Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bandits and highway robbery and shit

There have been a number of good posts by various bloggers these past few days on the subject of the Kelo decision. One of them was written by Kevin Carson, and his response to one of the comments afterward reminded me of something that I read recently. First, his comment:
I get REALLY pissed off at the kinds of "libertarians" who want to rebuild the WTC as a symbol of "free markets." The site was orginally stolen from the Greek community that occupied it, via a bunch of eminent domain skullduggery by David Rockefeller and the Port Authority. Maybe Yglesias and Markos should try defending the Trail of Tears as an exercise in eminent domain for "progressive" purposes. The land's arguably being used much more efficiently now. And if the government decides that the "fair market value" of your land is a handful of beads, that's just the way things go.

The part about defending the Trail of Tears is what caught my attention. I recently decided to reread Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus Trilogy, and I read the following passage a couple of days ago. This setting of this excerpt is a courtroom, where Hagbard Celineis representing members of the Mohawk nation against the US government.
MR.FEATHER (concluding): And it will be because men do not speak words but speak shit!
MR. KHARIS: Your honor, I move that the last speech be stricken from the record as irrelevant and immaterial. We are dealing here with a practical question, the need of the people of New York for this dam, and Mr. Feather's superstitions are totally beside the point.
MR. CELINE: Your honor, the people of New York have survived a long time without a dam in that particular place. They can survive longer without it. Can anything survive, anything worth having, if our words become as Mr. Feather says, excrement? Can anything we can reasonably call American Justice survive, if the words of our first President, if the sacred honor of George Washington is destroyed, if his promise that the Mohawk could keep these lands "as long as the mountain stands and the grass is green," if all that becomes nothing but excrement?
MR. KHARIS: Counsel is not arguing. Counsel is making speeches.
MR. CELINE: I am speaking from the heart.
Are you - or are you speaking excrement that you are ordered to speak by your superiors?
MR. ALUCARD: More speeches.
MR. CELINE: More excrement.
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Control yourself, Mr. Celine.
MR. CELINE: I am controlling myself. Otherwise, I would speak as frankly as my client and say that most of the speeches here are plain old shit. Why do I say "excrement" at all, if it isn't, like you people, to disguise a little what we are all doing? It's shit. Plain shit.
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Mr. Celine, you are coming very close to contempt of court. I warn you.
MR. CELINE: Your honor, we speak the tongue of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Melville. Must we go on murdering it? Must we tear it away from it's last umbilical connection with reality? What is going on in this room, actually? Defendants, the U.S. government and its agents, want to steal some land from my clients. How long do we have to argue that they have no justice, no right, no honor, in their cause? Why can't we say highway robbery is highway robbery, instead of calling it eminent domain? Why can't we say shit is shit, instead of calling it excrement? Why do we never use language to convey meaning? Why must we always use it to conceal meaning? Why do we never speak from the heart? Why do we always speak words programmed into us, like robots?
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Mr. Celine, I warn you again.
MR. FEATHER: And I warn you. The world will die. The stars will go out. If men and women cannot trust the words spoken, the earth will crack, like a rotten pumpkin.
MR. KHARIS: I call for a recess. Plaintiff and their counsel are both in no emotional state to continue at this time.
MR. CELINE: You even have guns. You have men with guns and clubs, who are called marshals, and they will beat me if I don't shut up. How do you differ from any other gang of bandits, then, except in using language that conceals what you are doing? The only difference is that the bandits are more honest. That's the only difference. The only difference.
JUSTICE IMMOHETEP: Mr. Marshal, restrain the counsel.
MR. CELINE: You're stealing what isn't yours. Why can't you talk turkey for just one moment? Why-
JUSTICE IMMHOTEP: Just hold him, Marshal. Don't use unnecessary force. Mr. Celine, I am tempted to forgive you, considering that you are obviously much involved with your clients, emotionally. However, such mercy on my part would encourage other lawyers to believe they could follow your example. I have no choice. I find you guilty of contempt of court. Sentencing will take place when court reconvenes after a fifteen-minute recess. You may speak at that time, but only on any mitigating grounds that should lighten the degree of your sentence. I will not hear the United States government called bandits again. That is all.
MR. CELINE: You steal land, and you will not hear yourselves called bandits. You order men with guns and clubs to hold us down, and you will not hear youselves called thugs. You don't act from the heart; where the hell do you act from? What in God's name does motivate you?

Oh, and I can't blog about Hagbard Celine without providing a link to an excerpt from his book Never Whistle While You're Pissing where he offers some definitions and distinctions.


Blogger Vache Folle said...

This shows how illiterate I am, but I originally thought the Hagbard Celine bit was from a transcript of an actual proceeding. It was so true to what it would really be like. The names Immhotep and Kharis bugged me until I looked up the reference as fictional.

The Trail of Tears is an apt analogy for taking by eminent domain. Essentially, Georgia had decided that the land would be put to better use by agriculturalist whites rather than by Cherokee engaged in broad based subsistence practices, including the chase. This would increase the tax base and permit the state to sell off and give away more Cherokee land in land lotteries to satisfy obligations to veterans and the like.

3:19 PM  
Blogger jomama said...

Nice, freeman. Nice.

9:44 AM  

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