Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Friday, November 4, 2011

The sovereign's justice, circa 2500 C.E.

Nerrivik Harbor, Victoria Island province, Arctic Ocean. July 4, 2502 (old calendar).
Source file at

13 High Summer, 2502

Report to the Sovereign Convention
regarding the Reformulary (Third) of National Jurisprudence

by James Asiaq Hernandez Washington
Investigator, Collaborative of Ecological Social Inquiry
Aurora University
Nerrivik Harbor, Victoria Island province
Arctic Confederation of America

Gentle ones, 

May this letter find the emissaries prosperous and well. Enclosed with this parcel you will find our most recent draft of chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the Reformulary, covering basic rights and obligations of the communities and of the beings entrusted to their care. 

Adhering to guidance from the convention, we have included in our foundational research the surviving legal records of the former United States of America and its successor polities. Although many records have been lost, substantial documentation exists for intervals between the declaration of United States independence in 1776 and the dissolution of the Third Constitutional Republic in 2132. We believe our inquiry has produced insights useful to the synthesis of a new legal understanding relevant to the needs of our own time.

Our existing legal culture, of course, differs radically from the ancient common law of England and its North American settlements. English law originated when Norman conquerors fused their own military-feudal institutions with tribal customs of the indigenous Anglo-Saxons in the centuries after 1066. The resulting legal system embodied the basic political philosophy of the Middle Ages: that government authority and legitimacy flowed ultimately from a monarch, ordained by the creator of the universe to rule over a people. The monarch was sovereign, claiming a monopoly on the use of force and therefore the power to make any decisions necessary for safeguarding the realm. Ultimately, the realm and its sovereign were the same. Over time, lords and parliament contested the king's power, but the theory of the king's justice as the expression of national sovereignty remained. 

The independence of Britain's North American colonies in 1776 created a wholly different political sovereignty. Inspired by precursors of the Greco-Roman era and the medieval Italian republics, the founding institutions of the United States located political sovereignty in the human population of the new federal republic. Although acknowledging diverse beliefs in a greater divine order to the cosmos, the new concept of sovereignty relied on human reasoning for legitimacy. It required that any authority exercised among human beings be done so only with their consent. The resulting government was, in time, the first of many in the carbon energy era to idealize democracy. 

The behavior of those governments in practice proved very different from the ideal. While fighting and defeating totalitarian adversaries in twentieth century Eurasia, the democratic powers created a global system channeling real political and legal power to a tiny fraction of the human population. An elite class of managers oversaw the capital and technology necessary for global society to function. Therefore, the politics and laws of that global society failed to attain anything close to genuine democracy, declarations to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Ultimately, this fundamental flaw destroyed the global capitalist order. By channeling resources and therefore political power to a tiny elite, capitalism created institutions immune to change when ecological cataclysm began. Enriching itself by destroying the biosphere, the elite had no incentive to take corrective action when fossil energy depletion, ecosystem collapse, and climate super-heating accelerated in the early twenty first century. Action to prevent collapse would mean ending the exploitation sustaining the elite's political power. And so the collapse came. 

Historians today endlessly debate whether the period of the most profound social disintegration, from the abrupt breakup of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet until the Renewal of the twenty third century, constituted a so called "Long Night." Lately, that era has been relabeled as the Long Fire, or the Long Twilight, or the Long Death.

All of these views acknowledge the continuation of cultural frameworks from the old world into the new era of a planet made wholly alien to its former self. In the Earth's new climate, human cities today congregate in the temperate Arctic Ocean rim and the the thawing river valleys of Antarctica. The former centers of population in the middle latitudes lie in ruins -- a vast expanse of desert and rubble across most of the Americas, Africa, and Eurasia. In this planet-encircling graveyard of nation-states, cities and civilization have become impossible. A dead zone encompasses most of our planet, ravaged by super-storms, extreme heat, and plant extinction that destroyed any possible basis for stable agriculture and infrastructure. Only at the newly thawing poles could temperate climate let the Renewal take place.

If the former world is passed away, ours still retains old beliefs in the rights of human beings against their ruling authorities. Many alternative political and legal systems have been attempted in the last century and a half of rebirth at the north and south planetary poles. Societies of northern Scandinavia, Murmansk, and the Urals have generally adopted the old Napoleonic legal architecture. The Napoleonic civil law tradition, of course, now bears the legacy of five hundred years of military regimentation, resource wars, and epic migration.

The same is true in the river valleys and Arctic ports of Siberia, thoroughly conquered by generational floods of Chinese. The Sino-Siberian civilization has evolved from a wasteland of simple warlord city states four centuries ago to an uneasy melange of political and legal traditions from across Asia today. Many of these traditions reflect the eco-pacifism of the Great Teacher of Islam, Rashid the Blessed, who converted millions of people on his twenty third century journey from Spain to Kamchatka. Still other Siberian nations practice Chinese neo-Confucian law or Hindu-Buddhist fusions. Patagonia and the Antarctic nations have generally adopted the Second Ius Commune of the Catholic Church.

In the tiny outposts of Australia and southern Africa, a variant of the Anglo-American common law survives. The common law lives on in Arctic North America as well, still faithful, in spite of epic changes, to ideals of human dignity and limited government. Those ideals predate the collapse of half a millennium ago.

For all of this diversity, today's plethora of legal-political systems share a common historic legacy. Formed in the generations since the collapse, they have all abandoned the human-centered political sovereignty of the old world. They did so because that kind of sovereignty brought the old world to an end. In its place, the source of today's authority and law rests not in the divine power of kings or the reasoned will of the people but in the transcendent forces of nature itself. The Gaian matter-energy exchanges of this planet have become the sole legitimate source of power and justice in human societies.  Religious and secular people differ on whether Gaia is literally conscious. All agree that we live of the mercy of her power, or its, forever.

And so we render fealty therein, in fact and in law, for the remainder of human existence on this planet. Our constitutions, our parliaments, our executives, and our police reflect the hard won wisdom of five centuries.

Our purpose now is to use this legacy for the benefit of ourselves and our posterity. We have it in our power to make the world over again. And so we will.

No comments:

Post a Comment