This morning I reported for jury duty, the fifth time I have been called in my life. I sat in the Jury Pool room, alongside a hundred or so of my fellow citizens, ready to sit in judgment on a major corporate lawsuit, or perhaps given responsibility for justice over a human murder.
In other words, I was being given power. Like a vote, it’s not much power, but it’s power. Jury duty gives one the ability to unalterably affect human lives. Power granted to me, to the other people in that jury pool, by society.
The Enlightenment Package of science, capitalism and democracy have been so successful at unleashing the potential of the unpowerful majority that we forget how little sense that makes. Why would the powerful cede any of their power, even to their own benefit? Human beings don’t usually have that much foresight, or capacity for sacrifice.
The answer, of course, is that they didn’t intend to do it. It happened little by little, propelled by short-term exigency, retrojustified by success, and always accompanied by a great deal of upperclass whining.
Can this go on indefinitely? Sometimes I wonder if the epitaph of the Unprecedented Era will read “For a while, the powerful lost some of their power to the powerless. Then they remembered they were powerful.”
But it hasn’t happened yet. And every day jury duty is honorably served, it remains a minor miracle.
As it turns out, I was not empaneled on an actual jury today. Most of the jury pool was. It’s random chance—I’ve served on two juries before. Perhaps next time.