Building a Just World: How Our Laws Express Our Collective Values

“Law is our collective coming together and deciding what we value as a people.” - Mark Fischler

Constitutional law expert and criminal justice professor Mark Fischler has a thirst for justice and a gift for teaching. With cogency and passion, Mark explains that law is not the absolute that we perhaps thought, but an ever changing reflection of the values we hold as a society. Law is a developmental process, and will benefit from our own dedication to inner moral development. Mark shows how the law can (and has) become ever more inclusive, with the potential to serve and uphold the dignity of all peoples, all beings. Because of its abstract clauses, there is room in the Constitution to interpret the law in ways that are attuned with our pluralistic society. Mark calls on us to come together and decide what we value as a people—there is no mandate in democracy that all decision making power must reside in the hands of the Supreme Court, which has only had the sort of unilateral power it enjoys today since the 1950s.

This is no dry, legalistic conversation, but a truly illuminating vision of the potential of the law to embody justice, inclusivity, compassion. It is also a solid overview of where we have come from and where we are now, referencing many landmark rulings of the Supreme Court. Finally, this is spiritually inspiring as well—Mark tells the story of the transformational epiphany he had as a young man that led to his career as a public defender, onto the spiritual path, and eventually to become a well-respected, award-winning professor of criminal justice. Mark’s perspective on the law is far ranging, embracing human rights, animal rights, the rights of all beings. It comes from a place of deep care and compassion: “What is the happiness that the Declaration of Independence talks about, what is suffering?” Be inspired by Mark’s wise and knowledgable teachings and the potential of the law to create a just society for all.

Recorded January 4, 2023.

Topics & Timestamps: Part 1

  • Introducing professor of criminal justice and constitutional law expert Mark Fischler (01:31)
  • How did Mark get into constitutional law? (03:45)
  • At the foundation of legal theory is the question: natural law or positive law? How Ken Wilber reduced the cognitive dissonance going on around this for Mark (06:44)
  • Law is a lawyer-driven process and the action is in the criminal courts (07:52)
  • Mark’s 1996 transformational epiphany of self-knowledge around the judgmental character of his mind (09:16)
  • How psychotherapy relates to Mark’s practice as a public defender and taking a bodhisattva approach to being there for all beings (13:59)
  • The deepening of Mark’s spiritual practice: Am I supposed to leave everything behind, give it all up? (21:08)
  • “The demon spoke” (Socrates): leaving public defender hood and the beginning of Mark’s spiritual journey (25:03)
  • Miguel Luiz’ Four Agreements: principles upon which to life your life (29:35)
  • Being of service to others is the foundational piece driving Mark to deepen his understanding of the law and in his role as professor (35:08)
  • “We’re in a stage of pluralism, but we sure don’t act that way;”Justice Alito’s decision in the Dobbs case, overturning Roe v. Wade (37:02)
  • Can we start to have a conversation about the law, from a 30,000’ point of view, transcending and including perspectives, even the Integral one? (38:20)
  • Giving the Supreme Court so much power to make legal decisions is only as old as the 1950s (39:46)
  • Was Roe v. Wade the best way to go? We needed to have a more honest conversation from the start (43:37)
  • Human rights and how developmental stages play out in the justice system (46:35)
  • Roger highlights the points Mark has brought up and their antidotes: absolutism, pluralism, the need for honest conversations, integrating different points of view (48:12)
  • Teaching civil liberties to a class of diverse first generation students so that they feel heard and valued (51:47)
  • Understanding Alito’s point of view, emotional contagion, and how Alito and other Supreme Court justices do not feel respected or heard (55:18)
  • Black nationalism: being completely independent of the system (58:40)
Topics & Timestamps: Part 2
  • The 4th branch of government: administrative agencies like the EPA that implement policies are now under very specific guidelines from the legislature (01:40)
  • Abstract language in the Constitution requires interpretation and the challenge of finding balance between restrictively specific guidelines and abstract directives (06:45)
  • The history of the Supreme Court and how the Court is 10–20 years behind the rest of the culture’s center of gravity (09:44)
  • The doctrine of originalism: is the Constitution a fixed document? (12:36)
  • Ronald Dworkin, primary legal philosopher of his generation: “The law is absolutely an act of interpretation.” (15:55)
  • Originalism’s effect on Brown v. Board of Education, the Equal Protection Clause, and Plessis v. Ferguson (16:35)
  • Abraham Lincoln was competing with the courts on slavery—his point of view was far more holistic, respecting the equal dignity of all people (20:47)
  • We all need to be involved in the determination of fundamental human rights and not leave it up to the Supreme Court (24:24)
  • Our Constitution, because of the abstract clauses, allows us ways to start to relate differently to our environment and all beings (26:00)
  • The law is a social institution embodying the ways we agree to relate to each other as a society (28:09)
  • We need to become conscious that law is a developmental process, becoming more and more inclusive over time (29:18)
  • Theories of justice and how to build a just society: integrating Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, universalizability, Aristotle’s virtue-based right action, Steve McIntosh’s observable piece, the utilitarian what’s the greatest good for the greatest number, and John Rawls’ justice as fairness (31:59)
  • Using Integral to help us apply inclusivity to the law (35:32)
  • Animal rights and our relationship to property, to the Earth (37:39)
  • Is there a legal way to support people in the pursuit of self-actualization? (43:17)
  • What is the happiness that the Declaration of Independence talks about, what is suffering? (46:15)
  • Law is our collective coming together and deciding what we value as a people and this requires inner moral development (47:40)
  • Peacemaking ethics: care, connection, mindfulness (53:22)
  • The collective trance we live in (55:51)
  • A call to participate in our democratic process: we can influence our laws, our communities, and make this world a better place (58:34)

