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Fragments on Fragments #31: Being Human in a Pandemic

Fragments on Fragments #31: Being Human in a Pandemic

31 People must defend the law like their city’s walls

In an age of independent city states, always vulnerable to invasion, the walls of the city could be the only thing between you and death or enslavement. Once the walls were breached, it was all over.

Heraclitus is trying to make his readers realise that the law is just as important as that. I am struggling though to think of an example which would have the same immediate, life or death significance for those of us in a dispersed, global community. Maybe it’s because governments even in democratic countries seem increasingly to think they can get away with breaking the law: I write this in the week when a UK government minister admitted in Parliament that they were introducing legislation which knowingly broke an international treaty. They know that for most people it won’t feel at all important.

Times of crisis are exactly those in which the rule of law is most challenged. Emergency legislation restrains our normal rights, extensively so in this pandemic. The danger is that we become used to it: that law becomes something which only reflects the needs of the moment, unmoored from any deeper principles of justice or equity, from a vision of what we believe society should be like.

At times when exceptions have to be made, we need to defend all the more vehemently the walls which mark out the normal boundaries within which our society is kept safe, secure and free.


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Jessica Hatch

Re: Jonathan Clark Post Jan 29
The image likening the city wall to the need to guard our civil rights and liberties is very appropriate. And the warning about setting them aside as “new normals” without robust scrutiny and pushback is apt. Case in point: Capitol Police request that perimeter fencing around the Capitol installed to secure inauguration safety be left in place. A clear demonstration of fear and the withdrawal/isolation fear fosters. And, hugely symbolic. Best in this time of upheaval to keep close track of congressional and state legislative attempts to abridge or deny civil rights and public access to governing in the name of “public safety.” Such restraints on public life and Liberty only protect nascent tyranny. Question to ask: Who benefits from these efforts?

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