DID ANYONE ELSE EVER FEEL ANNOYED WITH THOSE BLUE COUNSEL BOOKS AS A TRAINEE? WHY WEREN’T THERE ANY MARGINS IN THEM? I had become so used to writing in pads with margins, I couldn’t fathom a good reason for why they should not have one, other than that maybe this was just another way in which solicitors and barristers could claim a difference from the common crowd.
Let’s just stay with this and dig a bit deeper, into what a line which creates a margin means and see where we emerge from that inquiry. You see, a margin is a demarcation, a boundary between what is “correct” and what is “incorrect”. I remember being told in quite strong terms that crossing the margin with any writing was definitely “incorrect” and wrong. Keep a neat and tidy line writing down. We have the same meaning in “marginalised communities” and “marginalised voices”, voices which are not at the centre of attention and power.
At the same time, a marginalised voice can be a privileged voice by the very fact it is not at the centre, it can be “outside” looking in, which especially in moments when the centre is in crisis can be quite a useful position to be viewing from.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
Yeats – The Second Coming (1865 – 1939)
A pillar of the literary establishment of that time, his then was the voice of the centre, lost with a world order crumbling in the aftermath of the First World War. What has been the Law’s role in bringing matters to such a crisis as we are living through now? Perhaps more importantly, what is the Law’s role in responding to times of such crisis? Interestingly, “crisis” comes from the Greek words krinein and krisis, meaning a decision, a power of distinguishing, discerning. At its root, there is no necessary connotation that a crisis is negative. In fact, one could say that – just like the two Chinese characters making up the chinese word for crisis – “crisis” holds both danger and opportunity at the same time. It only becomes one or the other depending on how it is responded to.
Perhaps then voices from the margins are better voices to be listening to at moments of crisis as they are less likely to be busy cutting and judging with unconscious biases according to what is liked and disliked by the power at the centre?
Coming back then to the non-marginalised blue Counsel books, I’m now quite taken by the fact that there is no margin, that what is offered is a tabula rasa, a place of emptiness before boundary making has been etched in. In standing pushed against the boundaries of multiple ecological, social and political crises, can we feel our way to a response that captures the potential of a threshold opening us up, rather than the edge of a container keeping us in with what we already know?
Answers on a postcard please (no margins please!)
MOTHIUR RAHMAN is a co-founder of the Community Chartering Network and is bringing that experience to bear in setting up a legal practice called New Economy Law. He supports clients who are passionate about bringing in a more ecological and beautiful world, developing legal strategies with them to unlock new possibilities for a rapidly changing world. Read more at New Economy Law.