Law in Contemporary Society

Activists and Attorneys

NOTE: This is the first installation of an idea that I will finish in my second essay.

"Installation" meant "installment." You can't write a 2,000 word essay. Each of these pieces has to stand or fall on its own merits.

At first blush, the Activist and the Corporate Attorney look like opposites. They are men defined by motivations that could not be more dissimilar. While the Activist is notoriously selfless, the Corporate Attorney is fixated on his own preservation.

I take it that the capitalization indicates an idealization, too. But I'm not sure whose stereotypes are involved. I don't think the activists I know are "notoriously selfless," or that everyone I know with a corporate practice is primarily concerned with self-preservation. So this feels like a false dichotomy being constructed.

However, on closer examination, the Attorney and the Activist are closely related, like two sides of the same coin. Despite their differences, Activists and Corporate Attorneys confront similar personal and professional challenges. The Corporate Attorney accepts a life unlived on the wrong side; the Activist risks dying in vain at the hands of his very cause.

I'm not sure I recognize these people, either, unless we are in both cases talking about a vanishingly small splinter of the groups supposedly represented. Why is this quite unreal presentation necessary, and where is it supposed to be taking us?

Their similarities arise from the fact that they are each products of the same system, and their survival is dependent on their ability recover from splitting.

This seems like a large conclusion based on nothing you've shared with us so far.

As he expected, Malcolm X was murdered young and violently.

As opposed to being murdered non-violently? You did re-read this sentence, surely?

The fiery redhead had long anticipated such a fate, dispassionately regarding it as somewhat of a family tradition. Malcolm’s father, a Black Nationalist, watched three of his brothers die at the hands of white men before he was beaten and laid across railroad tracks.

Actually, there was a streetcar accident. No public record said that there was any foul play involved in the death of Earl Little, and the story Malcolm later told rested on gossip at the funeral, or so he said.

Before his fortieth birthday, Malcolm X, the feared ex-spokesman of the Nation of Islam, finally followed in his father’s footsteps. At thirty-nine, Malcolm had lived a full life, reaching national notoriety for his fierce dedication to the political and social unification of brown and black people “by any means necessary.” However he—in a significant break with tradition—was not murdered by white men, but by brothers.

Which "tradition" do you consider this to be a break from?

Carl Wiley, an Epicurean, has perfected a cost-effective, work-appropriate upper-downer. The longtime Big Law partner has found that—if taken at the right moment—a double shot of espresso followed by a glass of Chilean wine alleviates the pain of splitting. For a million dollars a year or-so, Carl spends his life in a state of moral compromise. Deftly following pools of money, Carl does whatever his clients want, whenever they want it. One hundred and eight excruciating meetings later, Carl admits that his mind has changed. The University of Virginia Law School graduate no longer has a long-term memory. Unlike Malcolm, Carl won’t die at work. The attorney will retire first, at sixty-five, hopefully sixty. In fact, in terms of time, Carl has already outlived Malcolm. Nonetheless, both men have suffered lives cut short by the institutions that created them.

A rather far-fetched comparison, involving a fictional character whose life has not been cut short when we last see him, and an assassinated public figure. What's the point of the comparison? We still don't know what the unifying idea is here.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, Activists and Big Law Corporate Attorneys are the products of capitalism. The brothers have common origins, but they are not similarly situated. If capitalism fathered them, Carl was entitled to an inheritance while Malcolm was born a bastard. The two men, two sides of the same coin, were minted by social machinery, though at different levels and for different purposes. Malcolm received the final stage of his formal education in a public prison, Carl attended a top law school.

What "coin" are they two sides of? You've used this metaphor twice, but you haven't shown any direct relationship of any kind between them.

Elite law schools and prisons are instruments of education for the preservation of capitalism. Elite law schools train privileged people—who want to be lawyers—to work on the behalf of the largest and wealthiest corporations in the world. Large debt loads and the nearly unrestricted infiltration of large corporations into the educational environment create the illusion that one is pressed between a rock and a hard place. Under this pressure, students split continually into workaholics, alcoholics, junior associates, and hopefully partners. Of capitalism’s education, Carl was the model student.

