Monday, September 28, 2009
The argument of the license of artists as a nobility of talent goes back to Lord Byron and farther. Oscar Wilde had defenders on just that basis, not so much on whether what he did should be sanctioned at all. The touchstone case however was Ezra Pound. Brilliant artist, unregenerate Fascist sympathizer and without doubt legally sane when he was locked up in an asylum to avoid a treason trial.
Mercy is a fine quality. It is associated with the Divine and with those who exercise authority on Earth, either as consecrated agents of God or as the representatives of popular majesty. We should all praise our judges when they display the quality of mercy. True mercy is unencumbered by private interest. Therefor it is offered not to the great but to the small.
Caesar's lesson is in the last minute.
Mercy is only meaningful when it is offered after the expectation of justice being fulfilled and the full rigor of the law being applied. Mercy prior to the guilty party displaying submission to the law is impossible because then it is not being granted as a gift from a sovereign power but is merely being conceded as result of a political negotiation. If the law is created arbitrarily according to the competitive influences of interest groups then there is no objective standard. Then there is no law only arbitrary power and tyranny.