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The Symbolic Use of Politics quote... What do you guys think of it?

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posted on Jul, 3 2014 @ 07:41 AM
"Hundreds of thousands of legal propositions are solemnly propounded every year, their details dimly sensed but their existence appreciated by the lay population, their applicability to particular conflict situations debated and pontificated by lawyers, judges and administrators. The obvious approach to defining the legal meaning of the words is to apply the dictionary meanings of the words, and the layman naturally assumes that this is how the experts do define the meaning. That laymen make this comforting assumption is itself an important fact of politics for reasons that will shortly be explored. But dictionary meanings are operationally close to irrelevant so far as the function of the statute or treaty in the political process is concerned. For laymen either never see such language or find it incomprehensible; and its authoritative interpreters, including political scientists in this case, know that it is in fact almost completely ambiguous in meaning. It is precisely its ambiguity that gives lawyers, judges, and administrators a political and social function, for unambiguous rules would, by definition, call neither for interpretation nor for argument as to their meaning. Whether a statutory standard is couched in normative language (“the public interest”), as a directive to seek a particular objective (maintain high levels of employment), or even as a cardinal number, it means what its administrators do about it. Clearly, administrators and judges do different and even contradictory things while ostensibly carrying out the same legal directive. Because it is not the legal language that explains the differences, the language is ambiguous. Operationally, then, the dictionary level of meaning of legal language functions in two ways: it gives the mass of citizens a basis for assuming that there is a mechanical, precise, objective definition of law and it provides a vocabulary in which organized groups justify their actions to accord with this lay assumption."

It is pretty lengthy, but I read all of it and it seemed like it was all fairly necessary in understanding the context from which it arose and the subject matter in question.

What it means to me is that, while legalese appears to be meaningful, ultimately it is up to the interpreters to decide how it is used and the one who is better able to convince the judge of their rightness is the one who decides what it means. If so, it appears that an individual could read through a bunch of legal statutes and ostensibly justify any action using such statutes. It would also mean that groups (even individuals) are not necessarily acting for the reasons they give for acting a specific way, but simply using the language to justify their actions after the fact; that they would have done it anyway, and are merely pandering to specific causes in order to convince other people that this is, in fact, why they are doing what they are doing.

Can anyone else read into the quote and find other meanings? If you've never read anything like it, it can be quite an eye opener. Those who are looking to "deny ignorance", well... There's a reason they say ignorance is bliss. If it makes you feel some kind of emotion, also feel free to say that.

The book is called "The Symbolic Uses of Politics" by Murray Jacob Edelman. When I went through the book, it was for my own personal use so I didn't write the page numbers down. Highly recommended, if a bit depressing to think about.

posted on Jul, 3 2014 @ 08:30 AM
a reply to: zackli

The very existence of legal language, as a separate entity to the language spoken by the people who live in the nation to which it applies, is evidence that law is not there to support justice. Just law is unambiguous, must be applied equally to all circumstances over which it has dominion, and must be tested by running past cases through it, to ensure that it always has a result which is considered just by those who administer it, AND those whose lives shall be governed by it. It must also be written in such a way as to allow a person who has no legal background, to easily, and without years of research, discern the legal position in which they stand on any given matter, without reference to a professional.

The existence of legal language as a thing apart from normal modes of communication between people, is purely for the benefit of those who administer the law, to justify their obscene wealth and position in life. The law as it is, certainly in my country, is not there to promote the application of justice to matters, but to promote the ends of those who wish to profit from the murky and treacherous nature of law itself.

Law is the dullard cousin of justice, and holds far too high a place in modern society. I always imagine law and justice as two people with similar professed aims in life. Justice is the sort of fellow who takes no crap, puts a fist across the jaw of those who oppress people by any means, ensures the weak are protected against the strong, that the hungry are fed, that the meek have a voice. It seeks no fee for its time, but the opportunity to see itself applied to the task at hand. It acts swiftly, and without hesitation. It is pure, it cannot be bought or sold, and would break off the hand that feeds it, if it thought for a moment that the hand in question was attached to a son of a bitch.

Law however, law writes stern letters, acts only when triplicate copies of a permission slip have been proffered to him, bows beneath the weight of expectations placed upon it, allows the weak to be assaulted as long as its arbitrary rules are followed, cares nothing for the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves, would not feed a homeless person anymore than it would feed a pigeon, and for the same reason. It seeks obscene fees for its time, and cares not for the fairness of the outcomes of its efforts. It acts glacially, and cares not, because it is paid for its time. It is corrupt, it is there to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, and would not bite the hand that fed it, even if it was the hand of Satan himself.

Justice is the sort of dude you want to have your back, because you can trust it to do the right thing in all things. Law is the dude you need to keep where you can see it, because you cannot trust it to do the right thing, or to do it quickly enough to make any difference.
edit on 3-7-2014 by TrueBrit because: Grammar correction.


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