Thursday, 28 July 2016 13:06

A day in court and philosophical matters

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My Day At Court Reinforced My Belief That This World Is A Childish Game

Ozodi Osuji

On my girlfriend's very first day in Anchorage, Alaska, an old friend of hers told her that he is going to court to support another friend. A drunken man had slapped a woman and the friend was going to court as a witness. My girlfriend volunteered to go with both of them to court.

I volunteered to drive her to court and thus wound up spending hours in a court room.  I sat in the court room and heard attorneys and judges do their things.

The public prosecutor presented his case against the accused and the defense attorney presented what seemed to him a reasonable rebuttal of the DA's case. Both would argue back and forth. Eventually, a plea deal was presented by the DA and if the defense attorney agreed, the defendant was asked if he or she agreed to the plea bargain and if the answer is yes the judge would sign off on the agreement.

If the verdict is guilty (as was in all the several cases I witnessed) the judge read the sentence: "You will spend (so many days, months etc.) in jail; you are fined (so many thousand dollars); upon release you will be supervised by parole and probation officers for a period (time given); you will do community work for (time given); you will pay restitution for your crime in the amount of (amount given)."

The defendant accepts the sentence and other cases were heard and the process was repeated. Although I had tagged along to the court just to give my girlfriend a ride I found myself fascinated by the legal proceedings.

The judge must follow clear procedures, reads them out to the accused, tells him his rights to request a jury trial, to appeal the case to a higher court if necessary, and so on.

During my graduate school days when I could not make up my mind what do with myself I registered at a law school and took the first year classes (Criminal law, Torts, Constitutional law, Contracts and so on). I decided that law school is awfully unchallenging and boring. So, I quit law school and moved on to whatever was currently interesting to me.

Today, in a court room I found myself interested in the legal proceeding unfolding before my eyes. But, sooner or later, my philosophical part kicked in and a discourse ensued in my mind; it went as follows.

A part of my mind said: lawyering and courts are designed to apply the law to people; certain preapproved procedures must be adhered to for it is in following those procedures that make the verdict legal; any deviation from accepted processes makes the verdict illegal. Thus, the attorneys and Judge make sure that they did their thing according to laid down procedures.

A part of my mind then asked: does following procedures mean that the end result, the outcome of the case is just? Does lawyering and legal procedures lead to justice? Are the judge and attorneys trying to be just in their behaviors?

Such questions thereafter led to the question: what exactly is justice?

Have you read Plato's Republic where the distinguished Greek gentlemen gathered and discussed all sorts of topics including justice? The men grappled with the meaning of justice. What exactly is justice?  Such discourse was what was going on in my mind.

Some of Plato's dignitaries defined justice in idealistic terms, attributing it to what God said that it is or what the archetypal justice is supposed to be (this is the school of idealism, Plato himself); some defining it in empirical terms, as applying the law laid down by a community in a dispassionate and objective manner (this is the school of realism, Aristotle).

Positive law is law laid down by the people to protect themselves; in this light, behavior is proper if it adheres to the laws of the land and a judge's verdict in a case is just if it follows the law passed by the law makers of his society.

But does adhering to the laws of the land make the outcome of legal proceedings just? If the answer is no then what constitutes justice?  Natural law?

What is natural law and who defines it, God? Where is God? God is mankind's mental and social construct; none of us has seen God so to say that God said that we should behave this way or that way is merely attributing our desires to what we call God.

God is our mental construct; it is not a self-evident reality. So, if, for example,  you say that abortion is against the will of God, that natural law forbids abortion (as those Christian Americans who want to overthrow Roe versus Wade insist) , what you did is attribute your wishes...you do not like abortion... to what you call God.

If God does not exist and you said that God said this or that you engaged in magical thinking. Therefore, the only proper law is positive law.

Positive law is the law made by the people to protect them. We do not know that there is a God who protects us and tells us what is right or wrong, or not. Whatever the individual says that God told him to do is his opinion projected to what he calls God.

Religionists first have an opinion of what is right and deny that it is merely their wishes and project their wishes to what they call God.

In this light, what Christians, Muslims and other religionists claim to be the will of their God is merely their wishes that they denied and projected to what they call their God.

Religionists ought to be courageous and accept that whatever they say that God told them is right behavior is their own belief of what is right behavior.

In the case that led to my appearance at court, a drunken man was apparently disturbing the peace in the apartment building where he lived. A lady walking by the drunken man did nothing to him and he came after her and slapped her on her face. Witnesses saw what happened. She called the police and the drunk was arrested and hauled to jail and charged with assault.

There were never questions as to what happened. The case made by his attorney is that he was drunk and, as such, his judgment impaired. He did not ask him to plead not guilty but to accept guilt and ask for less punishment hence the plea deal that required him agreeing to do certain time in jail, do community work and pay monetary restitution for battering an innocent person.

The defendant accepted the plea bargain and was sentenced.  So, is this outcome just?

Let us see, the man was drunk and according to eye witnesses, was flailing all over the place, and in fact fell down by the elevator and a woman standing by was slapped.

Is the behavior of a drunk not understandable by his temporary mental impairment?  If his mind was impaired is he responsible for his actions?

The law does not get into motives and states of mind but deals with facts and evidence. The present fact is that a man slapped a middle aged white woman (the man is a middle aged white man).