Prisons, too, are institutions of higher education. They are the last stage of an elaborate curriculum of sub-par public education systems, segregated public housing units, inadequate health services, and unfair judicial practices geared towards the perpetuation of an unskilled, disenfranchised, lower class. Malcolm was nearly another success story of social engineering. A life of systematic oppression had traumatized him. In response, Malcolm split, again and again, from a bright student who was told he couldn’t be a lawyer, to a railroad worker, to a petty thief, to a professional burglar. Before being imprisoned, Malcolm was well on his way to a life bereft of meaning. However, there was a glitch in the system. Malcolm was transferred to an experimental prison for white-collar criminals. There, he became exposed to the Nation of Islam, and split again, in an unintended direction.

This is unsourced information: where does it come from? According to the public record, he was incarcerated in 1946 at on an 8-to-10 for burglary, at Charlestown State Prison in Boston, which was neither experimental nor intended for "white-collar criminals." His contact with the NoI? , he apparently told the sometimes-untruthful ghostwriter of his autobiography, came through letters from his family, particularly his brother Reginald, while he was in jail.

The best source now available, at last, is the late Manning Marable's extraordinary biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011).

Although Malcolm challenged socioeconomic oppression while Carl is complicit in it, both can be reduced to products of downwards pressure. Carl is the prototype while Malcolm is defective, but they shared the same womb. As a result of the pressure, each split, and in turn became fatally beholden.

This paragraph does not make sense to me.

One of the dangers of splitting is that what is left over is increasingly homogenous. Individuals full of divergent ideas and multiple passions are reduced to fractions of themselves. As a survival mechanism, humans under pressure separate from the creative, the skeptical, the optimistic parts of themselves and accept life. The result is a much smaller, less varied individual. This lack of internal diversity often manifests in specialization and extremism. The consequence is dependency.

Corporate Attorneys and Activists are members of a service industry. They advocate on behalf of their clients using specialized skills of persuasion. However, the Corporate Attorney and the Activist face a common danger as a result of their origins: they are prone to becoming beholden.

What is this "beholden"? To whom?

The relationship between splitting and becoming beholden is unremarkable; smaller minds are capable of latching onto ideas wholeheartedly. Splitting creates lesions along the line of demarcation. Thus, the right idea, at the right place at the right time, can infect an entire mind.

Whose psychology is this? Where does it come from? On what are you depending for these insights?

Malcolm X died at thirty-nine because he had unwittingly become beholden to the wrong client.

What does this mean? Is this your description of the intrigue within the NoI? that led Louis Farrakhan to order and direct his murder, or do you have another narrative in mind? Who was his client?

Despite his intelligence and curiosity, he was able to unquestioningly accept the ideas of Elijah Muhammad because his mind had split under pressure. He recovered too late to save his life. Likewise, Carl Wylie, a millionaire, is inexplicably beholden to Big Law. Despite his unhappiness, he has not considered early retirement as an option. Instead of trying to repair his mind, he dulls it.

Apparently the only thing left from the last draft is an idiosyncratic use of the word "beholden" that I didn't understand then and don't understand now.

The present draft appears to contend that Carl Wylie and Malcolm X are related to one another because they both engaged in some dissociation. This they have in common with the entire rest of humanity, so I don't see how it makes them "two sides of the same coin," or adequate types of "the Activist" and "the Corporate Lawyer" for some generalized comparison that discovers these two archetypes are also somehow connected.

What the connection is, aside from the insight that human psyches dissociate in order to reduce experience of conflict, is never stated. Even assuming there is a connection between the historical figure and the fictional character in a prose poem, we are never told what the connection means to us, what idea comes out of it that we might use for some other clarity in some other situation.

The road to improvement is a little obscure to me, because I don't know what the essay is really about. If it is indeed about Malcolm X and Carl Wylie, we need accuracy (and sourcing for that accuracy) about the life of Malcolm X, and we need a clear, concise introductory statement of the nature of the connection. The development of the essay should then allow the reader, at your conclusion, to see what this connection means in some broader context. More likely, I think, the essay is about an idea still obscure in this draft. Malcolm X and Carl Wylie are merely illustrations of this idea, whatever it is, that could be illustrated by reference to other individual lives, or by some other form of description altogether. It is this, the central idea of the essay, that the next draft needs to put front and center.


Webs Webs

r5 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:27 - IanSullivan
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