Rickety though it may be

“The president of the United States takes an oath to support the Constitution. His ‘king’ is a legal document, a symbol of law, rather than any human authority. In this country, ultimate power is supposed to rest with the people; more concretely, it lies in the legal structure of society, and in the laws themselves. We pledge allegiance to the flag, but true allegiance runs not to a piece of cloth, or even to the president, or to some sacred text in the National Archives. Rather, our commitment is to a way of governing, a process, a set of procedures, a way of making decisions—in other words, to law. There is a shared understanding that we obey and respect the rules of the game. These rules hold society together. They are essential nuts and bolts that keep the structure from falling apart.”  – Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law: An Introduction (emphasis in original)

King Ought and the Prince of Is

“Every society has an authority structure. Every society has high and low. No society comes even close to pure equality. There were and are many kinds of authority, many forms of hierarchy, in this country. Millions of Americans are deeply religious, and are faithful to the word of their churches. Learning, skill, and money all command respect. So does political power. There is also the authority of custom, and the authority of traditional morality. These form a kind of inner monarchy, whose commands are passed along by parents, teachers, and preachers. For many people, the old ways, or what they understand as the old ways, are a powerful source of control. Shifts in patterns of authority are relative, not absolute. Authority is hard to measure. Undoubtedly, some traditional institutions have been loosing or losing their grip, over time. There is considerable discussion, for example, of the fate of family authority. Father’s word may not be ‘law’ anymore, or mother’s, but most children do obey their parents, and they care what their parents think and say. They do their homework and they listen to teacher in school, even if they do not show old-fashioned respect or obey like little Prussians. There are millions of single-parent families and unorthodox families, but they are families nonetheless. The family changes in form, but it is still a great power. Most people, too, follow a definite code of behavior, and it is a fairly traditional one.” – Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law: An Introduction

And this is discounting HIPAA violations

“My entire life I believed that we’re the good guys, that we’re the world’s leader when it comes to human rights. But that’s no longer who we are, and it saddens me. It scares me. We’re like the Russians in the 1950s and 1960s, like Chile in the 1970s, like Argentina in the 1980s. People are picked up in the middle of the night because somebody said something about them or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then they disappear.” – George Daly (as quoted by Mario Kaiser in “Death in Camp Delta”)

United States is a plural term

“The central fact of American federalism is worth repeating: the United States is by and large an economic union, by and large a social union, but not a legal union, or at least not completely. State laws are, or can be, rather similar, but this is, first, because the states choose to harmonize their laws, and, second, because conditions in the states are fairly similar. A state is free to be different (if it wishes), within its zone. But since the 1860s, the central government has gotten stronger and stronger, and there has been a steady, marked change in relations between states and the federal government. It is obvious why this took place. Changes in technology and socioeconomic structure paved the way. In the age of e-mail, cyberspace, satellite communication, and jumbo jets, the country is a single entity to an extent undreamed of in 1787. When all is said and done, however, the states still maintain a substantial reservoir of power.” – Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law: An Introduction

It’s okay if you keep some things to yourself

“Don’t be that jerk who complains when Aunt Barbara asks what you write about. Don’t say, ‘that question is impossible to answer!’ If you can’t answer what you write about then you don’t know what you write about, and that’s like not knowing what color hair you have. Do this right now (now!): figure out in two sentences how to explain what you write about.” – Marie-Helene Bertino, “Writing Dos and Don’ts” (emphases in original)

The progression of change

“If you brought back to life a nineteenth-century judge, he would be dumbfounded to learn about that state of civil-rights law today. He would even be amazed at what has happened in tort law, how far the courts have gone in making companies pay for damages caused by badly designed products, such as defective cold cream, soup, medicine, and automobiles. The wheels of doctrine have turned many times, in response to changes in the world outside the courtroom. True, some judges today stand on the right side of the political spectrum, while others stand on the left. But the point around which they revolve, the point from which they deviate, right or left, is determined by social forces, by the national agenda.” – Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law: An Introduction

Does the legislature know about this?

