Writing & Cognitive Dissonance

December 26, 2010
/ Author: Rick

I haven’t done as much writing lately as I should, or as I would like, or as others might like. My readership is, justifiably, dropping because of it.

It’s not that I’ve nothing to say. It’s the cognitive dissonance I’ve been feeling lately over what I might want to say.

You see, what I might want to say is that it’s about time for blood to run in the streets. What I might want to say is that it’s time for a revolution. What I might want to say is that if you work for the government, you are someone the rest of us should consider putting down.

But that’s not really right.

And I haven’t figured out yet how to deal with the fact that I do, actually, think it’s true that we need a revolution, with the fact that people really do get hurt in revolutions, and with the fact that I also don’t think this line of thinking is really right.

You see, there really are some good people working for the government. They do not intend evil. They really believe what they’re doing is for the greater good.

It’s not, of course, but they really believe it is.

And as I know and like some of these people, it seems just not right that I have feelings and say things based on those feelings which, if actually acted upon, would result in some of those people being hurt, or even being killed.

So I’ve had a difficult time writing because, I guess, I haven’t figured out how to advocate hating the sin, without hating the sinners.

It worries me that I can’t figure this out, that I can’t come up with some way of advocating a war against particular activities of our government without advocating a war against the people who comprise that government, who are responsible for those activities, and who most assuredly have no plans to stop. If anything, it appears that things really will get worse.

Of course, we, “the People,” are as much to blame for this as the government that purports to function with our blessing. As Mark Bennett recently noted in his Christmas Wrapup:

When tyranny arrives (to those tempted to comment, “but tyranny is already here,” I can only say, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”), it will not come marching on the hard soles of invaders, but padding on cats’ paws. Like a vampire, tyranny in America will not come in uninvited, but rather welcomed by ordinary folk like Gwen Washington (willing to have Ms. Hirschkind take whatever the government wants to dish out “for our protection”) and Emily Protine (only wants to “feel a little safer”).

The things is, Mark’s right: we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

But at the same time, we’ve seen quite a lot. Quite a lot more than the Founders of our once-great nation would have tolerated. They went to war over less governmental intrusion than we put up with daily.

It’s not hard to read about something happening which should never happen. Something being done by power-hungry, election-seeking prosecutors, for example, which Gideon writes about in Queensland, Alabama. As Gideon explains, it’s quite likely the crime charged by the Alabama prosecutor in the case was not a crime at all; what’s almost certain is that if a crime was committed, it wasn’t committed within the jurisdiction of any Alabama court. But as cries for the head of Julian Assange should show, when someone wants to charge someone in America, it matters not if a crime was really committed, whether it was committed by a U.S. citizen, or whether it was committed in America.

You might not think those things are as clear-cut as I think they are, but who am I, after all? I’m a defense attorney.

I’m the guy who would be called to defend the police officer accused of raping a woman, if it weren’t for the fact that police officers these days don’t have to worry about such accusations. They have their own ways of dealing with them. You might call it The Brotherhood of the Badge. So, in a circumstance like that just noted, the victim of the officer’s crime will learn what happens to those who speak out against the police.

You don’t have to speak out against the police, though, to become a target of the government. As Scott Greenfield notes, videotaping the officers will do the trick just as well. In “A Christmas Present,” Scott tells the story of a Verdugo Hills High School student who saw an officer apparently using excessive force to subdue a teenage cigarette-smoker.

Let’s make no mistake about that last case. As The LA Weekly notes,

Officer Robles’ own actions helped turn an exceedingly minor wrongdoing — a student smoking at a bus stop — into a state prison case.

Meanwhile, in Fresno, California, I have personally watched police officers harass people — and sometimes threaten them with physical harm — for nothing other than attempting to state an opinion to a third party. To be more specific, while I was at the Juvenile Court recently, a man made the mistake of asking for help from one of the deputies. The deputy did not really wish to be bothered, but the man persisted in trying to explain his situation. Finally, realizing that there was no help to be had from the man in the uniform, the individual turned and began to walk away. Seeing me and some others in the hallway, he made an ill-fated comment about the officer’s unwillingness to help him.

Although the man was walking away from the deputy at the time and continued to walk away from the deputy, he was suddenly ordered to stop. I seriously believe that the only thing that kept the officer from going farther than to tell the man he should watch himself — and that he gave up his rights to be treated with dignity and respect (okay, he didn’t use exactly those words) when he stepped into the courthouse — was that I deliberately moved closer and made sure the officer knew I was watching.

As that particular officer has shown in the past, he has no problem challenging attorneys as well as “ordinary” citizens in the courthouse. But it’s a little harder to convince a court that an attorney is lying in a “he said/he said” encounter with the police than it is for most of the people the officer regularly harasses. (Not much, these days, but it’s still a little harder, and for some officers, it’s enough to keep them honest.)

The problem with our government — any large government — as Mike Cernovich says in “Why America Has a ‘Free Press,’ but Want [sic] to Regulate the Internet,” is

There are only people within those organizations. Once you understand this – and most never will – then the inherent evil of big government and big business becomes obvious. People are evil, but too small to perpetuate more than petty cruelties. Man’s will to cruelty is made possible through large institutions.

I disagree with Mike’s contention that “[p]eople are evil”; most people are not. But people do tend to be self-interested. That includes me as much as the next person. Some people are evil, or, at least, not-so-nice.

Unfortunately, given the right “social structure,” it doesn’t take very many not-so-nice people to make an entire society not-so-nice. An article at PsychCentral titled “‘Herd’ Mentality Explained,” notes:

[R]esearch findings show that as the number of people in a crowd increases, the number of informed individuals decreases. In large crowds of 200 or more, five per cent of the group is enough to influence the direction in which it travels.

The cops that many of us encounter these days are, in fact, ignorant of the law. They know not the Constitution of our Founders. They understand one thing: governmental power.

But — and this is where I agree with Mike — it appears that all, or at least nearly all, human beings also have a built-in drive for recognition and validation, a.k.a. “respect.” This includes police officers whose drive for “respect” too often these days obviates their purported desire “to protect and serve.”

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, tells the story well. The character of “Ralph” demonstrates that good intentions can’t always stay the course when government gains life or death control over the group. “Jack Merridew” and “Roger” demonstrate quite clearly what happens to us when our drive for “respect” is untempered by society.

Unfortunately for us, we are not children in an allegorical model. We, the People of the United States of America, are the adults. There is no naval officer to unexpectedly show up and stop our descent into hell.

And so we come back to the cause of my cognitive dissonance. With no rescue on the horizon, we are, in fact, left to our own devices. So long as the Jacks and Rogers of the world are supported by the government and a society which fails to rein them in, resistance is the only option. Unfortunately, while the officers are supported by guns and government, it becomes increasingly evident that violent resistance — resistance sufficient to actually stop them, rather than just get those of us who resist locked up — may be the only recourse.

But, as I said, I really do not want that. It makes me sad. It makes it hard to write.

It makes me feel like Simon.

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  1. It’s only my opinion, but I think we’re way, way shy of any justification for violence. But you’re right, I think, that ordinary opposition is largely fruitless.

    So I’ve proposed something more, but non-violent: lawyer strikes.

    Lawyer bloggers don’t seem to like the idea, though. I didn’t know if you had considered the idea or not, but since you seem to have a bad case of holiday angst and crisis I thought I’d throw it out there.

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