So, should a drunk be held responsible for his actions? Drunk or not, the law says that folks are held responsible for their actions, regardless of the reasons for their actions (n in some instances mitigating circumstances are taken into consideration in assigning the level of punishment but not guilt).

According to the law, our man is guilty and is going to serve time in the big house (he was already there; the police arrested him and took him to the people's Hilton Hotel).  So, was the outcome of this legal proceeding just? What exactly is justice?

If I subject the man to psychological analysis I would probably see a man with loads of psychological issues, a man who is using alcohol to deal with his issues.

Many people are in physical and or psychological pain and use alcohol, drugs, over eating or sex to cope with their mental upsets.

There are existential issues. We live and do not know why we live. We live for a hundred years and die and our bodies are eaten by worms. We do not know whether there is life after we die or not (although our religions offer us the hope that there is life after death).

Existentially, our lives are meaningless and purposeless. When people confront their existential meaninglessness and nothingness they become existentially depressed and seek solace in alcohol, drugs and over eating and other addictive behaviors.

This man is coping with existential and psychological issues with alcohol. Getting drunk every night, as two witnesses said is the case, was a way for him to forget his depressing issues.

Those issues cannot be forgotten so he must always drink. To realistically deal with his issues he must engage in serious thinking, philosophize. One does not need to use drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or doing drugs to cope with life's sorrowful nature.

DISCUSSION

I concluded that the legal proceedings transpiring before my eyes are necessary. Law is necessary in society.

People have freedom and in their freedom can choose to do good or bad. They can choose to harm other people. If you choose to you can harm, even kill other people and they can choose to do the same to you. Therefore, as long as we live in bodies and have separated egos there must be law that protects our egos and bodies.

People who choose to behave in antisocial manner must be punished (sometimes removed from society and placed in jails and prisons) otherwise there would be no society and only chaos and anarchy would prevail; without law we trespass on each other's interests. Law and order is necessary for society to exist and for people to feel secure in their bodies.

Civilization would come to an end if we did not have law, courts, judges, police, prison and other law enforcement agencies.

I have no trouble in understanding the need for law, for law is synonymous with organized society. I have lived long enough to know that people are capable of evil behavior so we must have a way of taking evil people out of society.

I am a law and order kind of guy. I have no problem putting criminals in jails and prisons; indeed, I support capital punishment for anyone who has taken another human being's life.

But does punishing people amount to justice? The answer is no. If so why call punishing people justice?

Law and legal proceedings is part of the game we play in society. Society is a game with rules that we all agree to play by. In that game some play good guys, others play bad guys and some play impartial judges.

In the courtroom was the criminal who assaulted a lady, he was clearly the bad guy; the assaulted lady is an innocent victim and is the good guy; the impartial judge and attorneys make sure that society's accepted procedures for dealing with antisocial behaviors are adhered to.

I get the whole legal thing but it is still a charade!  Life on earth is a charade that we must engage in. The charade is necessary but does not answer the question: is living in body meaningful? Life in body is not meaningful.

My philosophy is that we are part of formless, unified spirit who, while in it, chose to seem separated from it so as to experience living as the opposite of unified spirit. We are unified and now experience separation.

Union is only possible in formless state; separation is possible in body, space and time. So, while still in formless, unified spirit we dream that we live in body, space and time. We do so to experience the opposite (separation) of our true self (union).

Our true self is part of unified spirit self (what folks call the union of God and his sons); the earth is a place where we enact the game that we are separated selves.

CONCLUSION

My day at court reinforced my philosophy that the world is a series of games the children of God enact in their desire to experience their opposite nature.

The game is the nature of existence on earth; as long as we choose to be on earth, to live in separation we must enact these elaborate and complex games, and since the game calls for folks to see themselves as separated from each other and believe that they can harm each other and some do harm each other we need law and the apparatus for enforcing it to make us live safely in society.

Without law and social apparatuses that enforce them there will be no human society.  Yet, human society is a make-belief thing, is a dream.

While we live in earthly society there is another society, our real home in unified spirit. When we have had enough of the games we enact in human society we do what we have to do and awaken from the dream and know that while we had seemed away from unified spirit state we were always in it.

We cannot separate from unified state but can dream that we are apart from it.   We awaken from the dream of separation by realizing that all people are part of us.

We must treat all people as we want them to treat us, lovingly. Love and forgive and you awaken to unified spirit state; until then have fun dreaming that you are separated from your real self.

In the dream, on earth, each of us must play his part. The judge, attorneys, criminals and their victims and witnesses that I saw in the court room were each playing his part in the dream of separation.

Each of us chose a part in the dream of separation and takes his part seriously; you cannot play a part that is not yours. For example, I tried law school and quickly recognized that playing an attorney or judge is not my part; my part is playing the role of the thinker, the philosopher, as I have done in this essay.

There are no accidents in our lives. Yesterday, I certainly was not thinking about going to court but my visiting girlfriend decided to go to court to lend emotional support to her friends and I volunteered to drive her to court and ended up witnessing the legal proceedings described in this essay. I had to be at that court to be able to reflect on the nature of law and how it is part of our game of let us pretend that we are separated from each other, can harm each other and have courts that punished those who harmed us. The whole thing is a necessary game; my role is to observe the game (you know your own role).

Each person is where he has to be at any point in time and is doing what he has to do at any point in it. I had to be in that court room this afternoon to be able to play my part of writing this essay this evening.

Cheers,

Ozodi Osuji

July 27, 2016

www.centerformindscience.org

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176