PRIDE IN PREJUDICE

While some love “Pride and Prejudice”, others take pride in prejudice. Of the latter you will encounter much during your LL.M year. In a mostly harmless fashion prejudice will be all over the place.

Vis-à-vis the Indians you will be making your punts about the relephants of elephants. Holy Cow, how can you be so insensitive? The Latin Americans will host Latin parties, dancing salsa and drinking some kind of biting alcohol (it’s sting is unsurprising, given that they make their alcohol from cacti). They will hug each other and their surroundings at every occasion or non-occasion and complain about hugaverse, hugawkward German robots. The German robots, in turn, will theorize about the unnatural-ness of American (or any New World) wine and food in general. The Israelis will denounce this as German chauvinism, redirecting its destructive potential onto the relatively harmless realm of food.

And the Swiss, what will they do? They will complain about the local cheese and remain neutral.

So much, so harmless. Things get more serious, once you leave the world of culture and food and enter into the world of IDEAS. Yale Law School being full of these (no less than of itself), this is more or less synonymous with entering 127 Wall Street. (Yes, you will spend your LL.M. year on Wall Street. It will give you a huge head start in the world of Big Law.)

Upon entering, you will be told that Germans love systematicity and are formalists. That civil law countries in general are formalistic. That they believe in logically deriving their decisions from gapless legal codes. That American lawyers, to the contrary, understand how decisions are actually made. That this legal realism is an American particularity. That the Jewish religion is ortho-practic, whereas Christianity is ortho-dox. That there are three kinds of constitutional systems (democratic monism, rights-foundationalism, dualism). That the French Revolution was a failure and its being worshipped in Europe an awful fraud. That the French admire their “lois” while the Americans love their judges. That Jim Crow and its lasting heritage constitute a “caste system”. That the US brought democracy to the world (“We made you!”).

All this will be heralded to you with the trumpets of truth and without the slightest shadow of doubt.

This spirit of (over)confident generalization will inexorably exert its grip on your thinking. Why? Because it is intriguing, it has power. They actually still make claims and judgments at Yale. They provide and defend distinctions. They say something relephant. They say SOMETHING. What does it matter that – in a slight variation – it has been said before? What does it matter that it doesn’t do justice to every person and phenomenon?

I am deeply torn by this, as I think are many of my classmates and as you will be when at Yale: Not only will you be tempted by the powerful lure of Yale’s ORIGINALISM obsession. The entire LL.M. situation makes you particularly vulnerable to the habit of (over)generalized judgment. You will be away from your home countries. Many things will be new and will demand at least some kind of rough classification. How does this relate to the institutions, the culture, the food, the values you know? You will not escape making comparative, i.e. evaluative, judgments. Even if you pretend to be modest, and self-consciously avoid the words “better” and “worse”, cloaking them in the language of preference, you cannot help but make up your mind about which world you actually do prefer. For the first time in your life you will regularly and for a longer period of time hang out with a bunch of people from all over the globe: Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Western Europe, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, and of course the US. Everyone will tell you their own view of their country, culture, or cult, and you will map your new world accordingly. In all this your classmates and you can be as careful and non-judgmental as you want, but you will inevitably be left with an entire array of new, nice, and neat drawers. This tendency will be reinforced by the law school culture’s perpetual demand for swift, surprising and possibly original judgment. On top of all this you will be part of a group of people who all have a rather strong drive and habit of trying to make sense of their world. More than is usual you will be among ivory-tower-afficionados. YLS is, after all, not only a parade of prejudice, but also a nerd parade. Being one of these nerds, you will be marching along.

This should by no means shock you. My classmates and I enjoy it a lot and you will too. Just keep in mind and beware that, instead of de-biasing you, the yearlong parade of prejudice will bolster your

PRIDE IN PREJUDICE.

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