Without equal enforcement of the law, the topic of justice is mute. Why is it even worthy of consideration? Why discuss laws that are either broken or ignored by those in power? Even worse being selectively leveraged against political opponents? Why does any of this even matter anymore?

Never having known Mark’s story of personal and professional development, this was a treat! I’ve always thought of him as carrying the spirit of the bear. As anthropomorphized by some indigenous groups and some shamans, the bear is equally healer and warrior. Mark also has vison and wisdom, so perhaps he’s an Eagle Bear :slightly_smiling_face:

To his references to Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements,” I would add Ruiz’s book “The Mastery of Love” as well, which begins with an orienting story: Imagine you are living on a planet where everyone but you has a skin disease, making loving touch and intimacy painful; what would that mean for you? The acute years of the pandemic gave most of us a taste of this kind of physical distancing and isolationism, and yet I think there may be as many people pre-and post-pandemic who are reluctant and non-trusting of receiving love as there are people who are reluctant to give it or be it.

I liked the repeated references to the potential of the law in terms of being more and more inclusive, just, and compassionate, that the law, while imperfect yesterday and today undergoes a developmental process towards greater coherency, which allows for hope rather than despair. When rights were being addressed to some extent in the podcast, I wondered what Mark (and others) think about housing/shelter: should that be a right? The courts have ordered the city of Phoenix to provide legitimate space/acreage for homeless camping complete with drinking water, showers, security, and sanitation (and use of cooling centers) That seems to me to be a step in the right direction, and the right to shelter seems like one of those issues that will be increasingly on the horizon, given the lack and affordability of housing throughout the country.

I also wondered how Mark would view the happenings in Israel, with hundreds of thousands of protesters coming out yesterday against Mr. Netanyahu and his party’s attempt to overhaul the judiciary.

The Deep Transformation podcasts are great. John and Roger as a team are excellent facilitators of the conversations, offering clarifying questions, translation, and explanatory power, and great and relevant tidbits like Roger’s reference to the Tao Te Ching. Thank you.

