As without, so within: where we are, is who we are
I write quite regularly blogs onLeiden Law Blog, the blog site of Leiden Law School. In these blogs I try to put law-related matters in a broader context. In them I touch on various subjects like the power of images, the importance of unwritten law, our sense of justice, the development of human consciousness and our connection to (and place within) the surrounding nonhuman world. They all express my hopeful conviction that at heart we are not so much competitive and selfish, driven to take from others for individual gain, but emphatic and generous, with an innate sense of justice, wanting to give to other people.
These are the blogs I have written since 2012 (with the newest ones on top)
The courage to choose the right direction. The fight-or-flight response is particularly strong in the populist movements, but it takes us in the wrong direction. Choosing the right direction is a matter of being open, vulnerable and courageous.
The call for more external order and control. In the prevailing Western view, order is something that must be imposed externally to reduce or end conflict. But there is another order, a natural one that shapes us and the world around us into self-organized wholes that can heal and transform us.
Extending Rights and Growing Responsibilities. The environmental lawyer David Boyd has written a very interesting book about the gradual process of extending the legal concept of ‘rights’ to the non-human world: not only to animals, but also – for instance – to trees, rivers and whole eco-systems.
Indigenous injustice and the power of the land. David Peat argues that Native American and Western cultures have clashed from the beginning. The differences form the basis of disputes about land ownership, the outcome of which we all know, and even touches on the current environmental crisis.
Healing the planet by changing theunderlying story. The recent UN climate report and the Urgenda appeal case reflect hopeful developments with regard to dealing with climate change. But there are alternative views, reaching beyond the emphasis on numbers and statistics, that deserve attention as well.
Why science needs spirituality. In his new book ‘Spiritual science’ Steve Taylor shows that we can only make sense of many human experiences when science opens up to and integrates spirituality. An important message for all researchers, including legal scholars and criminologists.
The relevance of experiencing awe. Research has shown that regularly experiencing awe not only makes us feel part of something larger, but also makes us more attuned to our common humanity and raises our concern for the needs of others. Therefore it might also help to reduce crime.
Why feminism is good for men as well. The Dutch author Jens van Tricht pleads for men’s emancipation. This is needed to help us reduce violence and improve the relational world of men on several levels, which in turn enables us to better deal with the global crises that face us.
Traffic jams and smoking bans. When we compare the latest Dutch measures to deal with traffic jams and smoking, we see that we are actually facilitating the rise of traffic pollution while tightening the smoking bans. This shows that we are still not truly environmentally aware.
Money money money… in a rich man’s world.There was widespread disgust about the proposed salary increase of one million Euros for the Dutch ING chairman. The proposal was withdrawn following public pressure. But it has confirmed that the bankers are still out of touch with reality.
An exploration into uncharted legal territory.Capra and Mattei argue that the legal world still wrongly bases its core ideas, such as ‘private property’, on mechanistic science dating from the 16th century. They think it badly needs to update them to include the findings of current holistic science.
The natural process of mutual integration.Western countries expect immigrants to adapt to their culture, whereas for centuries colonizing Europeans always imposed their ways on the native inhabitants they came across. In reality both cultures will always naturally fuse to become a new one.
Male privilege and the abuse of power.The #MeToo reports have brought the ‘tradition’ of masculine domination out into the open and what it can lead to. When did it begin, and in what direction will it develop? To shed some light on this matter two kinds of power are distinguished…
The ethical dimension of ancient laws.Due to the inclusion of unwritten laws, surviving from the Stone Age, the (pre-Hammurabi) Sumerian legal system was surprisingly liberal. We can still learn from it, now that our system has caused the ethical dimension to wither – with dire consequences.
In need of the wisdom of de-escalation.To prevent a global disaster we badly need to stop the escalation of international conflicts, like the one between North Korea and the US. But how can we open the way to de-escalation? And can law or mediation contribute anything here?
Inspired by wilderness.For a long time civilisation was equated with cultivating wilderness and urbanisation. Now climate change is threatening us, in many fields – including law – the positive value of wilderness is being rediscovered and the importance of experiencing it.
A new approach to democracy – with old roots.According to Vandana Shiva we must shift from representative democracy, in which corporations rule, to ‘Earth Democracy’ to deal with our current crises – to end conflict and bring peace. It means including the excluded into our conception of the economy.
World Wide Waste.The programme ‘Ocean Clean Up’ promises to rid the oceans of ‘plastic soup’. This is a very welcome initiative. But only effective when it is accompanied by a change in the way we deal with plastic, by a change in our sense of self.
The reality of climate change.Many Dutch politicians still consider climate change a long-term issue, but obviously it has become a here and now reality. To become ecologically minded involves putting the environment first and ourselves second – accepting our place in nature.
Who to vote for in these challenging times?Many people do not yet know which party to vote for in the upcoming elections. To avoid escalation of conflicts it has become essential to choose individuals with balanced minds – politicians who are able to transcend a dualistic world view.
An old, dying Empire versus a rising Earth Community.Trump and his followers have shown that patriotism and imperialism are not dead yet. They are part of a larger populist movement, which is still small compared to the rising number of people who feel they belong to an Earth Community.
Will the real you please stand up!Everywhere collective identities are struggling with other identities. They are mere substitutes, however, for the personal identity we are born with – whose development is justly protected as a human right and is the antidote to the crises facing us.
When words get in the way…Dutch governmental organisations have decided to get rid of the words ‘autochtoon’ and ‘allochtoon’ – widely used to define native and non-native inhabitants – because they were stigmatising and confusing. But do we know what they really mean?
