The Reality of Law & Justice

Tony Plasencia
12 min readJun 8, 2020
Power for your Own People not ALL people
George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police on May 25th, 2020

Justice has become a buzzword since Ferguson but ultimately has become an Atomic Bomb in the light of George Floyd. Scrolling through either Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, we are destined to see one of these ‘Justice for’ posts, as if that will bring about some sort of outcome. People are becoming more infuriated with the American Justice system and it lack of ability to provide legitimate results of ‘Justice’. Would it be too much to say that Justice is unattainable for the American system? This system which is based on the notion of Whiteness- was never built to produce social wide justice but rather justice for the ruling class or culture? People of Color have been subjected to violence & second-class treatment birthed by a system of forceful actions & blind operations, which fails to see the human element of individuals. The Law has proven to be effective for one people but not others. As calls for Justice turn to Activism , we see the climate of Riots & protest give rise. These become documentable and violent environments, where the call for Justice turns into Police officers beating, spraying and injuring Citizens. Is this what the Justice is? Is this what the Law wants?

Western thought is based on the basis of ‘word is bond’. The truth of statement, word, action is valid through & through, from exteriority to interiority. This notion found it’s legitimacy throughout various structures of power in the Western World such as the world of Laws & Justice. I will address the complexities & attached legitimacy ascribed to these two concepts as the most untouchable, irreversible, and formulated conception of modern life. Need for example? I am glad to color this for you. Let’s depict the legitimacy of a law & justice. In the 1960’s South, Jim Crow, garnered the effect of being the ‘rule of the land’. I’m sure, you remember the unthinkable climate: the separation of bathrooms, drinking fountains, public domains, intolerances, etc. These perversions are the legitimacy of the law, to say, to be legitimized by the current political/power structure of the time, is all that was necessary for the perversion of said Justice. I will not dive into this concept for now but rather analyze it at a later time. The variances and disparities in Justice are due to the perversion of its nature into a universal institution that constitutes social relations. To preface, I make it very clear that I will be cross analyzing Law as a component of Justice and find the means for its True-est sense,root & definition. I argue that without the mysticism of Law, Justice is merely a proponent of Equity and thus is unattainable and non-existent due to it’s root’s in custom & subjective truth.

Book which my analysis used by Philospher Jacques Derrida

Let us begin trying to understand the objective of Law as set forth by Derrida. We must understand the applicability of Law, as Rules, traces in every capacity of life and that is justly so. The problem then arises as the applicability of Law as a proponent of justice because of Justice’s applicability. Justice is a Legal and Political term burdened as the median of ‘right’ & ‘wrong’. Derrida finds a hole in this logic, “There is something decayed or rotten in law, which condemns it or ruins it in advance. Law is condemned, ruined, in ruins, ruinous, if we can risk a sentence of death on the subject of law, especially when it’s a question of the death penalty. “ Derrida’s use of ‘condemned’ reason, ‘express(es) disapproval typically in public’, which raises to me the relatability & necessity for law. To a bystander, Law & Justice are synonymous yet in-turn, the rule of Law would be the ‘arm of justice’. But very wisely, Derrida is capable of disarming justice by raising ‘a sentence of death’. Death is an innate feature. nature which should not be a decision set-forth by humans. Yet, this is the highest penalty that is offered by Law(s) and the Justice System but how is death justifiable?

In the authoritative eye it is said, ‘aha yes! Justice lives, we have stopped crime’. But we must not forget the experience of the subjected, who’s justification for such crime may encounter a different Justice. His mother is dying, he must steal from the Bank in order to pay for her treatment. Is this not a justifiable action? As a human, is there no sense of Justice or Heart? In the eyes of the Law no there is NOT. This is the most accurate picture of Law in its glory. Law is violent. Let us remember the words of Derrida, “The word “enforceability” reminds us that there is I no such thing as law (droit) that doesn’t imply in itself, a priori, in the analytic structure of its concept, the possibility of being “enforced,”applied by force.”. We begin to understand the difference(s) between Droit and Justice, Law AND ONLY LAW is enforceable and must be done this way! Law roots itself & conceals itself with the roots of Justice,yes. This rooting gives droit a sense of legitimacy in order to constitute the underlyings of Social Institutions. Though, it’s true that Law needs Justice, it is also true that Justice needs Law, ‘Justice without force is contradictory, as there are always the wicked; force without justice is accused of wrong. And so it is necessary to put justice and force together; and, for this, to make sure that what is just be strong, or what is strong just.” For the Public (reader), it’s more important than ever, to understand that these are synonymous. Justice can only be found through the use of Force and that this Force is applicable universally. Violence that is put-forth by Law is coined by Derrida as, ‘law-preserving violence’. Our example of the Death Penalty fits , for Justice to be accepted in this system it must be forceful, ‘yes, death will relinquish all faults’, thinks the Law.