I wonder if you’re having a little, perhaps temporary, meaning crisis around these things? such as I had a couple of weeks ago when I overexposed myself to material regarding what one writer has referred to as the Four Horses of the Apocalypse: the existential threats of climate change, use of nuclear weapons, AI, and pandemics/disease. I have my own anti-dotes, one of which was to re-read twice Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” There’s something about the deep struggles for mere survival, and finding meaning in that suffering, that puts things in perspective. Do you have your own anti-dotes?

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I find the discussion about “our collective values” of justice almost comical … most people here are supportive of the ideological green visionary’s who are leading the charge to ignore our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I bet many secretly wishing to eliminate them entirely.

We ignore all the abuse of power happening right now. Some of us used to march and stand in support of peace, now we stand with the industrial military complex, blindly supporting war in the Ukraine. Doctors and people like RFK, Jr who dare to descent and speak against our world leadership organizations are shut up and shut down.

There seems to be zero progress in an integral direction coming from this community. Too many here are just marching unconsciously toward the New World Order and bow in submission. Congratulations to George Bush and Dick Chaney, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden and the DNC, Republican Rino’s and the RNC, the deep state, the Mainstream media, WHO, CDC, FBI, CIA, along with many others for making certain that everyone feels threatened.

Fear is the drug controlling the masses. Where’s the outrage, where’s the push back? No no no … it’s time for a chat about the “collective values” of law and order. Who’s values are we even talking about exactly? Thank you @LaWanna for help in stirring my inner juices, to raise my Liberty loving soul energies.

My anti-dotes to all this? Ignore it whenever possible. Focus on my own inner world to maintain a positive productive life, despite the chaos and insanity that abounds among the unconscious intellects. Those who analyze from their own cages, about their cages and reject the outrage arising from those fighting for freedom, everywhere all over the world.

I may be confused by your message here — are you saying that as long as there is injustice in the world, there’s no sense talking about justice? Or that voices like Mark’s aren’t welcome? Does this apply to other topics as well, such as spiritual awakening for example? “Since many people are not yet awakened, the topic of spirituality is moot.”

I’ve seen no evidence of anyone who “secretly wishes” to eliminate the Constitution and/or Bill of Rights. Maybe they are just really good at keeping it secret. But it’s a hell of an accusation to make against the community, so I am wondering where you are seeing this!

As for RFK, I think he’s a bit of a crackpot, or at the very least has some really horrible messaging/communication skills. In my mind, he is simply not presidential material.

Then again, Mark and I just had Marianne Williamson on our show, who is also someone who is frequently accused of being a crackpot and/or bad communicator, so I certainly have no issue talking with non-conventional political aspirants (insofar as they are interested in talking to us).

But I certainly think RFK should be allowed to say whatever he wants without censorship. And people should also be allowed to fully criticized his ideas and messaging without censorship.

My anti-dotes to all this? Ignore it whenever possible. Focus on my own inner world to maintain a positive productive life, despite the chaos and insanity that abounds among the unconscious intellects.

I agree with focusing on our inner world, but disagree with “ignore it whenever possible”. I think that working to improve our overall sense-making is an important way to develop our worldview line, and to keep it aligned with our cognitive and values line. Ideally, this can be done in a way that remains receptive to other points of view (even if those views are more partial than true). And hopefully, all that inner work we are engaged in can result in a healthy humility and the wisdom to acknowledge that our own views may also be true, but partial, in any number of ways. We think we are looking at the world, but we are only really looking at our own mental models of the world, which can be mediated and distorted in all sorts of ways, and which is 100% generated by our overall position and Kosmic Address relative to that world we think we are looking at.

I think it’s fairly common to oscillate between frustration/disgust/scorn/outrage and withdrawal/ignoring/apathy/despair during a meaning crisis or the perception of some ongoing injustice/“evil.” What is less common, and most helpful I think, is to be able to observe, see oneself in this process. So focusing on inner development certainly helps with that self-witnessing capacity. Then one has the opportunity for choice and agency in the sense of deciding what our attitude will be towards situations and other people. This is the “inner freedom” Frankl (and many others) speaks of, the kind of freedom that is not dependent on externals and that allows one to find meaning in the situation and to appreciate, that while the past and present may have plenty of “bad” in them, there is also plenty of goodness in them, increasingly so over the long haul, and to appreciate that while the future is unknown and could contain more “bad,” there is also the potential for even greater goodness. I think this was a primary point Mark was making about the law and justice system, as well as the point that it depends on us–our own inner development and our willingness to stay engaged. That doesn’t seem “comical” to me, but, well…integral.

