Law in Contemporary Society

This Is Why I Have Trust Issues

-- By KevinS - 19 Feb 2016

Why We Should Be Skeptical of Our Environment

In my very first class, I was told, "Rhetoric seeks to answer the question of 'what ought we to do?'" And to that extent, my life is embedded in a social fabric of rhetoric. Every moment and every second, there seems to be a multitude of external forces, applying pressure on what I should look like, how I should act, and what I should pursue. I don't refer to blatant advertising campaigns at the bus stops or on the sidebars; those can be easily discerned and considered appropriately. No, I refer to a subtler advertising campaign, in the form of the people around us, their goals, their role models, their actions. How often do I dress myself in the morning with some reference to the style I've seen other people wear? How much of what I say contain some phrases that I've adopted from other people's speech? How much of what I think is right or fair can be attributed to the notions of the people around me? These bits and pieces of our everyday lives - maybe better referred to as simply "modern culture" - are sources of external influences on our own personal actions, even though their justifications may be wholly irrelevant to our interests.

What's wrong with culture?

I suppose an initial objection to this critique is, "But culture is natural and should be preserved! It defines who we are as a people." This may have been true when the human race lived in close proximity to each other, people knew their neighbors intimately, and culture did develop naturally and relevantly. However, in an era where anyone can communicate with us, "culture" is at risk of being developed artificially and deceptively. No doubt, it is certainly valuable that we can share new ideas and diverse perspectives but this value is received at the risk of being influenced by forces completely dissociated from ourselves. Boat shoes - and of course they must be Sperry's - are popular, but why are we wearing them when we live miles from the nearest boat? I sure like this pea coat from H&M, even though I live in a city that never falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Sure, these specific examples are only surface-deep aesthetic choices, but how is this different from a professor imposing his or her preferences on a class simply by deciding how the curriculum is taught? Or how a media source may choose to only show articles or stories that appeal to a particular audience's preferences or culture?

Wait, what did that billboard say?

Upon rereading what I had written above, I noticed that I unintentionally - and mistakenly - dissociated myself from this culture in my first paragraph (" their goals, their role models..."). This perhaps highlights the most dangerous aspect of culture: it is ultimately self-referential. Other people may refer to and be influenced by my actions in a way that is not entirely relevant to them. And if my actions aren't entirely personal to me, then we're all going around the same mulberry bush for no damn good reason. We all end up pursuing an ideal that is completely disconnected from our reality. Hell, I can't even assert that these ideas are my own; Marx and Engels were similarly critical of ideology in The German Ideology, and the threat of a self-referential artifice is ironically a simulacrum of Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation. And if we follow these thinkers' line of reasoning, the implication of a culture that is arbitrary, or simply not firmly grounded in reality, is easy appropriation by an external force. See above.

Lawyer Culture

To bring this discussion back to one that is relevant to our class, if certain fashion lines can mold our concepts of beauty, why can't certain law firms mold our concepts of success as a lawyer? As the next generation of people who make change in society using words, we and personal goals and future direction are likely to be targeted and persuaded one way or the other, maybe by the use of some successful lawyers in whatever particularly prestigious area of law. To this extent, I've very much appreciated the chapters from Lawyerland, which presents us with a diverse range of lawyer figures to whom we may refer. Individually, each model may be as deceptive as the next, but taken together and juxtaposed side by side, we can at least critically assess the different options available to us instead of tunnel visioning on the most accessible figure.

What type of lawyer should I be?

We now arrive at the motivating question I was concerned with in my first draft: how can we find a personal "direction" when what we experience and what we study can be so easily distorted by external forces with ulterior motives? More specifically, what type of lawyer should we aspire to be and how can we know that is who we want to be? At the time of my first draft, I didn't really have much of an answer, though to be fair I also didn't have too clear of an idea of the question either. After reading and discussing Edward Snowden, John Brown, and Tom Dudley in our classes, a tentative answer might be "a type of lawyer whom you won't regret becoming even if you get shafted by everyone else later." It's certainly a very tall order for any decision (when do we ever want to regret our actions?), but it seems that the answer must come from personal reflection. These three particular figures arrived at theirs after heavy consideration on the justice of their actions and with courage in face of the sacrifice it will require, regardless of what modern culture might suggest otherwise.

Final Note

As of today, I have not yet found a cause or "direction" of whose justice I am so convinced as to make such a sacrifice. However, I believe - or want to believe - that this is only because I have inadequate information of such a cause and not that I wouldn't have the courage to make the right call.

Word Count: 998 (not including headings)

Yes, this is the improvement that results from taking my comments seriously. But you used way too much space on the question you weren't writing about, so you could get the philosophy score up with Marx and Beaudrillard, as though the problem of having to be overconscious of other people were one you could blame on culture and philosophy simultaneously.

But in fact what we have is a re-enactment: I have established another possible fashion in law practice: doing work it would be worth sacrificing for. But I don't subscribe to that fashion, I don't wear it, I didn't tell you to wear it, or recommend anybody's wearing it, and that's not what I brought Snowden or Brown or Dudley before you to recommend or suggest. The treatment of what I taught you as my version of who you should be is another imposition of a mind seeking to have that imposed on it, and finding what it seeks out. Is it possible to draft an essay about consider avenues of practice for yourself that doesn't involve lamenting how little of an autonomous self you have?

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r5 - 09 Jun 2016 - 14:05:18 - EbenMoglen
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