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Where Are We, a Boxing Ring or a Back-Alley Brawl?

By | January 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

U.C. Berkeley, 2017

In addition to the classic Murphy’s Law, the mythical Mr. Murphy proclaimed other laws. Among these is Murphy’s Law of Location:

The first thing to do is to figure out where you are.

For example, are you in a boxing ring at a sports arena? Are a referee and judges present? Is a physician at ringside? Is the bout under the supervision of the state athletic commission, which enforces the Marquess of Queensbury rules? If so, you may be in for a hard fight, but it will be a fair one. You will not hit after the bell or use kidney or rabbit punches, low blows, or eye gouges, because you know your opponent will not be allowed to use them either. You may use the first few rounds to feel your opponent out, and only then go on the attack. Your object is to win the bout and advance your career, and thereby increase your income.

Or are you in the alley behind Big Al’s Bar at one in the morning? Are you being jumped by a man? Is it too dark to see whether he has a weapon? Is there no one to help you? If so, your life is on the line. You must attack at once, as violently and suddenly as possible. You must use whatever is at hand, whether it is a beer bottle or a garbage-can lid. You must continue attacking until your opponent is unable to attack you. Your object is to stay alive.

The problem is that most people cannot imagine themselves in a boxing ring, much less in an alley fight. They work in offices, where the worst injury is a paper cut. They work in retail, where the worst result us an unhappy customer. They work with computers, where the worst outcome is a failed Windows update. They work in bureaucracies, where the worst danger is a coffee stain on the shirt before a staff meeting. They never worked in a big-city emergency department on a Saturday night, as I did. They never saw a throat cut ear-to-ear, or a close-range shotgun wound. They can’t imagine a problem that a lawyer is unable to solve. They can’t conceive of an actual physical threat. They can’t foresee that they might be in that alley and not even know it.

Knowing where you are can be the key to survival.

Say you have a dispute with your neighbor. Suppose he built a fence six feet within your property. You can try to reason with him. If this is unsuccessful, you can file a lawsuit. If you win, but the man still refuses to move the fence, you take him back to court, and the judge will force him to move the fence or send him to jail. You are still in the ring at the boxing arena.

But now say that a man kicks in your door at 3 o’clock in the morning, screaming and brandishing a knife. If you act as though you are still in the boxing ring, you and your family are likely to suffer serious injury or even be killed. Instead, you must suddenly shift mental gears. You must see yourself in the alley behind the bar. You must grab whatever weapon you have prepared for such an emergency ‒ one would hope a gun. You must be prepared ‒ mentally and physically ‒ to do whatever it takes to assure the survival of those you love.

And even when survival is not in doubt, it’s good to know where you are. For example, do you work in a bureaucracy? What kind is it? Is it like a coffee cup, where the cream rises to the top? If so, you will try to excel, so you will be promoted and get a raise. Or is the organization like a cesspool, where the largest chunks rise to the top? If so, you will seek employment elsewhere. Meanwhile, you will try not to attract attention by doing too good a job – which will only evoke jealousy and anger from the drones.

When it comes to the political sphere, it is equally important to know where you are. Academics think like academics, so they imagine that others think similarly. When radical students (and many non-students) take over university buildings, occupy deans’ offices, set fires, and block conservatives from speaking, cowardly university administrators try to act in a “collegial” and “academic” manner.

Look at the photo at the top of this column. Many words come to mind, but “collegial” and “academic” are not among them.

These radicals are not colleagues, they are enemies ‒ enemies of free enquiry, enemies of free speech, enemies of freedom itself. As Justice Robert Jackson taught us, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Allowing enemies of free expression to take over the campus is the exact opposite of what a university should do. If you doubt this, recall how fascists and Nazis took over European universities in the 1930s.

Similarly, lawyers think like lawyers. Are the fanatical rulers of Iran developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them? Do they lead their people in chanting, “Death to America”? Sign an agreement ‒ an agreement that sent tens of billions of dollars to Iran, but which in return gave us only a flawed inspection program. In effect, we traded money and precious time for paper promises. The paper became the object, not an actual agreement.

The North Koreans saw this fiasco ‒ this failure of nerve, this failure to recognize reality ‒ and react accordingly. They fire off nuclear and now hydrogen bombs, while shooting missiles farther and farther. They test anthrax as a weapon. They assume that Western nations, and America specifically, are still being run by dreamers who fantasize a world run by rules. They do not grasp the significance of President Trump’s immediate and forceful reactions to challenges and insults. They assume that Trump is another version of Obama.

But I believe that the North Koreans, and those like them, have made a fatal error. They do not realize that the Oval Office is now occupied by someone who does not think like a lawyer, who understands the difference between a boxing ring and a back-alley brawl, and who is fully prepared to act appropriately.

Old Murphy had it right. The first thing to do is to figure out where you are.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

www.stolinsky.com

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