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Thank you for your wise words and empathetic response @LaWanna. My use of the word comical was in the sense of irony because of my own frustration; which I vented about. I thanked you already for helping me regurgitate that with your last therapeutic intuitive comment. I apologize for my outburst and any hurt feelings or misunderstandings to any and all. ~ Peace :slight_smile:

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I’m currently reading Peter Turchin’s book End Times, which has a lot of explanatory power about these matters. (Video link below). Part of Turchin’s thesis is there are long-term cycles of social integration and disintegration. In the disintegration phases, there is a generalized feeling that the game is rigged, everything is unfair, and there are lots of calls for “justice”, meaning of course different things to different people. Turchin describes roughly 1920-70 as the last integration phase in the US, which puts us fairly far along the disintegration pathway currently.

Taking a stab at mapping Turchin’s model to Integral, we might call the last Integration cycle the heyday of orange. The last 50 years of disintegration have been marked by the rise of the green. Next integration phase? Integral would say teal, but personally, I’m keeping on open mind on that one.

So what leads to integration? According to Turchin, the time of troubles at the end of the disintegration phase involves too many “elite aspirants” (wannabe rich, famous, powerful) fighting each other for limited opportunities. (Current Harvard admissions controversies coming to mind?) Eventually, some of the elite aspirants decide to “win” the power game by essentially tipping over the table and either cheating or changing the game entirely. Turchin offers Lincoln, Gandhi, Mao, Castro, and Trump as examples. Not that these all agree on anything. The only similarity they share is being game changing outsiders redefining the rules of what it means to be elite. Some disintegration phases end in civil war. Sometimes (US in the 1920s and 1930s) elites accept reforms to defuse the situation.

My feeling is we need a new social integration to get beyond the current Culture Wars and other forms of social dissolution. The best, sanest pathway to get there is a new elite consensus that will allow for at least modest social services reform so the both the white working class and people of color can experience improved economic prospects for the first time in over a half century. For that to happen, the Ivy League and mainstream media are going to have to take rural and working class whites seriously. The Republicans are also going to have to wake up and realize neo-Jim Crow is a losing strategy. (On this latter point, I’m encouraged that black Republicans like Tim Scott are stepping up to challenge the so-called “benefits” of slavery.) The new consensus will need to be more inclusive than the white-centric consensus of the 1950s, but it needs to make room for Hillary’s “deplorables” at the same time.

How do we get there? My preferred play is more education for everyone. But not just to get rich or to get access to elite status. Or another way to visualize this is that the teal revolution is on when the elites redefine social superiority in terms of service to society, rather than the accumulation of wealth and power.

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Watch this video as a case on point. Some might call this evidence of systemic racism. That teachers unions maintain a strangle-hold on the public education system. A union that resists school choice vouchers and/or private education funding for family choice.

This "racist video", the label assigned by the mean green progressives, is mostly ignored by those in power. I think it’s worthy of watching in it’s entirety, and sharing it too. An exciting, electrifying interview about old-school world-views by these two non-typical personalities.

An interview by Dave Rubin, a married gay man with 2 adopted children that used to be a mean green Young Turk. With Larry Elder, now labeled a white racist. White-men can never make these claims anymore because of the backlash of threats on their career, as Jordon Peterson and Brett Weinstein can certainly testify.

Thanks for your help @robert.bunge at getting these idea’s on the discussion board. Most academic’s would avoid this entirely or certainly navigate very cautiously when challenged to opine.

