[To the graduating class of the Law School Eugenio Maria de Hostos, June 5, 2010.]
I appreciate, honor me much, the invitation I made the graduating class to speak Justice Fire in your accomplishments night.
But such invitations always brings some questions implicit, some general themes that one should attend. Topics such as the significance of the degree, or career. Questions like "Now what?"
I studied anthropology, not right, so that is not how prepared you are to answer those questions. But I will address. And to do that, I'll tell you a few things, and then raise an argument. The stories are simple: They have to do with me, with my grandparents, with moths, with books, and some lawyers. The argument has to do with the clarity and justice. We could call it fire and justice.
My first meeting with a lawyer was, like so many other important meetings in my life, through a book. And my first serious about real books, these books are not cartoons, it was in a garage. I was about ten years old, and had just moved to live with my grandparents, who lived in an old house near the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras.
In that house, the car slept outside on the street. The garage was for books. Not that there were no books in other parts of the house. In fact there were books everywhere. And books of all kinds. Literature good quality, bad literature, or at least dubious quality encyclopedias, magazines, comics, books, manuals ... had inherited from uncles, brothers, friends, strangers ... My grandparents, like so many of his generation, bought a few things and thrown away just yet. And that rule is applied to both the screws as furniture, clothing both as to books.
Needless to say that home had moth. And a lot. The moth-eaten books, however, are not thrown away: they were banished to the garage, and there it was to read them, so they do not rub off the books healthy. There, among old furniture and tools, I sat on a crate, to cultivate my imagination (and cultivate, incidentally, a chronic asthma that lasted a few years.) Sitting as a giant moth and skinny, I read in the garage my books, my books stinking of old books, full of holes, wonderful books.
One of my favorites, so bookmark as Tale of Two Cities, and The Three Musketeers, and preferred by much of anything that we were reading in school at the time, was a red volume, rather thick, published in the fifties, which Jury Room was entitled and which contained the biography of a lawyer named Samuel Leibowitz. A Jewish lawyer of Romanian parents, resident of New York. I especially liked the chapter recounting the case, the long drama of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black boys falsely accused and sentenced to death for raping two white women in Alabama in the 1930s. Leibowitz made history, first because it took the case for free, then appealed the convictions because, after taking free four of the defendants, reducing the sentences of the other five, and in the process taking the thing to the Supreme Court not once but twice, uncovering the madhouse that was the everyday racial discrimination in the south, forcing the judges, and the men and women of Alabama, to pay attention to racism. How did he do? So it was with knowledge, and with the agility of action that allows us to know sometimes. He did know the law, knowing the law, he did, too, understanding the collective psyche, ethos, Alabama. He did, finally, studying, learning, building and acting.
I was ten, and issues heroic impressed me a lot ... but the cartoon superfriends I saw on Saturday morning (individuals of the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman especially) all stayed off shorts Leibowitz. The Scottsboro case captivated my imagination, and to some extent also captivated the time: It was actually immortalized in one of my favorite books, published in the sixties, and moth-eaten: To Kill a Mockingbird. In it a girl, a girl as I was then told the story of their community, a small community, united, capable of major landslides, but also the worst racism. His father (the hero, the lawyer) was not only clever, but in his decision to represent, with all their energy and all their skill, the black defendant, risking his personal safety, is the backbone, the moral capacity of all the community. Maybe around the country. Perhaps of all the species.
These events (and events call because they are not "mere" books, simple objects, but rather moments reading as shaping the character as any experiences), these events occurred in a particular historical moment. The books had been published in the fifties and sixties, but I was reading in my garage in the eighties. It was the decade of the rise of the yuppies and their materialistic values, pragmatic, above the hippie idealism and anti-militarism of the past decade ... It was the decade of the hangover that followed the deaths in the Cerro Maravilla ... that time came a film, with another very special hero, who also captured my imagination, and was also a lawyer. The biography of Gandhi, played by Ben Kingsley. I remember well that the film began with Gandhi, then a young lawyer, fresh graduate and practice in South Africa, being ejected from a train car class. He had paid for his ticket, and was well dressed ... but is that still the Indians, like him, were considered very dark skin to pass as "white" South Africa in the late 19th century and early twentieth. That time is described in the biographies of Gandhi the great man, as the Epiphany or revelation that transformed the young Gandhi lawyer who was in the activist who made history. But that description does not seem entirely accurate. It is more correct to say that this was the moment where instead of engaging in the practice, Gandhi began to dedicate himself to a cause that built through training, with the tools your practice provides.
Or better yet, more dialectical, more appropriate for the space we occupy now Socratic: Gandhi is developed as a lawyer since it is developed as an activist for the rights of Indians in South Africa, and vice versa, is developed as an activist whenever develops as a lawyer. They are exercising their years there, his biographers tell us, those that lead to the Gandhi we know, the Gandhi who achieved the independence of India know scrupulously, and then masterfully defying the laws, without violence, without being corrupted.
