Law school is a wholly loathsome experience. It is frustratingly slow, and in many ways it does not need to be. During the second semester of my second year, I had a sudden realization that there was a “scam” element to this whole enterprise. The actual material needed for comprehension and understanding to be a viable attorney, and, frankly, to pass the bar exam, could easily be transferred from the school to the student in the span of a single year. Yet, they don’t do that. They drag on the process for two additional years, using a ham-fisted Socratic method to spend two hours getting a point across that could just as easily be achieved by uttering a single sentence. My suspicion had to do with money. If law school only lasted a single year, then the school would lose two additional years worth of revenue.
Yet, there was a subtlety that I was not aware of taking place. This symposium of maddening inefficiency was actually providing a degree of value, not in the understanding of the law… I’m not sure that is ever actually achieved… rather in the value of listening to others make arguments and building on that foundation. It is nuanced, but it is there… through the dialectic process we can have a transformational experience.
Such an event happened last Monday night during my members’ webinar.
I was relating a story about a trip that Sandy, Carolyn, Chaney and I took to Europe a number of years ago. We were spending about a week in Munich, and the girls wanted to visit the concentration camp at Dachau.
I had absolutely no interest in going.
I am quite familiar with the Holocaust and the horrors inflicted upon the victims of Nazi Germany. Frankly, I felt it would just be a depressing exercise. Sandy did remind me, though, that visiting the sight of so much sorrow inflicted upon my own people was, in itself, a statement of defiance. This struck me as true and consistent with my thinking. Earlier that week we had gone to the Munich Hoffbrau. This was the same establishment that launched the Nazi party’s rise in German politics and caused so much suffering on the planet. We had gone there and had a pretzel and beer. I took the opportunity to go upstairs to where Hitler and the rest of his buffoons had rallied their cause together and stared at the walls. Then satisfied that the Nazi ghosts had taken measure of my presence, I went to the bathroom and took a dump. Nothing says “we beat your sorry asses” more than taking a crap in one of their heretofore sacred spaces. I suspect I am not the first Jew to engage in this act of ceremonial victory evacuation.
So, off we went to Dachau. While we were there, we were very somber as is the accepted behavior of all of the visitors, at least until we got to the crematorium. Standing outside the building I became agitated… then angry… then a full-on pacing primate.
Sandy and the girls could see my fists clenching. They saw me begin to pace back and forth as the veins in my temples began to bulge. Other families standing there reverently were also starting to take notice.
“Are you okay, Steven?” Sandy asked in a low voice.
“What!?!? No! I am not okay! I’m pissed! What the hell!!! This is bullshit! These people knew exactly what was about to take place and they willingly walked in here! God Damnit! We should be reading about how the most dangerous job in the world in 1943 Germany was that of a concentration camp guard! These people should have ripped out their throats, gouged out their eyes! Not one Jew should have perished in the gas chamber; they might have died, but their bullet-ridden bodies should have laid in front of the door to the building! The surviving Germans should have had trauma for the rest of their lives reliving the surge of Jewish warriors who brought the fury of Almighty God down upon them as they attacked with their fists and stones. Instead…they just went inside.”
A few years later I was at dinner with a group of gentlemen with whom I had gone to law school with. We had not seen each other for a number of years, so we were having a reunion of sorts. As does happen with men who reach a certain age, the discussion had turned to our own mortality.
“Well, if I am diagnosed with a terminal disease, I’m taking the sleeping pills. I don’t want my family to have to see me degrade before them.”
“Hear, hear… I would do the same thing.”
I sat there stunned listening to this.
“Steven… would you not do the same thing?”
“No… if I were diagnosed with a terminal disease I would head to Home Depot, buy a hatchet and get on the first flight to Damascus. I would take as many Isis fighters with me as I go screaming into that good night!”
Violence does have a place.
So this now brings us back to last Monday night.
Olaf, one of our members and a frequent participant in our Monday night conclave, said something extremely interesting as we were discussing the latest round of gun control:
“You cannot disarm a society by taking away their guns… you have to disarm them by making the thought of using a gun completely outside their scope of understanding. This takes place initially in the school system.”
He went on to expand on this thought.
His daughter had been told since she first entered the public school system that violence was never under any circumstances “the answer”. In fact, the use of violence… even for self-protection would mandate a punishment. If someone was threatening you, or if someone had victimized you, the only remedy was to seek out authority (the teacher or staff) to intervene and come to your defense. Under no circumstances were you to ever take matters into your own hands.
This creates multiple developmental paradigms. The most important is a fundamental lack of self-esteem when it comes to the integrity of the individual; the second is an abject reliance on someone else for your protection and safety.
This also manifests in our civil legal system now as well. Risk is something we need not worry about. Assumption of the risk is an antiquated defense. Now those who proffer a good or a service are completely responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of those who come in contact with the product, even if the product is being fundamentally misused. (Think of Joe Biden demanding that gun manufacturers be held liable for the illegal use of the firearm by a criminal.)
We have slowly, inexorably moved towards the idea that subject-matter experts, Mandarines above us, the “experts”, know what is best for us, and we blindly put our trust in their expertise, even when their lack of knowledge or power to protect us becomes so glaringly obvious.
How do you disarm a population?