Here is an article for reference on the Model of Hierarchical Complexity:

Note that Integral Theory is level 13 on this scale. I’d say MHC fits into the general theme of “growing up” if you want to use Integral Theory as the primary framework. The discussion in this video strikes me as somewhere in the level 12-13 range (that’s just a wild guess - I’m not doing any formal rating here). Sadly, a lot of the Culture Wars debate is pitched more at levels 10 or less.

I got into this mostly because I had to. Funding in my academic area requires an embrace of DEI, like it or not. But 1) I agree that slavery sucked and the racism is a real thing and 2) I figured out a philosophical and academic approach to DEI I can live with and even embrace. I don’t need to deny my very white experience in order to appreciate other types of experiences and collaborate with diverse students and colleagues. In a very generic way, this is all classic Integral transcending and including.

Mighty fine words. I read an article about how the cultural emphasis on (not wokism but) woRkism (for status, power, wealth) is even contributing to the decline in church attendance and religious membership (no one has enough time or energy for community or community service).

Trying to back them up with actions! Not claiming sainthood - for the past 20 years or so it was all about the Benjamins. Kids, student loans, the need for housing, retirement income etc. will do that to a person. But about a year ago however, I realized enough is enough.

Yesterday I had a very cool conversation with a fellow traveler in liminal spaces in which we were spitballing ideas like “cooperative capitalism”, “community capitalism”, or “karmic capitalism”. The general idea is to hang on to the savings and investment, production and efficiency dimensions of capitalism, but once you have 3 or 4 bedrooms in your house, don’t keep working for 30 or 40. instead, redirect those energies toward wider distribution of goods and services. Same game, different victory condition, basically.

I’m an unashamed elitist (“elite” = very, very good at what you do). I just want to encourage all the other high achievers or elite aspirants out there to find a better game than building giant pyramids of cash to sit on. Dare I say, find a more integral game.

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Hanzi offers another way to interpret humanity in all of it’s glory, or it’s chaotic frailty, as one prefers to see it. Stage 10 Abstract and Stage 11 Formal account for 70% of the population. @robert.bunge I agree these are the best levels to communicate at. This quickly flushes out the think-tank nuances to reach the masses with clarity.

Sadly, there are no quality solutions offered, just an appeal to the hearts and minds of the 70%. Perhaps there are better explanations for the failures in education beyond what Larry Elder references? Would you expand on your academic approach to DEI and maybe offer a better explanation on a path forward to solving this problem hurting these inner-city kids?

This is worthy of remaining as a contribution to everyone here. … Paraphrasing a quippy quote, “a flower is on its way to becoming garbage … garbage is on its way to becoming a flower.”

I’m mashing up all sorts of things. From Integral, the basic values of human growth and development. From meta-modernism, the deconstruction/reconstruction process to unpack any idea, break it down to experiential foundations, then build it back up again. Deconstruction/reconstruction is a generalized process for getting unstuck from values battles at an abstract level. Model of Hierarchical Complexity for specific operational processes on how to do this sort of mashing up in a rigorous way. Also, a special shout out to Cory David Barker, the grandmaster of archtheory, which is generalized theory of how to combine all sorts of other theories.

To give an example, start with an abstraction like “woke”. My first question is always, where does that come from? Dig into the experiences behind the word “woke”, and you get into black history, black biography, and black struggles against many barriers. Experience leads to interpretation; interpretation leads to conceptualization; conceptualization leads to systemization; systemization leads to policies and ideologies. I don’t object to any of that, except the policies and ideologies tend to forget the experience they grew out of and try to become something like Kantian categorical imperatives for everyone. So CRT - applied like it’s some sort of mandate for all right thinking people - comes off as oppressive to all who don’t share or at least appreciate the trajectory of black experience in America.

Of course, there is not just black experience. Take the J.D. Vance book, Hillbilly Elegy, for example. That’s rural white experience in America. Different experience leads to different interpretation; different interpretation leads to different conceptualization; different conceptualization leads to different systemization; different systemization leads to different policies and ideologies. If you start with rural white experience and evolve that into to something like Kantian categorical imperatives for everyone, you will get universal truth claims that clash directly with other universal truth claims like CRT.