“In the United States, social issues often dress themselves up in legal costume and muscle their way into court. There are few countries in the world where abortion policy is decided, in the first instance, by judges. In few countries would courts draw the boundary lines of school districts or demand wholesale reform in state mental-health facilities. Yet these things happen in the United States. A movement is going on which is bringing these issues into court, which expands the very idea of what should or can be dealt with through law and litigation, and which causes ‘law’ to seep into nooks and corners where it never penetrated before. Nobody has quite found the right name for this movement or trend. We can call aspects of it judicialization, legalization, constitutionalization, the due-process revolution, or something similar. Whatever its name, it is certainly a significant trend. Courtlike procedures and habits extend their tentacles throughout government, big institutions, and society in general. Courts themselves have become final arbiters of many social issues, not just individual disputes.” – Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law: An Introduction

Ghosts in the machines

“Technology is a great lawmaker and a great leveler. The railroad in many ways and in many fields practically rewrote the law books of the United States in the nineteenth century…. Accident law—the heart of the legal field we call torts—is basically the offspring of the nineteenth-century railroad; in the twentieth century, the automobile largely replaced the railroad as a source of accidents, and of accident law.” – Lawrence M. Friedman, American Law: An Introduction

Open wide

“The doctor’s main concern is to identify all the resistances that are prejudicial to the effectiveness of the curative force, and to eliminate them as much as possible. Doctors have undoubtedly, since the start of the profession, helped the patient and will continue to do so forever. But undoubtedly, too, the doctor’s action very often creates or reinforces an inhibiting effect on the curative force. This is exactly what the doctor must be aware of: that he is a danger to his patient.” – Georg Groddeck (as quoted by Catherine Clément in The Weary Sons of Freud (trans. Ball))

We’ll never get out of here alive

“What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”

Many get stuck in the tunnel

“Religion is an attempt to master the sensory world in which we are situated by means of the wishful world which we have developed within us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But religion cannot achieve this. Its doctrines bear the imprint of the times in which they arose, the ignorant times of the childhood of humanity. Its consolations deserve no trust. Experience teaches us that the world is no nursery. The ethical demands on which religion seeks to lay stress need, rather, to be given another basis; for they are indispensable to human society and it is dangerous to link obedience to them with religious faith. If we attempt to assign the place of religion in the evolution of mankind, it appears not as a permanent acquisition but as a counterpart to the neurosis which individual civilized men have to go through in their passage from childhood to maturity.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Question of a Weltanschauung” (ed. Gay)

The blind men and the elephant

“If we are to give an account of the grandiose nature of religion, we must bear in mind what it undertakes to do for human beings. It gives them information about the origin and coming into existence of the universe, it assures them of its protection and of ultimate happiness in the ups and downs of life and it directs their thoughts and actions by precepts which it lays down with its whole authority. Thus it fulfills three functions. With the first of them it satisfies the human thirst for knowledge; it does the same thing that science attempts to do with its means, and at that point enters into rivalry with it. It is to its second function that it no doubt owes the greatest part of its influence. Science can be no match for it when it soothes the fear that men feel of the dangers and vicissitudes of life, when it assures them of a happy ending and offers them comfort in unhappiness. It is true that science can teach us how to avoid certain dangers and that there are some sufferings which it can successfully combat; it would be most unjust to deny that it is a powerful helper to men; but there are many situations in which it must leave a man to his suffering and can only advise him to submit to it. In its third function, in which it issues precepts and lays down prohibitions and restrictions, religion is furthest away from science. For science is content to investigate and to establish facts, though it is true that from its application rules and advice are derived on the conduct of life. In some circumstances these are the same as those offered by religion, but, when this is so, the reasons for them are different.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Question of a Weltanschauung” (ed. Gay; emphasis in original)

Shields are up (blinders are on)

“Of the three powers which may dispute the basic position of science, religion alone is to be taken seriously as an enemy. Art is almost always harmless and beneficent; it does not seek to be anything but an illusion. Except for a few people who are spoken of as being ‘possessed’ by art, it makes no attempt at invading the realm of reality. Philosophy is not opposed to science, it behaves like a science and works in part by the same methods; it departs from it, however, by clinging to the illusion of being able to present a picture of the universe which is without gaps and is coherent, though one which is bound to collapse with every fresh advance in our knowledge. It goes astray in its method by over-estimating the epistemological value of our logical operations and by accepting other sources of knowledge such as intuition.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Question of a Weltanschauung” (ed. Gay)

