By Butler Shaffer
If the State of Nebraska is seeking precedent for "tweaking" the rules that prescribe how it is to go about lawfully killing people, it need look no further than the content of what passes for "news" in our world.
Beginning in early childhood, schools have inculcated young minds in the alleged virtues of obedience to the centralized authority of the state, without whose continuing supervision, we have been told, would render our lives "nasty, brutish, and short."
The Constitution, we have been told, provides one such restraint upon the state. But it takes little time to discover that words do not carry with them the same meaning as what we use them to describe.
Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty expressed this understanding in declaring: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean ~ neither more nor less," to which Alice replied "The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things."
Our institutional masters desperately react to the decentralization of social systems. The emergence of alternative information systems, such as the Internet, and a growing popular awareness that the political systems under which people are conditioned to subordinate themselves neither serves their interests nor recognizes any limitations upon the exercise of state power.
Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Thomas Pynchon, George Carlin, and numerous other thinkers, have advised us of both the power and the danger that reside in words. The Internet is a reminder of the lesson learned from the consequences of Gutenberg’s invention of movable type: the free flow of information is a very liberating influence.
As the centrifugation of information continues its outward flow, institutional authority over the lives of billions of people will continue to erode. Just as with the rear-guard efforts of post-Gutenberg political systems to restrain the openness of ideas implicit in printing, the modern power structure will be unable to un-invent computer technologies ~ along with the numerous other information systems that continue to evolve.
The establishment’s efforts to maintain its authority over people have already gone beyond the reinterpretation of constitutional language that has long served its interests. The alleged guarantees of individual liberty we were bamboozled into believing were the purpose of the Constitution, were long ago thrown overboard in the interests of consolidating and expanding the powers of the state.
Following World War II, a system of "victor’s justice" was inaugurated under the name "the Nuremberg trials." The stated purpose of such trials was, foremost, to prosecute persons who had initiated acts of war against other nations. It was, at least in theory, to make the initiation of war such a crime against all of humanity as to justify punishing its fomenters.
All of this changed, of course, when ~ following 9/11 ~ the United States government decided to get into the war-crimes business by interpreting the word "defense" ~ what the Nuremberg principles permitted ~ into the doctrine of "preventive war."
On and on go current examples of reinterpreting (i.e., twisting and contorting) fundamental principles so as to achieve the very opposite of their import.
In our present culture, the aforesaid Nebraska newspaper along with the state government should have no difficulty finding ways to "tweak execution rules" that seemingly stand in the way of the state disposing of members of the criminal class.
Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. - firstname.lastname@example.org