Thursday, May 12, 2016

Exceptional Conversation

I used to cry so seldom I would read ‘Bridge to Terabithia' each year to induce a minute or two of cathartic crying, but in the last years that has changed.

Now all I have to do is catch a sentence in a news item about a particular section of humans on this earth and I will be crying and fighting for breath so fast I won’t have time to notice I’ve disintegrated. I’ll just be doubled over in shock, and usually the rest of the day is spent trying to avoid reading any further reportage.

Rather esoterically the trigger that sets me off is the application of a certain legal philosophy known as the ‘state of exception’, which will mean nothing to people who haven’t had the dubious pleasure of studying the terrible beauty of Roman Law or reading the work of its fanboys ... I mean, the legal jurists who write on Roman Law.

Only yesterday I attended an exceptionally dry lecture on the medieval concepts of heresy, and in the Q&A the lecturer did remind us that Western Law is based on Roman Law, and “Roman Law is very good if you are a dominant leader who wants to expand your power.”

My Honors thesis required me to learn about Roman Law and its commentators. Coupled with my Catholic upbringing and my undergraduate degree in Medievalism and Modern Fascism, I can assure you that Roman Law, in religious application, literary re-imagination and deadly mechanisation, is my jam.

And it used to be my very anachronistic jam, a topic that was rarely ever discussed in contemporary situations, it was history and I assumed it was dead and buried. Then a certain cadre of Australian Catholics became the Australian Cabinet and my worst nightmares wriggled out from between the pages of the books on my shelf and stalked me across the news cycle.

I stopped sleeping, I started feeling incomprehensively angry, then I started seeing the future, and then I started crying. I’m crying now. It’s the new normal for me, watching the devils of the past dancing across my country.

I’m crying tonight mostly because of this exceptional piece of writing
Australia, exceptional in its brutality
By Behrouz Boochani
25 April 2016
I’d seen glancing references on Facebook to Boochani and his writing, but I’d never read his work until finally a friend posted a link to the article that discussed Australian Law in relation to Giorgio Agamben’s theory on the ‘state of exception’. I cried because, well, it's about the 'state of exception', obviously, but I also cried because I can finally discuss my own knowledge in conversation with another piece of writing that applies this particular branch of Roman Law to modern Australian politics.

So strap in folks, we are going deep and we are going Roman, although thankfully our Latin will not have to be perfect. I’m going to be talking about genre literature, I’m going to be talking about history, and I’m going to using screencaps of my Facebook comments from over the last three years. Because finally, finally, I can talk about why I cry all the time now. Why I cry when I read what look like completely innocent sentences. Why I cry when one human is counted as somehow illegal on their own planet because of a law made by another human.

You may legitimately not expect the Spanish Inquisition, but when it comes to the real terrors of Roman Law, I assure you, you may not be expecting it, but you will feel it when it comes for you.

And oh, how it’s coming for you ...