I wish to stay consistent & analyze the statement, ‘force without Justice is accused wrong’. We understand force as the very foundation and legitimacy for droit(law). Force when organically enacted is un-welcomed, to say, unnecessary force is un-welcomed by most. Ontologically, force, says that force is unnecessary, instead is strong-manned onto Justice to assert its own Authority. No individual wishes to secede their Liberties & Freedom to a sovereign much less if such sovereign forcefully took these away, there would be anarchy! This said action would not be able to live the test of time. But yet let me illustrate differently, this same sovereign, introduces legislation that would ‘improve National Security’. The Patriot Act, which forcefully surveillances all communication of American Citizens was said to be ‘for the security of the nation’. Force is never welcomed but only gains legitimacy when attached to Justice. These action’s create the problem for Law, as Derrida says, ‘The notion of threat is important here but also difficult, for the threat doesn’t come from outside. Law is both threatened and threatened by itself.” The legitimacy of Law is cemented, (most) individuals obey the law, and yes, it does its job or stabilizing society. Yet, there are revolts, protests, outcries to the very actions performed by law and where does this stem? I add that the foundation of the threat for law is founded in Force and it’s perverted reliance on Justice. We understand what Law is without Justice but not what Justice is without Law!

Police offers abusing their Law-given power during Protest

I wish to raise the question, ‘What is Justice without Force?’ Derrida offers an adequate amount of answers but I wish to skip fluff & understand Justice at its root. With the help of Pascal and Montaigne, Derrida reveals the ‘essence & ‘mystical foundation’, “one man says that the essence of justice is the authority of the legislator, another that it is the convenience of the king, another that it is current custom; and the latter is closest to the truth: simple reason tells us that nothing is just in itself; everything crumbles with time. Custom is the sole basis for equity, for the simple reason that it is received; it is the mystical foundation of its authority. Whoever traces it to its source annihilates it.” Aha! An easy answer. Justice is a derivative, not of Law or society but of Custom and Equity. Equity mind you, is the closest concept which Humans can reach ‘all-knowing’ See , to be universally just, is impossible, there is no way to dictate the right answer for all Individuals. Instead, we can understand that Justice is found in the basis of Custom, Custom allows for the factionalized nature of Human to be reached. What do you mean? Humans live in tribes, factions, people who believe what we believe, this is who we would rather spend our time with correct? These are the people who we form our stream of thought, opinions, etc. Thus, let me play a thought experiment, a handshake.

A tradition which revolves from custom , it was acceptable to simply shake a hand when introducing yourself to another individual. For many, this is the just way to introduce oneself but for others, it’s a hand-grasp and a snap. The old vs new generation, each action constitutes and communicates the identical message but the action itself is different. For the new generation, it may be labeled as ‘disrespectful’ or ‘unprofessional’ but this is the very basis of Derrida’s argument. That there will be differences throughout people(s) and Law does not encompass this mystical foundation of authority per say Law does not even hold legitimate authority. How can you say that? Derrida offers us this conclusion through his concept of Deconstruction, “Deconstruction is justice. It is perhaps because law (droit) (which I will consistently try to distinguish from justice) is constructible, in a sense that goes beyond the opposition between convention and nature, it is perhaps insofar as it goes beyond this opposition that it is constructible and so deconstructible and, what’s more, that it makes deconstruction possible, or at least the practice of deconstruction that, fundamentally, always proceeds to questions of droit and to the subject of droit. (1) The deconstructibility of law (droit), of legality, legitimacy or legitimation (for example) makes deconstruction possible. (2) The undeconstructibility of justice also makes deconstruction possible, indeed is inseparable from it. (3) The result: deconstruction takes place in the interval that separates the undeconstructibility of justice from the deconstructibility of droit (authority, legitimacy, and so on). See, I think to first understand Derrida, I must set forth the scenario of Private v Public and I believe that Law is a proponent of the Public. The basis of Justice is the Private as I have already explained with my latter analogy, the just decision between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ lives within the realms of separate factions. We can enter the public domain & understand the foundation of Law but not enter the Private and understand the rationale of said Justice, correct? Yes I believe so. To attempt and deconstruct Justice would be the attempt to deconstruct and delletimaze a set group of individuals and as stated NOT EVEN LAW can do that. The legitimacy set forth by Law is to use force to stop the influx and spread of the criminal. This is why there is a necessity for Violence, but also this proves the illegitimacy of Law. For us to be able to dissect Law and understand it’s foundation, the process, it proves that it is simply a ‘constructed truth’ in relation to a Social Power Dynamic such as a legislator.

