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“In this world there are fools, and there is The Devil. Fools know not what the truth is, but live as though they did. The Devil knows what the truth is — but he lives otherwise.” –Bertolt Brecht “If there is no God, I am God.” –Kirilov Thinking cannot make sense of certain things. Like the law. You don’t need to think to understand it. Thinking about the law will only confuse you. It’s a matter of seeing it for what it is. Reality becomes a riddle while dreams make sense. I dreamt the law. That’s when I stopped understanding it. I didn’t need to anymore. A hard-working plaintiffs’ attorney is planted at his desk at 3 a.m. He is thinking of a little boy who wheezes like an old man. He absent-mindedly picks at a Chinese food container, not knowing whether it’s today’s or yesterday’s. There is so much paper in his office his breath is running from him and he is left alone in his inundating sea, a living world that is consuming him. He navigates his red eyes to court. The judge says, “Gee, Patrick, you look piss-exhausted.” Opposing counsel, uberlawyer donning the three-piece costing money enough to bribe the angel Gabriel with, explains, “Oh, we’re just drowning him in enough discovery to make his case untriable. That’s what resources are for — drowning the other shark.” The little boy’s lungs, painted heavy with lead, work all the faster while his mother cries all the harder when she finds out her too-poor-to-swim-these-waters lawyer can’t afford to take the case; he’s got his own kids to think about. This dream is suddenly vivid like milk you didn’t know was rotten. There is a grinning plaintiff; that eerily familiar face taking me back to an unreal time, my first day of law school. (This must be a dream; I’m recognizing the bits of my life these bits of dreams come from.) A burglar broke into a home and cut himself severely on the front fence. He sued. He won. True story. And he’s right here, grinning, feeling genuine pleasure every time his cuts give him genuine pain. It makes him feel more righteous, like poison swelling a wound. “Why are you doing this? So you’ll have legit money to fall back on when you get out of prison?” “The world owes me something. My life has always meant struggles, and I didn’t always know what for. Now I can have my moment where I am paid back for my sufferings. When The System isn’t fair to the other guy as well as me, that’s justice.” “What does it feel like?” “It feels safe. So long as you are holding the whip, no one can crack you with it.” He throws a pathetic look at the jury. The complicit fools throw back a sympathetic look, buoyed by the enigmatic epiphany of punitive damages. It’s a new math, one that adds black hearts and blacker dreams and now law school couldn’t have been more honest about the human phenomenon. This dream’s sadness is expiring like when we no longer get surprised at today’s news of how many more wars we can expect to fight when the right villains are hard to catch and the booming economies are harder to recover. Some suits are grabbing the golden arches and reshaping them into golden dollar signs, millions of them. In my dream-world, I take a minute and count 18.5 million of them. Where are they getting so many? Ah. There are twelve wild jokers in the black workshop of the jury box, handing out the dollar signs in a celebration of I me mine. I’m asking them why, why so much. “We, the shmoes of the jury, punished with a sum of money we could never understand. It is the closest to real money we’ll ever get. It’s easy to ask us to nail a major corporation that has this kind of money. It’s a game, and a fun one at that. We love to play it.” “Why?” “It gives us a sense of power.” “But she was driving with the coffee cup between her legs when it spilled and burned her.” “This case was never about facts but principles.” “This is sick.” “Yes! the principle of The Sickness.” “What sickness do you have?” “We got infected once we were put in a position of power free of explanations or accountability. We couldn’t use the power to benefit ourselves — so we just used it as much as we could. Our sickness is using our power for the sake of using it.” “The law is a game!” “We can never run out of fun.” This dream is getting absurdly honest, like a mirror under fluorescent light. A crowd of men and women with eyes the size of basketballs are clawing each other to ascend the witness throne, shining in the spotlight of attention like a gluttonous idol. They saw everything. They are sure of it. One at a time they climb into the box and the world stops, for even the world desperately wishes to witness the witness. All they do is spin their yarn. All we breathe are oohs and ahs. “Why are you so insistent on a fact pattern you know didn’t happen?” “We have constructed pyramids of memories in honor of our escaping our everyday lives. Now power is calling us and we will be so convincing we will convince ourselves. Anyone can remember nothing, can be unsure, can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. “We are important. We make the case. Juries love stories. We captivate them with an attention so obsessive you’d think we had them drugged. Six tons of DNA won’t convince as much as our magical yarn.” This dream is teaching me what everyone knows, what no one says. It is a clean world where Implicit and Explicit trade places and I lie here and remember it feeling familiar. There is a shark with a suit and tie, thrashing his way through court. He is wiggling his fins of sincerity, hiding his trident behind his dorsal where fish and dignity are impotently impaled. He convinces us up is down and suddenly we are sitting on the ceiling. He tells us our mothers are mugging us, and suddenly Mom is at my side, demanding my wallet. He is telling us that nicotine is not addictive; that she really wanted it; that they had no knowledge millions would have to explain to Junior how some unctuous accountants blew his college fund on the diluted powergod of poorly cut cocaine, laughing all the way to the country club at the fools who work for a living. We are nodding. Our brains were filthy with our own opinions and now he is washing them for us. We are apprenticing ourselves to the devil of self-sufficient conviction. I lure the shark over with some hourly blood. “What is the truth?” In between feeding frenzies he gnashes, “The truth is whatever I make you believe. You always believe me. How could I be lying?” I’m about to get confused, but just then a siren goes by and he chases it, leaving a trail of vitriol’s blood, drudge’s perfunctory and shiny business cards. They say sharks can’t go fast on land, can’t survive at all. But I know better: I’ve seen the truth. And he’s frightening. This dream is getting familiar like that hangover you knew was coming. All those aspiring predators I went to law school with wanted to be like that shark whether they knew it or not, admitted it or not, accepted it or not. Because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do; whatever they have to do is whatever they can do is whatever they want to do. It’s like a germ figured out how to write a brief and now we’re all infected. That was when I woke up. Everything was clear. I understood the nature of the law: Effective, complicit, hypocrisy. The law is conceived to be justice in action. Justice is the way things should be. We need the law because power only cares to increase itself. The law was meant to be a power without an agenda other than making things the way they should be. The agenda of no-agenda … But being involved in the law is a power of its own, one that is consumptively abused from the inside like a cancer that grows from within, abused by people just like those whose rampant power wars created the need for the law in the first place. That is why I love and hate the law. That is why I write pretending to lead you somewhere, always searching myself. The law has become what it was made to protect us from. The law is us. Free-lancer Mitch Artman, who lives and writes in New York, is a frequent contributor to law.com. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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