Civil Reform

by Jinryu


So, I’ve finally completed my first semester of Law School. To be honest, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Compared to being in the ‘real world’ and working, there’s a lot of structure involved in school. Not only that, but compared to coworkers, students are more hungry, more desperate (especially near the end of semester) and more easily goaded into helping you out if you word things properly.

I wouldn’t say that law school is easy, but I will say that the strategies for success are a lot more clear compared to the real world market. There’s a lot of structure to things, and the rules of the game are set out quite clearly– it’s really just a question of whether or not you want to play.

I’ve been working since the last day of exams on a number of things. There’s my part time job at Fairfax media, which is apparently one of the media giants in the country. I’m now a cubicle person. If I thought offices were one thing because of working in healthcare, it’s entirely different when you work in private. Yes, there are perks– such as the private parking (for my bicycle!) and the super cheap gym membership (2$ per week??). But, I work in a cubicle. I am occupy one cube out of 30 odd columns, and probably a hundred rows. Sometimes I stand up and see a forest of ponytails and toupees around me, with the smell of warm printer toner and the ambient sounds of phones ringing in an unidentifyable distance.

It is a very different working culture from what I’m used to. I used to think that office politics as far as I knew them were ememplary of Dilbert– but you never really understand Dilbert until you work in a cubicle. The culture is totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced, and that’s no small thing for me to say, considering I’ve got quite the odd work history. I’m a bit fearful of watching The Office because maybe it’d be like staring into the empty void of my own soul.

We don’t seem to do anything sketchy. My work is in database management and collection, in a mostly non-IT capacity. Mostly it means liasing with realestate companies and hunting errors in the database due to typos and such.

It kind of upsets me at times that this is, really, meaningless work. It requires about a tenth of the brain power that my previous administrative jobs took. There’s no challenge here. But, as a starving student, I can’t ignore that this job pays really well (at least 30% more than my previous government job) and that the schedule is really flexible.


A few weeks ago, as I was writing my final paper for a legal ethics class, I coincidentally happened upon the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on television. It’s this big conference that was going on at the Sydney Opera house where they got guest speakers from all over the world to just talk about whatever they wanted– revolutionary ideas, basically.

One of the speakers was talking about being in bed with corporations, and I think I ought to address my stance on this because it’s an important contemporary topic.

The thing that the speaker was saying is basically that people need to “wake the fuck up” and “take down the corporations.” He further went on to say that if you have any friends who are lawyers, you need to shun them. He then went on for about ten more minutes about how certain professions are the evil of the world and that how lawyers and bankers produce stunted, evil children.

Now, obviously, everyone is a product of their own environment, so they speak from perspectives that are formed through their experiences. And I don’t rile up easily– but this guy kinda pissed me off. Oh, that’s right: the speaker’s name was Mike Daisey.

I think what mostly pisses me off is that he’s got no solutions. He’s content to feel that he’s on a moral high horse because he’s living a life of no-impact– he doesn’t help the corporations. Or, as he puts it, he makes sure to suck only a little bit of corporate cock at a time– just enough to survive.

Anyways, my big problem is with who takes this big masculine approach to solving problems– it’s an adversarial model of dealing with conflicts, with winner takes all. The problem with a winner takes all model is that it’s just replacing a current system with another– and in the process of the struggle, there’s a lot of casualties.

While there are a lot of situations where you really need to take a problem on head first, I don’t think globalisation or corporatism is something you can take on with that approach. We’re talking semantic differences here of course, so you could argue it either way– but my point is that in most cases, this isn’t David and Golliath– you and a sling aren’t going to cut it, because Golliath in this story is commanding his army from a nuclear bunker with reactive armor and anti ICBM countermeasures.

The overal change that we seek cannot be done quick and now; it needs to be done gradually through generations.

What needs to be done is to redefine the intfrastructure. If that means that I’m going to be a lawyer, Mike Davies, you can go fuck yourself– because I’ll be making a hell of a lot more sustainable difference to peoples lives in the right ways by working the way I know makes differences. If you want to stand on your soapbox and call people evil, you’re not leading a revolution: you’re leading a cult. You’re leading a bunch of people with a bait of truth, but without informing them of a reason to fight for it except to be partisan. In that way, the revolution is no better than the corporatism it seeks to fight– because then, both are just self-perpetuating blindly without a sense of purpose.

I’m a strong proponent of fixing systems from within. If you want to change the country, become a politician. Become a president. Or try to influence the people who have the authority and the ability to make changes.

The fact is, people who speak the most loudly often have no authority– they’re often overcompensating for a lack of power to get done what they want to do. Those that have the power are too busy using it.

This guy goes on to say that children of certain parents are evil– Children are evil.

Oooookay there, buddy.


I don’t offend easily but people do make me angry.

While it is true that there are lawyers out there who do their work with little or no consideration of the public good, I think that it is wrong to dismiss the legal profession as simply evil. That requires some clarification.

A legal system can go either way really– but the only way of it producing good results is with work from within it to reform it. For people to throw stones at it completely misses the point.

What we need isn’t civil disobedience, nor civil obedience– but civil reform. The laws that lawyers work on come from legislation, and legislation is made by governments elected by the people. The whole setup of the system is one in which the most powerful tool for change is the individual’s relationship with their political representative.

In that sense, I suppose that stirring up a huge shit and suggesting civil disobedience is one way of getting politicians’ attention. But it coercion and stone throwing is such a lame, masculine approach to fixing problems.

Maybe you could come up with a solution? Maybe you could provide the politicians with viable options?

Politicians don’t make technologies, they don’t do the research. They just make the choices regarding the easiest and most viable choices among that which is presented to them.

So maybe, maybe, if anarchists and hippies would get off their fat asses and make positive changes on the planet, rather than making neutral (zero sum) ‘contributions’ like soapboax roaring, maybe then something would change.

I am studying law. Today, the solicitor in charge of my work at the National Youth and Children’s Legal Centre gave me a 60 page stack of government documents from the attorney general, discussing the implications of a proposal to consolidate all the state anti-discrimination laws at the federal level. The project I’m working on will be to evaluate the implications of such a consolidation on the rights of children, who for the most part, are absent from the legislation. Our findings will be reported back to the Commonwealth government.

So, far from being on a high horse– I’m simply asking, which approach do you suppose confers the most benefit on the public good, overal?

… although, I suppose there’s an argument to be made for soapboax shouting as a means of raising awareness…

So I suppose the question what do you suppose works better. In the current situation of reforming children’s rights protection in Australia, I’m working with one other volunteer law student and a solicitor overseeing the project. What do you suppose works better: working within the law, using the tools of law, to find viable solutions that will actually be considered by the government; or an angry man with an angry mob, with pitchforks and torches marching up to the castle?


I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t like people who try to ‘raise awareness’ by being vulgar and offensive. I don’t like people who make generalizations. I don’t like people who take stabs, and then when you challenge them on it, they say that they were just saying that to open up the issue but they were exaggerating.

No. That’s not the right way to do things. You might raise some awareness of the issues, but you’ll also give people just enough knowledge about an issue to be dangerous and irresponsible about it.