A Word in your Ear

The word tonight is ‘legal’

After we sold half the agency to a Boston outfit in 1983, I used to spend qute a bit of time in a restaurant there called Legal Seafoods. I always assumed its name originated from having to highlight the fact that the catch had been legally landed and inspected, but if anyone from this fine City – and Boston is a beeeyoootiful town – is reading this, perhaps they could advise me. Anyway, it was a cool place selling A1 seafood. Thirty-three years ago.

This seemed to me a good place to start, because the person who dreamed up the title may not have known it, but he or she was a born adman: the rule ‘take the generic satisfaction of the sector, and set out to own it’ isn’t the only strategy for a brand; but saying your seafood is ‘legal’ – legal being allegedly a term without gradations – means that you are pukka, but the others might be bootleggers trying to sell you everything from poisonous ink to Hepatitis A. It kind of says you are the safe best rather than just a safe bet.

It says ‘legal is indivisible’. Hold that thought.

When you dive into Google looking for idioms using the word ‘legal’, it’s amazing how few there are. Far more common are idiots using it – as in, “Well OK, if you want to get legal, I’ll see you in Court”. But as so often, within the contemporary usage, and the human element, lies the problem.

‘Legal’ is, stictly speaking, an absolute. But while you might aver that it plays in the same league as ‘pregnant’ and ‘dead’, it doesn’t really. One can say that there should be no further comparative levels between legal and illegal, and linguistically that’s true. But legally, whether something is legal or not is based on um, a legal intepretation of usage and precedent. And that interpretation is going to be decided by a member of our species.

This is not true of pregnancy and death. They are natural, whereas laws are man-made. Everything man-made reflects, for good or bad, somebody’s personal agenda. And when laws are made (a) by a person ignorant of, or uncaring about, consequences – and/or (b) by those concerned to protect their privilege rather than the rights of the citizen….well, hmmm, yes – quite. Then the term ‘legal’ will continue to mean ‘being in conformity with the law of the land’…..but must cease to mean, in any meaningful way, ‘being for the greater fulfilment of mankind as a whole’.

Definitions of legality are constantly in conflict with humanity’s preference for stratified tribalism, changing cultural mores, and violence.

In a world where the entire concept of legality has been perverted by politico-corporate ends and philosophical fashion, we can ‘take legal action’: but the legal outcome may well lack both wisdom and natural egalitarian justice. We may apply for ‘legal aid’, but if ruthless ideology fails to fund the process, then an unjust outcome will almost certainly be the unhappy fate of the accused or complainant who lacks the funds of the powerful.

“I am here in a purely legal capacity” is, almost certainly, a lie the second it departs the speaker’s lips. For the speaker is a lawyer, and the real meaning of the mendacious assertion is likely to be, “I am here to ensure a victory for my client, and thus a bigger fee for me”. He is not there to ensure that justice prevails.

So here’s where I arrive in conclusion:

Legal is a profession. Justice is an aspiration.


This examination of the word ‘legal’ isn’t just onanism for its own self-abusive sake. It’s applicable right across the board of Western culture, and inclusive of most contemporary issues that bedevil it.

The verdict of ‘Joint Enterprise’ is legal grounds for a murder conviction, but an affront to Justice. https://twitter.com/jengba

The denial of State Pensions to 50,000 1950s UK women is technically legal, but morally indefensible. WASPI

The EC has passed two laws affecting Greece’s heroic handling of refugees – for whom the Greeks have no legal responsibility. The two EC laws are both spiteful and contradictory. Keep Talking Greece

The UK Home Secretary Theresa May and her keeper David Cameron remain keen to cement in the offence of Non-Violent Extremism (NVE) as a cornerstone of the British legal system. It will make the prosecution of NVEism legal, but it will not stop it being an oxymoronic nonsense. Fictitious Liberty 

There is an old saying, “Most humour is generated by the difference between human aspiration and human achievement”. It’s a good rule of thumb, but not in these cases. And even less so when one surveys the cases where ‘Might is Right’ rules each and every aspect of legality and justice.

Technically, the European Union is a legal entity. But on any basis involving reality, it isn’t. The ECB daily ignores the illegality of fiscal interference in the affairs of member States. The EC’s accounts are completely illegal, because in twenty years not a single auditing firm has been willing to sign them off. The Eurogroup currently dictating socio-fiscal policy to Greece is an entity formed by Wolfgang Schäuble with no legal right under EU law to exist at all.

The European Union is not even a Sovereign State. ClubMed bondholders have learned that reality the hard way.

Without objectively functional legality, there can be no justice. If a Sovereign State can make illegal war against innocent foreigners ‘legal’, then Justice will not be done, let alone seen to be done. If an organisation that is not even a Sovereign State can form a Standing Army, then that Army can be employed ‘legally’ to oppress every citizen. If the  term ‘legal’ can be perverted by the mortal infection of relativism, then there cannot be a discernible Rule of Law, or indeed any genuine form of equality before that Law. And without the Rule of naturally egalitarian law, there can be no civilisation.

Connected at The Slog: Trump v Sanders is well within the bounds of November 2016 reality