Clocking in

“No other technique for the conduct of life attaches the individual so firmly to reality as laying emphasis on work; for his work at least gives him a secure place in a portion of reality, in the human community. The possibility it offers of displacing a large amount of libidinal components, whether narcissistic, aggressive, or even erotic, on to professional work and on to the human relations connected with it lends it a value by no means second to what it enjoys as something indispensable to the preservation and justification of existence in society. Professional activity is a source of special satisfaction if it is a freely chosen one—if, that is to say, by means of sublimation, it makes possible the use of existing inclinations, of persisting or constitutionally reinforced instinctual impulses. And yet, as a path to happiness, work is not highly prized by men. They do not strive after it as they do after other possibilities of satisfaction. The great majority of people only work under the stress of necessity, and this natural human aversion to work raises most difficult social problems.” – Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents” (ed. Gay)

Proposing amendments to the laws of God

“Since it is an awkward task to separate what God Himself has demanded from what can be traced to the authority of an all-powerful parliament or a high judiciary, it would be an undoubted advantage if we were to leave God out altogether and honestly admit the purely human origin of all the regulations and precepts of civilization. Along with their pretended sanctity, these commandments and laws would lose their rigidity and unchangeableness as well. People could understand that they are made, not so much to rule them as, on the contrary, to serve their interests; and they would adopt a more friendly attitude to them, and instead of aiming at their abolition, would aim only at their improvement. This would be an important advance along the road which leads to becoming reconciled to the burden of civilization.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion” (ed. Gay)

So wide, you can’t get around it

“Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanour. Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense. They give the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves; having done so they can pose before all the world as deists, as believers in God, notwithstanding that their God is now nothing more than an insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of religious doctrines. Critics persist in describing as ‘deeply religious’ anyone who admits to a sense of man’s insignificance or impotence in the face of the universe, although what constitutes the essence of the religious attitude is not this feeling but only the next step after it, the reaction to it which seeks a remedy for it. The man who goes no further, but humbly acquiesces in the small part which human beings play in the great world—such a man is, on the contrary, irreligious in the truest sense of the word.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion” (ed. Gay)

Ricochet rabbits

“The less a man knows about the past and the present the more insecure must prove to be his judgement of the future. And there is the further difficulty that precisely in a judgement of this kind the subjective expectations of the individual play a part which it is difficult to assess; and these turn out to be dependent on purely personal factors in his own experience, on the greater or lesser optimism of his attitude to life, as it has been dictated for him by his temperament or by his success or failure. Finally, the curious fact makes itself felt that in general people experience their present naïvely, as it were, without being able to form an estimate of its contents; they have first to put themselves at a distance from it—the present, that is to say, must have become the past—before it can yield points of vantage from which to judge the future.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion” (ed. Gay)

You’ll learn lessons you’ll never forget

“Side by side with the exigencies of life, love is the great educator; and it is by the love of those nearest him that the incomplete human being is induced to respect the decrees of necessity and to spare himself the punishment that follows any infringement of them.” – Sigmund Freud, “Some Character Types” (ed. Gay)

Round up the usual suspects

“People between twenty and forty are not sympathetic. The child has the capacity to do but it can’t know. It only knows when it is no longer able to do—after forty. Between twenty and forty the will of the child to do gets stronger, more dangerous, but it has not begun to learn to know yet. Since his capacity to do is forced into channels of evil through environment and pressures, man is strong before he is moral. The world’s anguish is caused by people between twenty and forty.” – William Faulkner (interview with Jean Stein in Paris Review)

Arriba los manos

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling ‘Kilroy was here’ on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” – William Faulkner (interview with Jean Stein in Paris Review)

Potter’s Field

“A book is a huge cemetery in which on the majority of the tombs the names are effaced and can no longer be read. Sometimes on the other hand we remember a name well enough but do not know whether anything of the individual who bore it survives in our pages. That girl with the very deep-set eyes and the drawling voice, is she here? and if she is, in what part of the ground does she lie? we no longer know, and how are we to find her beneath the flowers?” – Marcel Proust, Time Regained (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

Damned, by god

“Since people exist only in life, they must devote their time simply to being alive. Life is motion, and motion is concerned with what makes man move—which is ambition, power, pleasure. What time a man can devote to morality, he must take by force from the motion of which he is a part. He is compelled to make choices between good and evil sooner or later, because moral conscience demands that from him in order that he can live with himself tomorrow. His moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.” – William Faulkner (interview with Jean Stein in Paris Review)