The law is a corrupt power which creates division within Institutions by igniting seeds of tyranny & revolution which contradicts the set purpose.As I have mentioned, Law is a perverted extension of Justic while Justice is an extension of equity & custom. Thus where does Justice live if not in the Public? When speaking of the preservation of violence brought bylaw, Derrida says, “Does this mean we must stop at this opposition between private and public to protect a domain of non-violence …‘ [to] prove that a non-violent elimination of conflicts is possible in the private world when it is ruled by the culture of heart, cordial courtesy, sympathy, love of peace, trust’ .. not only private relations but. certain public relations as in the general proletarian strike that speaks about, which is a strike that would not attempt to end a state and a new droit; or again certain diplomatic relations in a manner analogous to private relations, certain ambition settle conflicts peacefully and without treaties. Arbitration is non-violent.’ And here we can understand the notion of the Private in relation with Justice. See I wish to focus on , ‘ the culture of heart, cordial courtesy, sympathy, love of peace, trust’, what does this mean for Derrida? I believe he is suggesting the realm of Justice that is only attainable here. Rather, these may be tools which reach the goal of Justice and are tools which droit is incapable of attaining. This culture of sympathy,trust and love- where would this live in the Law? It would not, certainly not, because the law is incapable of feeling these emotions. Instead it is completely fixated on correcting & disciplining said Criminals of Society. Oh but Justice, has ambition but ambition settle conflicts peacefully through heart. The solution is arbitration, the finality of Justice, the ability to discourse as a Human, with all encompassing realities of emotion — this is the manifestation of Justice. But why must I reiterate, that this is not alive in the public? Possibly linked to Human Nature, maybe we are incapable of reaching such peaceful relations. The inscription of Law into Justice has unfortunately created duality for both concepts. With the belief that Law itself could possibly be universal, Justice suffered the same though — but Derrida keeps us grounded- ‘this universality is in contradiction with God himself, that is, with the one who decides the legitimacy of means and the justice of ends over and above reason and even above Violence… no justice, no responsibility except in exposing oneself to all risks, beyond certitude and good conscience’ And here I conclude, Justice is clearly attainable. Said by both Derrida and myself, it is utterly heartbreaking. The reality of it is that the perverted universality of Justice is contrary to God , who is said to be the ‘King of Justice’. By insisting that Justice be a universal concept, destinal violence, violence of destiny is manifested. The only un-doing is to allow for justice to survive in its proper ecosystem of the Private. The private, allows for ‘truth’, to say ‘subjective truth’ to live on because It is an essence of custom that sustains the belief that can be manifested in the society of such Faction. Not to drift too far but to continue with Violence, Law also follows Justice into the realm of the Private by fruition of Violence but we must understand the Subjectivity of said Laws perpetuates just actions. Anything that happens in the Private can be designated as Justice while anything in the Public is Violence.

BLM NYC 2020

Through the analyzation of Derrida and the deconstructing of Justice, we are able to understand the seeds for both Law and Justice. We can now understand the truth that the Western World has rooted itself in a blind.murderous, and wrong institutions. The notion of a ‘universal truth’ creates an illegitimate and corrupt Power that is the Law. From this , stems Violence which is ambitious and must spread the Truth. It does this with it’s backing with Justice, by ‘ thinking of the greater good’, with a simple notion of this manner, Violence is able to be perpetuated. Derrida and myself offer Deconstruction to fully understand these concepts. From this, Law itself is illegitimate based in an unacceptable root in Society but Justice is not. Deconstruction creates the realities of the Private and Public which exemplify the root of Custom of Justice for us and illustrates the reality of this. Justice is only attainable in a Faction, stemming from Culture and nothing else. The universality of Western thought carries itself into the realm of the Private killing all sense of Justice. Justice is not real, It can only be real in homogeneity or Utopia and in reality , neither is true. With the massiveness of universality and the public interfering to the private world , we are doomed.

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Tony Plasencia

Recent SFSU grad in Political Science. 4 years of tech experience in Silicon Valley & keen to possibilities of Big Tech and AI in our public Sector