Saturday, May 30, 2009

 

Quotable: Solzhenitsyn on the "Letter of the Law"

Not long ago I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's June 1978 commencement address to Harvard University entitled A World Split Apart. Solzhenitsyn's obvious strength was his writing on life in Russia. And while he was also a keen observer of the West, he did not always see it so clearly. His understandable anti-Communism sometimes blinded him to the reality of American imperialism.

For instance, he chastised the "American intelligentsia" for the US defeat in Vietnam never understanding that the US role was indefensible by his own standards. Sounding the alarm, he claimed, "a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over [America]." He decried the materialism, irresponsible freedom, and humanism of the West and the US, in particular, never understanding that these were, in large part, symptoms not causes.

At least in 1978, he failed understand that Americans are not free but the unwitting slaves of a sophisticated and pervasive propaganda system. Which is, in turn, part of a larger system or constellation of systems which are life-destroying on scales large and small and manifest in America's culture of death and the "The Combine" of Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or the "Domination System" described by Walter Wink.
In any case, the passage below from A World Split Apart has much to commend itself in terms of understanding the law in America. It is noteworthy that his examples of the failure to exercise "Voluntary self-restraint" are not individuals as one would expect to hear from many American commentators but they are corporations.

Western society has chosen for itself the organization best suited to its purposes and one I might call legalistic. The limits of human rights and rightness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting, and manipulating law (though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert). Every conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the ultimate solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be right, and urge self-restraint or a renunciation of these rights, call for sacrifice and selfless risk: this would simply sound absurd. Voluntary self-restraint is almost unheard of: everybody strives toward further expansion to the extreme limit of the legal frames. (An oil company is legally blameless when it buys up an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to purchase it.)

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is also less than worthy of man. A society based on the letter of the law and never reaching any higher fails to take full advantage of the full range of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relationships, this creates an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity that paralyzes man’s noblest impulses.

And it will be simply impossible to bear up to the trials of this threatening century with nothing but the supports of a legalistic structure.

Source: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. A World Split Apart. (New York: Harper & Row, 1978) pp. 15-19.

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Comments:
thx for the interesting new post.
here's something related which was sent to me, and i recently posted at bhbanco.org --

American judicial and legal corruption

Here is the complete internet FAQ, or Frequently Asked Questions with Answers, on American judicial and legal corruption - the most hidden and ugly secret about life inside the modern United States.

Information for the many victims of USA legal injustice, and for anyone seeking to understand America's terrifying legal system, and how America really works.

Why American lawyers and judges are destroying families, sending innocent people to prison, and why average working people cannot get justice in American courts.

This FAQ is especially important, because America's major news media are afraid to talk about wrongdoing by lawyers and judges. Here is the truth that the U.S. media knows, but hides from the public.

http://faqusajudicialcorruption.blogspot.com/
 
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