Friday, November 25, 2005

The Science of Man and the Art of Loving

Quite some time ago I posted a blog entry entitled Religion and Science, a blog entry that harkened back to yet another one of my blog entries entitled What is Religion? in which I stated that "the nature of our existence is a basic religious question that science and reason cannot answer in any satisfactory way." While that view is my own, it was born from reading various books that were written by Erich Fromm, and I think that a blog entry on how Fromm profoundly impacted my world view is long overdue.

I first stumbled upon a book by Fromm entitled Man for Himself shortly after I started working for an engineering company in Southern California. I was 17 years old at the time, and I spent my lunch hours in the company library researching artificial intelligence. This led me to a section of the library where I found Man for Himself on a shelf next to one of the books that I was looking for on operations research.

While I have not read everything that Fromm wrote, I have read several of his books, and I have read some of his books several times. Fromm was particularly good at presenting the world view of a particular theorist in a sympathetic light, then deconstructing that theorist's world view, leaving said world view in shambles, and moving on to the next theorist. This was strong medicine for me, and by the time Fromm presented his own theories, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, it did.

Fromm's "science of man[sic]" speaks to the fact that all human beings come into existence without any understanding of where they came from and are forced to make sense out of their situation. However, in trying to make sense out of their situation, people usually buy into simplistic answers that are fed to them by their parents and by society. Fromm offered his own answers, and -- after misconstruing those answers for several years -- I finally came to understand them and transcend them.

In a book entitled The Art of Loving, Fromm narrated the personal fulfillment that one experiences by engaging in creative activity, and for many years I erroneously assumed that Fromm had given his stamp of approval to using creative activity to find that personal fulfillment. However, as I was rereading The Art of Loving one day and trying to recapitulate my understanding of Fromm's philosophy, I realized that Fromm considered creative activity to be an incomplete answer to the problem of human existence because creative activity was not interpersonal. In other words -- according to Fromm -- creative activity is all well and good, but -- according to Fromm -- you still need to connect with your fellow human beings, which is what The Art of Loving was all about.

To his credit, Fromm's concept of love had very little in common with popular notions of love. To wit, Fromm considered love to be an interpersonal creative capacity rather than an emotion, and he distinguished this creative capacity from what he considered to be various forms of narcissistic neuroses and sado-masochistic tendencies that are commonly held out as proof of "true love." Indeed, Fromm viewed the experience of "falling in love" as evidence of one's failure to understand the true nature of love, which he believed always had the common elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.

Drawing from biblical allegory, Fromm pointed to the story of Jonah, who did not wish to save the residents of Nineveh from the consequences of their sin, as demonstrative of his belief that the qualities of care and responsibility are generally absent from most human relationships. Fromm also asserted that few people in modern society have respect for the autonomy of their fellow human beings, much less the objective knowledge of what other people truly want and need. Paradoxically, Fromm pretended to know what other people truly needed and hoped to impose a secular moral duty on people to "love their neighbors."

If there is a problem with the modern world, it is the fact that people do not know how to mind their own business, and -- notwithstanding his enormous intellect -- Fromm suffered from this fatal flaw. Fromm believed in freedom, both personal and political, but his political philosophy was unabashedly socialist and clearly influenced by Karl Marx. As a libertarian, I have taken a very different path, trying my best to find appropriate boundaries and limitations when interacting with other people socially and politically.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

J.A.I.L. for Judges - the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law

While in Sacramento for a presentation that I made at a Lorman Continuing Education Seminar on Internet Research and General Usage for Legal Professionals in California, I stumbled upon an article that appeared in the Thursday November 17, 2005 edition of The Sacramento Bee. The article was entitled Bid to punish judges has eye on state, and it narrated the efforts of two men from Southern California who are championing the need to hold judges accountable for "bad decisions." Specifically, the two men have worked to qualify an initiative for the ballot in South Dakota that would create a special grand jury to offer ordinary citizens redress for grievances that they might have against judges. Eventually, the men hope to pass a similar initiative in California.

Ron Branson is the author of the South Dakota initiative, and the founder of the J.A.I.L. organization. ("Judicial Accountability Initiative Law.") Mr. Branson has been helped in his efforts by Attorney Gary Zerman, the co-founder of J.A.I.L. Together, they hope to use the initiative process to "wake up the sleeping giant of resentment against judges." Apparently, they have also awakened the sleeping giant of the judicial system itself. Specifically, California Chief Justice Ronald George and Missouri Chief Justice Michael Wolff have expressed concern about the South Dakota campaign and the larger J.A.I.L. movement.

According to the aforementioned Bee article, California Chief Justice Ronald George has described J.A.I.L as "a threat to judicial independence." The article goes on to state that, according to Chief Justice George, California has an "outstanding and impartial" judiciary and doesn't need "extremists telling us how to change a system that served us so well and substitute . . . a highly politicized system for the impartial process that we enjoy." The article also states that Missouri Chief Justice Michael Wolff commented on the South Dakota campaign, noting "there is an organization contemplating a similar effort right here."

I have no personal experience or knowledge of South Dakota's judiciary or the judiciary of Missouri, and while I still hold the federal judiciary as a whole in great regard (along with particular members of the California judiciary), J.A.I.L. appears to be exactly the sort of medicine that most of the members of California's judiciary system need. Contrary to the assertions of Chief Justice George, the vast majority of Californians who place their faith in the rule of law are routinely denied anything remotely resembling justice in California state courts, as evidenced by the fact that no less than 90 percent of the opinions written by the California Courts of Appeal are unpublished.

In March of 1998, Chief Justice George told the San Francisco Daily Journal that "unpublished opinions are a necessary evil to chill development of the law [in California]." What this comment tells me is that the California judiciary has been out of control for quite some time, and that unpublished opinions -- or, what's worse, "depublished" opinions" -- are the only way that the powers that be in the California judiciary can maintain the illusion that the rule of law obtains in California courts. Indeed, as I alluded to in a previous blog entry, California trial court judges are pretty much entitled to rule as they please, the rule of law be damned.