Daily Archives: December 31, 2009

The absurd hero

Comparisons have been drawn, in recent days, between our condition and that of Milton’s Satan and Abdiel. Meaning has been sought to explain who we are and what makes us do what we do.

It is a curious profession we have chosen; those of us who dedicate our lives to defending the freedom of others. Certainly not I, nor most people I know, sought admittance into this small group with any notions of fame, grandeur and constant success. To the contrary, we were, and are only too aware that most battles we fight will be lost. Yet we carry on, day after day, year after year, pushing the rock up the hill.

To be sure, there are victories – some small and some big – yet the nature of the beast, the fabric of the system is such that we may be able to poke small holes in it only to soon become enveloped in it.

Even though we are not ourselves the object of the fire that spews from this beast’s nostrils, we deliberately place ourselves in that path. To get to my client, this other human being, you have to go through me. A small rebel force for hire, as it were.

But the damage we suffer, the blows we take, are small in comparison to the eventual destruction that is wreaked upon the life of the client. We dust ourselves off, sometimes taking longer than usual, and move on to the next person in need.

It is a sort of self-flagellation, I suppose.

I’ve never really thought about why I chose to subject myself to this. It seemed like a question that did not merit a response. I understand why the function is important: as the Emperor Julian is alleged to have said “if it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?” To put in layman’s terms, the slippery-slope; there but for the grace of God…

But we do not exclusively represent the innocent; hardly ever, in fact. And yet even when a man we suspect to be guilty of the crime is he accused of committing is found to be so by a jury of his peers, the reaction is not of resignation or acceptance or that justice was done. There is always, unhesitatingly, a sense of defeat, failure and loss.

Maybe there’s nothing so profound about it all. Maybe we are just driven by our distrust of the Government and our desire to see that its laws are upheld in a consistent and orderly manner.

Are we Miltonian heroes? I’m not smart enough to answer that question. What I do know is that I have a job to do. A job that I know will most often end in failure and that the task is futile and yet I do it, day after day, year after year, decade after decade.

In that sense, I am Sisyphus. I must be happy.