My method? First rule, respect all human experience. (Academically, this is known as phenomenology). Second rule, respect that everyone gets to interpret his/her own experience in the first instance. Third rule, expand your circle of personal experience and interpretation in generally Integral ways (growing up, waking up, showing up, etc.). At some point, your interpretations are are going overlap with my interpretations, but we may not use the same words to mean the same things, because our language symbols come from different experiences of being in the world. Higher development levels feature skills and attitudes able to navigate these experiential and cultural differences.

To put a ribbon on it, for DEI to become a consensus approach in the US, it has to work equally well for inner city blacks and rural whites. In both cases, the way forward out of poverty involves education and personal development. Also, to be absolutely clear on this, “education” does mean adopting whatever slogans are most favored on one cable channel or the other. Education is insight that must be earned. No one can hand it to you.

So here are some questions from a level 10 mind-set, on deconstruction/reconstruction ideas for DEI.

  1. Allow money to flow directly to inner-city parents via school vouchers to upgrade choices?
  2. Allow money to flow to charter/private schools where qualified educators such as yourself could run some pilot programs targeting newer better approaches to improve results?
  3. Allow money to flow to alternative or new-age approaches that could utilize the best instructors via digital class rooms? Connecting Baltimore kids from inner-cities to share a class with peers from high-end communities in the Virginia suburbs. Basically exposing kids to a variety of cultural approaches from many sides of the political spectrum?
  4. Allow camaras in classrooms? Let parents and senior officials watch and video tape what’s being taught so we actually know what’s happening on the ground? Build case studies and curriculums to mimic best of the best practices revealed through the camaras?
  5. Allow diversification on instructors that reflect our differing cultural perspectives. Exposing all religious ideas and cultural approaches from Judaism, Muslim, Hinduism, Christian’s, Republican Conservatives and Progressive Liberals. Get the best of the best from all sides to present information to expose everyone to all sides of our cultural divides?
  6. Create a national digital teaching platform that builds a database of best of the best teachers where parents and children can watch and learn together, topic by topic from all sides?

Does any of this make sense to anyone else here?

First of all, these all seem like ideas for education reform in general. I like quite a few of them - in general I’m a fan of smaller, alternative, community-centric programs over industrial scale standardized education.

It’s a very good idea to have teachers representing a variety of global cultures and for students to encounter such ideas along the way.

In a healthy school community, parental involvement is generally a good thing. The old-time way of doing that was to have parent volunteers in the school and an active PTA. When you said cameras in class, my gut reaction was to think of spy cameras so parents could go all cancel culture on teachers who say some word the parent does not like. That would be a nightmare. Reading more carefully though, it sounds like what you really mean is giving parents access to the curriculum so they can support learning at home. That I support. The idea of a broad-based curriculum available to all on the Internet would facilitate that sort of home-school communication.

Ah yes … but does it go both ways? Policing is on camera now does it improve behaviors? Since we’re already existing in a totalitarian society, maybe camera’s will allow “we the people”, we the parents, we the students, we the faculty, we the caring souls, and the “we that are living free” to have a recourse to manage the systems of power?

A few considerations …

Having studied a few actual totalitarian societies (Hitler, Stalin, Mao), we are not there yet. Hopefully, not ever. Last time I checked, cancel culture does not involve concentration camps.

When working with youth, there does need to be some level of visibility to other adults. This is largely to avoid sexual abuse or allegations of sexual abuse. The Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, and schools both public and private have all learned that the hard way. That being said, though, if all classes were being filmed for external review, teachers would quickly learn to teach to the camera. I doubt that would improve the actual teaching.

That being said, all of my classes have been recorded for the past several years. Zoom. That is adult education, so I don’t have to worry about somebody’s mommy or daddy getting worked up about some bad joke or another, thankfully. Also, for student privacy reasons, the tapes get deleted at the end of the quarter. Because I am a professional, I do take care to be sure my off-camera parts are properly dressed, not that anyone would ever know.