Geneva Diaries #61

Aristophanes The Clouds, Justice By Human Standards, Privacy


Dear Roger,

It’s fabulous to hear from you as always. Thank you once again for your warm hospitality, I am so glad we were able to come down to LA and spend the weekend with you. I am especially glad the kids were able to meet up and reconnect, it will be great if they keep in touch as they grow and tour the world exchanging stories of their adventures like we do.

We are now all back in India, and back to routine. My time back has been very tumultuous, I have been going through a rough time grappling with issues of home and identity. My identity has been so entwined with the US, having spent my entire adult life in the US or as a US expatriate, I am struggling to comprehend this new space. I am angry, upset with life and all its roller coasters…the gods have just not been fair. Life gave me such an incredible start, I could not have had a happier childhood, and young adult hood, and then it dumped me. I am still struggling with the debris, trying to get my head out of the deep dark ditch where I found myself, and now I don’t know where I am, who I am, and what is home? I have been wanting to write to you about this turmoil in my soul, but have hesitated as i sensed that this may be one space you may not understand. All I wanted was love and adventure, I reached the island of my dreams (Manhattan), and today I find, i am neither there, nor am I back to where I started from. I am suspended in no mans land, belonging no where, unable to call any place home.

Back to a more palatable topic, CINEMA! I am glad you enjoyed the lunchbox, it was one of my favorite movies of the year. I have also recently  seen The Railway Man, stomach churning but worth a watch, I also saw 47 Ronin which I shed a tear over it, even though it is not highly rated, I deeply connected with it. I loved the mix of an old Japanese folk tale with modern Japanese anime, a perfect fit. But most of all the words “I will search for you through a thousand worlds and ten thousand lifetimes until I find you” resonated very deeply. I felt Keanu Reeves was speaking directly to me through time and space and perhaps he was my true love will finally one day find me. Sob, sob. I recently watched The Challenger Disaster which I thoroughly enjoyed, do check it out.

Check out drool worthy Keanu Reeves -At least I found him in 47 Ronin below:

Apart from the movies my bedside table has been brimming with books. I have read all my little library has to offer on Greek history, art, culture, drama and philosophy. Greece has always been my passion, a past life connection for sure. I was raised on a tangy soup of Greek philosophers and Darwin by my father (talk about home schooled, I’ve so done it!). Now, I find myself revisiting, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes along with Socrates and Plato. In fact, just last night I found myself pouring over Aristophanes famous drama, The Clouds, the one which has left it’s eternal imprint on all our minds with Socrates suspended in a basket contemplating the nature of the universe. This was also the play which contributed to Socrates being implicated on a charge of impiety thirty years later and his death by hemlock.

See below the famous artwork – Death of Socrates at The Met:

Jacques-Louis David / Public domain

In this drama, The Clouds, I came across an entertaining section where Honest Argument and Dishonest Argument argue over who will succeed. Honest Argument tells Dishonest Argument that he will annihilate him by speaking justly. Dishonest Arguments response is that Justice is a mere illusion and questions where it dwells. Honest argument’s response is that it dwells with the Gods above. Dishonest Argument’s response is why has Zeus not perished if justice reigns for putting his father in chains.

With the above arguments swirling in my mind, I went to sleep dreaming of Justice, where it dwells and whether it’s place is in the realm of man or the Gods. I have written the following note on Justice and it’s dwelling keeping our current life and world in perspective. Would love to hear your response to my argument!

The Clouds – see synopsis below:

See the fab presentation of Aristophanes’ Clouds, from the UCSC program in Classical Studies:

Justice – By Human Standards

Whenever man aspires to deliver justice, he must remember that he is man, vulnerable to all human follies, errors and illusions, thus any justice he delivers must be by human standards. For man must be judged by man, and the standard should be human. Human standard itself implies errors and vulnerabilities. Therefore justice in the human realm, will be open to these errors and vulnerabilities, and it MUST be open to these errors and vulnerabilities. For it is man to judge man, and not some higher being descended from the firmament who applies his impeccable morals and absolute laws. For we humans recognizing our vulnerabilities, submit ourselves to laws of man and made by man for man when we enter into an agreement with a tribe, community or state. Implied in our submission to a system is that it is comprehensible to us, and is OF us, made from our fabric and by ourselves.

Never does man submit to perfect otherworldly laws, and agree to be governed by the same. He recognizes that a system of man, by man will not be fool proof, but it is comprehensible as it imposes a human basis, or human standard. We find this reiteration of laws conforming to human standards all around us, when we look at our laws of evidence, we find a clear demarcation of what is admissible and what however convincingly produced is inadmissible. We have these clear demarcations in place because we are aware that we are human, and are dealing with humans who err. Thus the goal is not just coming to a fool proof legal conclusion/conviction, but ensuring that the process of achieving that legal goal is done so by means of “due process”. Due Process has to be the most enticing and complex term in all of legal jargon, but my interpretation of the same is ensuring a goal is reached or achieved by adhering to a human standard. For absolute justice where all is  searchable, admissible, and judgement is absolute, however seductive it may appear is not Justice by human standards. Justice by human standards implies that while the process of judicial inquiry is being undertaken, we recognize we are dealing with humans, and treat them as humans, and in all the processes apply human standards. 