The power of Diversity & Inclusion.How can different phenomena like state formation, cultural development, human rights and even life itself be linked to the principle of Diversity & Inclusion? And why is it important that we recognise its value? Read all about it in this blog.
How to stop exploiting and destroying landscapes.Dutch minister Kamp has again decided in favour of gas exploitation, whilst Europe was hit by unprecedented heavy rainfall, leading to immense destruction. The link between these issues is our ongoing disrespect for the landscape. What can we do?
The Ongoing Search for the Promised Land.Before we start criminalising economic migrants as fortune seekers, we should realise that Western culture itself has spread the idea of fortune seeking across the globe. We are all in the same boat, but perhaps we have been searching in the wrong place.
There is light at the end of the economic tunnel.New kinds of businesses, part of a so-called ‘purpose economy’, are taking root everywhere. Their success is improving the well-being of people, their community and the planet. Perhaps surprisingly, they can also help to heal and prevent crime.
Reaching beyond patriarchal boundaries. Johann Jacob Bachofen, who argued that before patriarchy there was matriarchy, should not just be criticized for his ideas. He should be valued as a very brave legal scholar who dared to study mythology – a field beyond his own discipline.
Making space for animals and their rights.Most people, including legal scholars, still have a strong species bias. Yet there are significant developments and new insights which give good reason to expand our conception of rights beyond the human world, to include (other) animals.
Living in a world of give and take.We tend to respond to the taking away behaviour of terrorists and criminals in general by taking away even more from them, and focus as a result on what we do not want in our world. Yet it is important to shift our focus to what we actually do want.
Respecting the Rights of Mother Earth.While various problems threaten us these days, we might forget that the worldwide ecological issue remains. It is only by taking the Rights of Mother Earth seriously that this problem can be structurally solved.
The Rule of Law and the World of Myth.According to law philosophers Western civilisation, reigned by law and reason, has always differed profoundly from the ‘savage’ world guided by myth. Yet by making the creation of order out of chaos central to the concept of law, myth has lived on.
Freedom – finding a home for us all.When Leiden University was founded, freedom meant non-interference by authorities. In the 1960s it was expanded inwardly to living authentic lives. And amidst a mass immigration of boat refugees, the West is still struggling to fully realize its freedom.
The amoral mentality of bankers.Joris Luyendijk, who has thoroughly analysed the world of bankers in London, argues that bankers can behave amorally because they only check whether their behaviour is permitted by law. Yet they definitely do violate the moral basis of law.
Crime and (lack of) empathy in a changing world.Research has established a link between lack of empathy and crime. It is interesting and illuminating to look at both phenomena from the context of the historical development of human consciousness in the Western world.
An Embedded Freedom of Speech. The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo has put the freedom of speech back on the agenda. If we are serious about creating a world in which there is room for everybody, we have to rethink the content of this human right, so that it can help us forward.
How to feel more secure with less police.In the Dutch national police force 3000 jobs have to be shed by 2017, reducing the presence of police officers on our streets. This need not endanger our sense of security, when we realise the importance of empathy and start practising it regularly.
No man is an island, entire of itself.My short stay this summer on Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, inspired me to think about some law-related issues: about law enforcement, the theory of Thomas Hobbes and the gift economy.
Watching quarrelling neighbours.A Dutch TV programme, dedicated to legally solving cases of quarrelling neighbours, shows how a minor problem can be blown up to immense proportions. We would do better to respect our neighbours from the start, also on a larger scale between countries.
Every crime tells a story.Although we rationally try to fight crime, we are fascinated by crime stories at the same time. They reach back to the mythical battles between the forces of good and evil. Yet do these stories also help to reduce crime?
The law that everyone should know. The principle that everyone is expected to know the law is not connected to any specific body of written laws. It refers to the spirit on which the Rule of Law is founded, which manifests itself as the famous Golden Rule.
What we can learn from fruit flies.Recent research with fruit flies has shown that close contact between a female and a male fruit fly reduces aggression in the male fruit fly considerably. What does this discovery mean for the prevention of male aggression and crime in the human world?
The feminine face of justice.Though women until quite recently had no role to play in the legal world, justice has always been represented in a feminine way. Now that more women are studying law and entering the legal professions, justice will finally get an earthly feminine face.
Exploiting shale gas: a risky gamble.The Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs publicly stated in August that he – contrary to many protests – is in favour of this exploitation. His economic short-term thinking seems ignorant of the real scope of the risks involved.
Crime as a short-cut to get what you want. It has been suggested by Colin Wilson that criminal behaviour is driven by the urge to take short-cuts. This is an interesting way to look at crime, which questions the widespread belief that the short road is also the best road.
Who owns the land?The Dutch government has decided to sell some nature areas to private owners. Although the State might legally own them, its task really consists of managing them for all Dutch inhabitants.
From quantity back to quality.The new law to limit the top salaries in the public sector that has come into force in January this year, will not achieve its goal as long as the people involved keep on attaching the value of their life to the amount of money they earn.
The abandoned Christmas trees.Around New Year many Christmas trees are dumped on the pavement or in the park. This is probably not a crime as such, but it is evidence of a terrible mentality and it shows a profound disrespect for nature.
The power of the (false) image. In 2012 a few celebrities unwillingly revealed the ugly truth that they were able to keep hidden for years beneath their public mask. Behind this process we can witness the tremendous power images can have over our lives.
Space travel and crime reduction.Images of earth as seen from outer space have given rise to a new awareness which might contribute to the reduction and prevention of crime.