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Some of you knew that I've been working on a manifesto of sorts since I was in Thailand that would crystallize my political and moral stances into a single cogent message. As time has progressed I've become less willing to willing to put it all to paper, and I've found that the primary reason for that is that I don't want to preach. While I have very strong beliefs regarding the subject of my contemplation in Thailand, I also strongly feel that nothing is accomplished by preaching. As such, I've torn down my writing inch by inch until there was nothing left but the original idea. There is no grand essay on changing the world, I'm not igniting the page with revolutionary fervor, instead I've just returned to the concept at it's simplest form. I will share the idea with you, as it is something that is so close to me it feels as if it is written on my soul... so to know this is to know me. If you have questions, I will answer them but I will not write a massive essay on the subject and push it on people. There is no wisdom in that.

We, as lawyers (and lawyers to be), have a responsibility to the people of this nation and to the people of all nations to guide society based on ideals. No one wields as much power to change as a lawyer, we determine the fates of individuals and the masses with each case we try. But the majority of our number make decisions on cases and arguments based on monetary values rather than considering the social impact of our actions. We must wean ourselves from the teet of materialism and make our decisions based on something higher than a paycheck.

Our code of ethics carries with it an unspoken subtext that appears to have been missed by many people. We are expected to be more than human. In some respects we are modern day knights (champions for our clients) and in other ways we are priests (offering counsel, guidance, and some degree of sanctuary). We must embrace the truth of the profession we have joined (the truth that this is more than a job, it is a calling) and take responsibility for the power we hold.

We should be saviors. We should be heroes. But heroism only comes with fighting for a belief, and if you don't fight for a cause you believe in you're simply a mercenary. Acknowledging that, it isn't surprising that we're a hated profession. If we were to use discretion and wield our power wisely, however, we'd be elevated.

I don't care what you believe. I don't care where your politics or morals lie. Just exercise them when you wear the mantle of Officer of the Court, regardless of what is most profitable. Our voices, our conflicting voices, could lead society to Utopia if we could just withstand the urge to sell ourselves to the highest bidder.
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We're discussing INS and undocumented aliens in Employment law right now.  I'll be honest, the INS thing infuriates me.  You have all these jackasses screaming to lock down the borders and keep aliens out.  They aren't seeing the big picture.  This country depends on immigrants.  Without them a large sector of our society would disappear and the US would crumble.  Not to mention that US society was founded by immigrants.  And, of course, there is the primary issue that nations are largely meaningless.  If you're born a few miles south of the US border, what makes you deserve a life of poverty instead of the life of affluence that comes with being born a few miles to the north? 

People who oppose openning the borders won't come out and admit it, but they think they're better than foreigners.  They think that being part of the only remaining superpower is their birthright.  It is all part of that "entitlement" sickness that infects America.  You don't deserve anything based on your birth.  Hell, the guy who risks his life (dealing with insane "minutemen" shooting at him, crawling over barbed wire, and running from the dogs and cops chasing him) all to get into this country and give his family a better chance at life deserves a hell of a lot more than you.  What have you done?  Seriously, what?  Let me guess, you squeezed out of your mom in a politically sacred piece of land and received the stamp of "american."  Big deal. 

And the attitude of manifest destiny fits right in with the ruling classes objectives.  They need undocumented workers.  They need 3rd world nations to produce their sweatshop goods (so they can afford to keep their borders closed and keep the wealth of the rest of the world trapped in the US), and they need undocumented workers to provide cheap agricultural and manual labor pools.  They WANT them here.  However, they don't want them to have any power because then they might ascend the social strata and threaten their dynasties.  Or even worse they might look to themselves and realize, much like the muslims in the French ghettos have come to realize, that they have real power and can change things. 

So what do they do?  They keep them illegal.  They keep them living in constant fear of losing everything to the Storm Soldier-esque INS forces.  They keep them disenfranchized and living in ghettos, many never learning english or learning to read.  They keep them from being part of American society in any way other than as work-horses.  Then they engage in a social war and keep the rest of US society hating them, to keep people from feeling any sympathy for them or from helping them.  They put forth this subconscious viewpoint that they're less than human, and subtly enforce and encourage racism.  They tell the working class that it isn't the ruling class that keeps american families struggling to put food on the table, they tell them that it is the fault of those damn illegal aliens taking their jobs (all while they hire them cheaply and also outsource their production facilities). 

It's an illusion that most people seem to buy into.  But the reality is that you aren't entitled to a damn thing, nations are meaningless since we're all human, and by believing their smoke-screen you're enabling the rich to keep doing exactly what they've been doing for centuries: Exploiting everything and everyone.

