Complexity, the Ninth Circuit, Twitter, and Psychoanalysis

Glendale, California
Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dearest of Readers,

Last Wednesday I had the thrill of watching my friend, Ron Novotny, Esq, argue a labor case before the Ninth Circuit federal court in Pasadena. The timing was excellent. The Ninth Circuit, headquartered in San Francisco, was still debating the challenge to Mr. Trump’s executive order regarding immigration. (They blocked it last Thursday.) Getting into the courtroom required more security than flying to Russia. A sign posted inside ordered complete silence. All complied. I was reminded of the quiet of synagogues or churches as attorneys and visitors waited in complete quiet — not even a whisper — until the court came to session at 930am.

The first case featured an attorney appealing his client’s 40-year prison sentence for credit card fraud. The attorneys had strict time limits on their appearance before the three judge panel. The complexity of the matter was impressive. The attorney claimed computer files related to the credit card fraud had been improperly accessed and the government reneged on a deal to reduce prison time in exchange for cooperation. The justices frequently interrupted both the prisoner’s attorney and the lawyer from the US attorney’s office.

Ron went next, presenting his appeal of a civil matter regarding a railroad employee’s civil rights. Ron argued his long-term disability had been honored, the railroad had offered him multiple alternative positions even though his job had been filled by the time he returned, and also accommodated his disability. Interestingly, the employee had returned to work without restriction. The employee’s attorney argued the employer had failed to “reach out” to the employee at the end of his medical leave, advising him he would lose his prior job if he remained on the leave beyond a certain point. I’m quite the liberal but, even controlling for my bias, think Ron made the superior argument.

I sat transfixed for more than an hour, reflecting on the profound complexity of both of these legal proceedings. Despite of the strict time limits involved, the attorneys’ anxiously making their closing arguments when so-ordered, and the justices interruptions, both matters seemed incredibly complicated. I felt in awe. I struggle to understand how the justices could pour through such complex issues and case law to reach a decision.

Meanwhile, other justices of the same court system were reviewing arguments they heard just the night before, by telephone, but of a similarly complex nature. Mr. Trump described them in a tweet as “so-called judges.” Once the decision came out against his executive order, he tweeted, in all caps, “SEE YOU IN COURT,” presumably referring to a pending appeal to the US Supreme Court.

My experiences further exemplify the point I made in last week’s blog post: The world is way too complicated for reduction to 140 character texts, tweets, or social media postings. Think about it: Mr. Trump’s executive order alone requires adjustments to the travel or immigration requests by seven different countries, affects 50 US states and territories, and impacts thousands of employers and universities in this country alone! Sadly, Mr. Trump models, in his speeches let alone his tweets, easy, simple answers to multi-faceted, complex problems. He displays only fantasy which, sadly, many view with relief.

Literally last night, President Kim Jong-Un, another lover of complexity, ordered the testing of a ballistic missile in violation of multiple UN regulations and sanctions. The test mimicked a tweet. It was launched at the same time Mr. Trump ate dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Perhaps not as stupid as many think, the child-leader sent an extremely complicated message by pushing one button. The themes underlying Jong-Un’s actions boggle the mind: The Chinese dislike him, we hate him, a unified Korea presents endless challenges, no one knows what to do with millions of North Koreans suddenly liberated, and on and on.

As I often mention, psychoanalysis, or psychoanalytic psychotherapy, exalts the complexity of human subjectivity. Unlike many other approaches sporting three letter acronyms like CBT, DBT, EFT, etc, psychodynamic practitioners feel humbled by the striking singularity of each person who consults them. They strive to avoid reducing their world view in any way. They know understanding will prove incomplete. And, their approaches focus on careful self-exploration and dialogue.

Many parallels exist between human subjectivity and citizens of a country. However, multiplying individual subjectivities exponentially increases complexity. Worse, it is more likely to introduce chaos at similarly more intense levels. Just as psychodynamic psychotherapy unfolds through a careful dialogue between professionals and patients, diplomacy similarly requires dialogue, reflection, and patience between two or more sovereign nations.

I recommend immediate deletion of tweets! Disable the twitter app on your phones and computers! Unsubscribe to twitter! If we cannot find models for careful deliberation from our own governmental leaders, then we must serve as those models ourselves. Guided by whatever topic concerns us, I suggest careful, deliberate, and patient dialogue with one another about immigration, North Korea, whatever.

Submitted with everlasting incompleteness,


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