“Law can be gamed with a good lawyer”, says Nassim N Taleb. While the whole world wonders about the “laughable” parts of Indian Supreme Court recent judgements on Ayodhya involving debates on land, religion, faith (certainly no laughing matter for many), an American Federal Court has recently ruled that a federal jury in San Francisco awarded more than $2.2 million to Planned Parenthood in a suit against investigators who through the release of their undercover videos in 2015 exposed Northern America’s leading abortion provider of having traded in the sale of baby body parts for profit.
In judgements involving thoughtful people in both regions on opposite geographical and cultural sides of our world, the complainant has become the accused, and the lawbreaker the beneficiary. Prophets have described this as a tendency to “call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness”. What kind of lens to we need to see clearly in these times when our societies are in a state of perpetual twilight?
Perhaps, in Socratic style, it starts with the willingness to ask questions – of ourselves and of others. How do we distinguish between good and evil? What adjective do we use for a society that makes these judgements possible and palatable to a sizeable number of people? What kind of a social milieu is it that we argue in favour of speaking up for one section of the voiceless but not others? Wasn’t morality meant to be the starting point for legality?
How do we achieve the intellectual and moral clarity to be able to respond with truth and with compassion for all? Do all voices move towards power and politics when we move from the individual decisions to issues that affect community & State? Are we to completely surrender decision making for matters of truth, value and goodness to the courts of our lands? Let us not be fooled by the idea that the courts are neutral. Like every other institution, they are but products of our time. Our often confused images in an institutional mirror.
When a society moves away from questions, it is a slide to deep darkness, even if we call it light. To favouritism, not justice. To power, not truth. To decay not health. To fear not freedom. A society that has a culture of raising questions is one that might live in moral twilight but can legitimately hope for dawn. As long as we are willing to question our most fundamental cultural assumptions, we lay the foundations for the worlds to come. But courage, as they say, is often in shorter supply than genius.
By Ajoy Varghese