Besides, the borders dont' stop ANYONE.  If you want in, you can get in.  You know they don't work.  Cops know they don't work.  Politicians know they don't work.  Why not open the borders and invite these people to become part of the system?  The only reason is for fear of giving people the power to change things and shake the system up. 
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A post in response to [ profile] devilwinds's anti-modern poetry rant.

Imagine you have never played an instrument in your life. Suddenly, you get a Sax. You think to yourself "Hey! I've got a sax here, now I'm a musician." Yet, you are so green you don't even know how to put a reed on the instrument. So you watch other saxophonists and figure out that if you put the reed on after wetting it first in your mouth, then blow into the mouthpiece and press some keys, sounds will come out of the bell. Pretty damn neat for someone who's never played. However, I ask you this question...

Does this make that person a modern saxophonist? Does it even make this person a musician? I would say no. This person has the potential, like we all do, to learn how to play with training. But with very few exceptions, no one can pick up an instrument and just play it. Not even something rudimentary like Three Blind Mice. Most likely what you will get a bunch of squeaking and a lot of displeased listeners.

Now most of what Jeff has seen on LJ and Slate is the poetic equivalent of that unfortunate saxophonist. They have discovered a term "Free verse". They have also discovered that they can hold a pen in their hands and write words. But writing words in free verse is no more poetry than the untrained squeaking of that green saxophonist.

Jeff is condemning modern poetry and saying that most of it sucks because of what he has read from these people who are not really poets. When I brought to him the examples of real poets he expressed the opinion that they are the minority. I disagree entirely. However, to an untrained and uneducated (in poetry) reader these squeaking and painful collection of words might appear to be poetry. However, they are not. This is why many readers think that the 18th century had better poems, but what they don't realize is that they are reading the cream of the crop and that most of the poetry of that era was just as bad as the stuff we see on LJ. If I were to ask one of these people to explain to me what a masculine ending was, what a spondee was, what an anapest is, they wouldn't be able to tell me. That is because they are untrained. Just like the new saxophonist wouldn't be able to circular breathe and then play in the altissimo register.

So what does make someone a poet and not a poser?

There are several things that come into this. These rules are identical in all art. After a while you discover that there is very little difference between all art, regardless of whether it is visual, written, performed, or played.

The first is training. There is no way to get around this. You need to be trained in your art. This can be self training, but you need to know the rules of what you are doing. You should be able to follow those rules by heart if needs be. You need to understand WHY they are there and what they do to enhance the art. Later you can break those rules if you understand them well but it takes a lot of skill and talent to break them. You need to understand a rule and have a reason before you break it.

Second, is a big one. Talent. There needs to be something in you that manifests in this form of art. 50% of all can be taught. The other 50% cannot. Talent is a big part of that. Either you bond with the art or you don't. Either you can see, or you can't. It's not fair, but what is?

Third is the biggest one out there. TENSION. All art is formed on tension. All of it. If you take a picture you are trying to create tension between the objects in frame. If you are writing a play, you are looking to create tension between characters. If you are writing a song, you use syncopation to create tension in the music. This is no different for poetry. Every poem should have an innate tension that grabs the reader and holds her until you are finished. If you have done your job correctly you can affect your audience's pulse, emotions, body temperature, etc. This tension is incredibly powerful. It marks the difference between someone telling you that it was "very nice" and someone throwing you down a fucking you because you made them lose control.

Fourth, you need to read what other TALENTED writers are writing. You need to live in your art. 90% of your training is going to come from immitation. Most of these posers read only their own stuff or they only read what their friends are writing. The end result is a flood of crap that makes my skin crawl.

Fifth, you need to have something to say. In written and visual art this is usually easy. In instrumental pieces, if they are performed well, you do not need lyrics to know what the song is about. In poetry this becomes complicated. Poetry is much more like an orchestra than it is a book. You should NEVER say what you are feeling. Ever. If you say "I am utterly alone" you have already failed. Your goal is to make the reader feel what you are feeling, not to tell the reader what you are feeling. To do this you use the same weapons that a musician uses. You play with tone to effect a mood. You play with word choices to evoke emotions without outright saying them. You work with the pace of the piece and the rhythm of a poem to try to bring the reader's body reactions to the same level that yours are. For instance, in a poem about fury you would write using a lot of masculine endings, a lot of spondees, and probably move in an iambic rhythm. The result is that you have a machine gun feel with double accents to emphasize your hatred.

So basically, just because you are writing in free verse it doesn't make you a poet. You need to know what you are doing.

End Result: Jeffy = PWNed.


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