While I admired Leibowitz, and Gandhi, was another hero, also a lawyer, in front of my nose, right there in the house moth-eaten. Years later I found out. It turns out that my grandfather, my grandfather, my father, in addition to having a doctorate in history, had studied law. "Why?", Once asked, curious at what seemed to me a kind of redundancy academic, not to mention a monumental waste of time. And he replied, without hesitation, with some exasperation, what seemed obvious: "For to know! To understand ".
To date, 92 years old, my grandfather understood the country and the world, with a clarity that would be good to those who manage the country and the world.
But back to the story of Gandhi. What Gandhi serves the study of law? Well I made feasible, we operationalized, nothing less than being Gandhi. Which is no small thing. Between the law, the independence of India, and the popularization of ahimsa, the doctrine of "non-violence", the same connection between the right and the end of slavery in America, led by Lincoln, that another lawyer. understand, even love, even love enough to be willing to improve, to transform the social contract embodied in the rule of law, is an exquisite path towards full civic participation, due to the activity and passion , and why not? To happiness.
I must admit that my idea of happiness is not necessarily universal, but it certainly is shared, and defensible. Let me articulate it very briefly here. To do so, I will draw on the work of an unpronounceable Hungarian psychologist who has worked on in the Claremont Colleges and Chicago, and fabulous Puerto Rican writer who works and writes at the University of Puerto Rico. Hungarian is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and says that happiness, in practical terms, is in what he calls Flow, or optimal experience, and that is the optimal combination of challenge and skill. It is short: If you do something very easy, and you can spare mental tools, bored. If you do something very difficult, and does not have the mental tools, is frustrated. But if you, as often as possible, is dedicated to do things that are tough enough to absorb his attention completely, making heavy use of their skills and knowledge, is happy.
The Puerto Rican is Ana Lidia Vega. And Dr. Vega says that happiness is associated, in the lives of those who want and can choose to university, with a kind of hyper-, the hyperconsciousness the "man who can think critically for yourself and you can feel severally for others. "
Think critically, by himself, feel, severally, for others. Vega tells of hyperconsciousness, of lucidity that allows us to understand, to act, to change practice. This capacity for action that the graduating class of you, has articulated as Justice Fire.
You use your degree for different things. Legal Workshop certainly there-after all, the Puerto Rican courts to reach over 300,000 cases a year. We can evaluate the product of academic effort from wages you earn, the contract or promotion that is carried, the car you drive or boat that you shop. But those things, but allow us to live and to give us satisfaction, have little to do with happiness, with the optimal experience, to think and to feel, unless wages earn it doing something that fascinates you (and eye I am not talking about something that makes you comfortable, or who likes a bit, but that fascinates you), unless the car take you to the places where you will apply the best of themselves, of their preparation, their skills in pursuit of something that you believe, or unless you learn to handle the boat as a whole sea dog and is principally engaged in that. Because happiness is lucid, happiness is intense. Ana Lydia Vega I quote again: "The real culture has to do with the hyper-awareness, with that comes a natural fit alborozarnos helmet to defy the notion that paunchy, remote chancletera and happiness." And that's true happiness in all areas: work, love, mental activity, cooking, hobbies, or the holiday.
Everything is connected, in the biography itself, in his, in mine. And everything worth doing is best done through clear, full.
Another lawyer, Puerto Rican, who also believed in the strength and lucidity, put it this way: "The glory is not written in words spelled with life."
I think the "glory" to which Pedro Albizu Campos meant in that quote does not necessarily mean fame, or tragedy. Lucidity can be happy everyday something pretty. Let me ask you one last story. A few years ago I sat in a juvenile court, and witnessed several cases followed. Cases were the same prosecutor, the same attorney, and the same social worker. It was very moving to see the heads, together, these three characters: the representative of the state, the public defender, and the social worker, the three talked, whispered, before each event. Anthropologists are terribly curious, and I could hear a bit from where it was, so I stopped ear. And I discovered that all three, in every case I saw that day, clearly sought to achieve a scenario that maximizes opportunities and possibilities for the child. His was an everyday heroism, collaborative, routine, why not let be glorious. Lucid. Happy.
This then the argument for the proposal. And the proposal is short, simple, and is as follows: Studies culminating you celebrate today should serve for critical insights and full life. They serve "To think critically for yourself and feel, jointly, with others." Should serve to understand the world, to choose their causes, and even, and especially in times of crisis, to take positions. Positions arising not of superficiality or ignorance, but of knowledge, and from the knowledge that knowledge is always, inevitably, gloriously, an incomplete work in construction. The study of law should enable them to better understand the issues better address the issues and, as said another lawyer, Franz Kafka, "from what is not acceptable, but just enough." To live fully.
What we have learned in this space should serve as a tool to achieve that happiness is possible only in the luminous clarity, the only happiness can change things, the only attitude equipped to make the world better, to make the world more just.
Thank you very much.Print