Innate and integral to being human, is the element of privacy. However heinous a crime, and however convincing the outcome, man can and should never accept that certain boundaries be transgressed. These private spaces is what makes man, and once these are transgressed, we are no longer pursuing justice for man, but an ulterior motive. We have Miranda rights, to ensure that the more powerful police adequately inform a suspect to seek counsel before questioning him. For we are both the man apprehended and the police that we have put in place for order, the protection of one and the effectiveness of the other element of humanity has to be equally ensured in human society. Similarly searching of persons and private spaces, is protected so that man may continue to live his life as humanely and normally as possible without fear of intrusion or violation. As this space is transgressed, so is human life as we know it compromised.

Perhaps, breaking down the door will unravel evidence of a drug laboratory, possibly search of every Asian male in a neighborhood might reveal the hidden dagger used in the murder, possibly strong-arming the juvenile prior to reading him his rights apprehended with the contraband might get him to blurt on the cartel, or scanning every mobile phone in a certain locality might reveal the names of porn kings or terrorists, but in each and every case we would be crossing the Rubicon, transgressing into sacred space, space secured for ourselves so we many live as humans in society. We as humans submit to the codes of society, but when those codes violate our ability to subsist as humans, the contract between man and state is brought into question. 

Justice in the realm of gods is of little value to us, for those absolute standards should be applied to the celestials. Justice for man must adhere to human standards, and that innately involves the incorporation of error.

See below the awesome clip of Socrates suspended in a basket challenging the Gods in The Clouds by Aristophanes:

Looking around us in the universe to today, we are monitored, recorded and followed through every sputter stutter and step. Our expressions, images, feelings and expressions are not only recorded but often without our knowledge and consent recorded, stored and catalogued. Our digital imprint lasts forever, way after we may have left this universe. Often these are very private musings and exchanges, alarmingly even videos uploaded from street or mall cameras of our daily activities. With all our life and movements monitored, are we left with an option, when have we obliquely acquiesced to permitting this to be recorded, reproduced or admitted. With the developments in tech, and the round the clock monitoring have we inadvertently acquiesced to be enslaved, to be treated as less than human. Does this “less human entity” now have the same rights as the human entity that got into the contract with the State initially? Or now by our own acquiescence are we an enslaved monitored lot that has relinquished to the State their human rights? If so, are we now no longer in a position to contract with the State as humans? Can we ever reclaim ourselves from this omniscient all powerful entity of our creation?Can the original balance be restored, or are we destined to become the slave of our own ingenuity?

What if man were able to not only monitor physical and online movements, but also able to monitor our brain activity, pre-empting a crime as it is conceived. Or utilizing all the caches of information available to technology, to not only point us in the place and act but elicit our confession, would this be a more Just society? Or looking at our judicial system conversely, what if every crime is identified and punished, can that be considered perfect justice or absolute enslavement? Then what is this idealized concept of justice? For what is Just for the Gods is not for us to know, and justice in the animal kingdom is not for us to understand. So Justice is a concept conceived by man, applicable to humanity. And it can only be understood within the human context. Once we are so contorted, monitored, constrained and contained, that we can no longer be considered human, the notion of justice does not apply. Unfortunately, this is not a figment of a futuristic sic-fi drama, the technology of today is fast eroding these sacred boundaries of humanity. If so, we have to clearly redefine what is human, and what is sacred and then define justice within that context. In a virtually networked human society where the lines between man and machine are fast blurring, with machines becoming appendages to man, location, communication, and expression are no longer going to have the expectation of privacy that they have customarily had. These were considered the cornerstones of humanity, the holy grail that made us human. Now with the recognition that these are far gone, long compromised, we have to redefine our cornerstones, our boundaries, what is it that makes us human. Once defined, we have to understand the concept of justice within that context. For example, if we acquiesce that here is no expectation of privacy in our location, communication and expression, and every position, expression and communication is not only monitored but public information, we may then move the expectation of privacy to an unexpressed place and undiscloseable location like our minds. We may state that all our thoughts and ideas are private as they have not yet been expressed in form, neither communicated, and the location is unknown, and any violation of this place jeopardizes humanity and the pursuit of justice. In fact, this is almost exactly the space where we are in here and now, what then is Justice for this human expression? Every time a boundary is encroached, justice is deprived.

As we chase human boundaries from point to point, we will find ourselves in a place in not too distant a future where not only is the location, communication and expression public and outside the purview of privacy, but also our thoughts and ideas, as man goes onto harness brainwaves and preempt actions of fellow man. What if this were public, where does man flee to preserve his humanity? Is there an inner sanctum that we as humanity can affirm as sacred, a space where man communicates between himself and his god/belief/self, one which man in his last stand reaffirming his humanity refuses to have transgressed, with the understanding that the violation of which would completely erode man and humanity as we understand it. For this space once transgressed calls in question our human identity, in that instance where our core identity is challenged, where then can there be any expectation of privacy or hope for justice?

Lots of love and hugs



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