactions, educational and professional possibilities. Aligned with a certain constitutional interpretation of its Republic, France has long been against granting specific rights or measures to “minorities” such as the American affirmative action (before the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., 600 U.S. (2023)), thereby rendering them non-existent. Invisible minorities remain inside the standard “can” in the equal or rather identical way as everyone else and struggle to fit in a can either too small or too big for them. Since in theory distinction is not supposed to exist, how is France able to combat discrimination and uncover underlying biases? In fact, it is not. Recent terrorists’ attacks and riots amid international events have divided the French society, fueling the population’s fear or hate towards minorities. As a result, there is growing tension between the so-called blind “égalité” and the racial, gender and cultural backgrounds faced with prejudice. The proposition that equal opportunities are offered to everyone is just illusion. For instance, it falls easily when looking at the consistent low percentage of women students (roughly 30%) enrolled at l’ENA – the university for the members of the government (Liberation, 2020). If so little people from minorities enter university, does that mean that, despite equal opportunities to learn, these voluntarily chose not to enter? Is being given an equal opportunity, enough to be able to take it? There might be reasons not to, especially if the baseline is to become standardized and leave behind the richness of each individual’s background.

Liberté: I will be free, so long as limited in mind and ability

Fraternité: I will be your sister, so long as your twin in mind and body

Égalité: I will be your equal, so long as we both fit in the same can, can we?

Limited. Twin. In A Can. I will never be far from evil.


Revision 3r3 - 13 May 2024 - 18:36:52 - AngelaMaalouf
Revision 2r2 - 24 Mar 2024 - 14:09:36 - EbenMoglen
Revision 1r1 - 23 Feb 2024 - 00:58:55 - AngelaMaalouf
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