Social Justice: Who’s it for, anyway?

The following is from a paper I wrote while in college in 2003. I have updated it, somewhat and corrected some initial errors, but otherwise, I present it as it was originally written. Take it for what it is worth.

Justice: An Opinion

What is justice? When we think of “justice,” what are we thinking about? Is it an ideal as Plato said in The Republic,” or is it something that is a physical thing that can be bought or bartered for?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines justice this way:

Justice n 1: the administration of what is just (by assigning merited awards and punishments) 2: JUDGE 3: the administration of law 4: FAIRNESS

While the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines it this way:

Justice 1: The quality of being just; conformity to the principals of righteousness and rectitude in all things; strict performance of moral obligations; practical conformity to human or divine law; integrity in the dealings of men with each other; rectitude; equality; uprightness. 2. Conformity to the truth and reality in expressing opinions and in conduct; fair representation of facts respecting the merit or demerit; honesty; fidelity; impartiality; as, the justice of an description or of a judgment; historical justice. 3. The rendering of every one his due or right; just treatment; requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one’s conduct or motives. 4. Agreeable to right; equity; justness; as, the justice of a claim. (Justice)

Strict performance of moral obligations. Honesty. Equity. Integrity. Powerful words meant to inspire us to believe in a greater truth. An ideal, as Plato, Socrates, and Thrasymachus have said.

But, what is it to the common man? The common citizens of America sees justice, I think, as a weapon to be used against the upper classes, criminals, or those who would wrong them. Or, perhaps, a shield to protect themselves from those who would trample their own rights, though this seems to be less and less the case with the removal of rights granted by the Constitution. Fear has become a motivating force in America and this force has neutered the American sense of justice. One simply has to look at the many instances of Americans rallying for justified torture. Or the removal of rights for the GLBT community. This fear of the unknown, of difference, has effectively neutered us all.

Most especially, however, arresting someone because they “might” be supporting international terror organizations. “Guilty until proved innocent” is a miscarriage of justice, and of basic human rights that cannot be ignored.

But what is justice to me? I define justice as an ideal that cannot be so easily thrown aside. It is a blind judge of moral, ethical, and lawful laws and guidelines that cannot, and should not, be ignored. An instrument of the law, as well as a guideline for the enforcement of those laws, justice serves all who come before her.

“. . . with liberty and justice for all.” (The Pledge of Allegiance) Justice is an American, a human ideal that separates us from common animals. Without the laws to guide us, and the justice they levy, what hope do we have to make it out of our primitive origins? Despite our many accomplishments, we are still a primitive peoples. We have wars to settle petty religious debates, or because one group is less fortunate that another.

I don’t think we, as a supposedly enlightened society, truly understand the concept of justice any more than any other society or species, should any exist beyond our own petty, broken world. If we did, do you think that would have so many people crying out that they have been discriminated against or they are being treated unfairly?

Think about it.

Commentary is, of course, welcome.

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About WonderGoon

WonderGoon is seeking enlightenment and questions everything.
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3 Responses to Social Justice: Who’s it for, anyway?

  1. awfrick says:

    What good is it if America destroys its own principles in the fight for safety? Compromising our ideals in the name of counter-terrorism means that we’ve not stood for a thing. In our torturing, indefinite imprisonments and no access to trials, we’ve become as bad as our enemy, IMHO.

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    • WonderGoon says:

      Quite true, Adam, and the main reason I posted this was to remind people of that very thing. The answer to the question, ‘Who is it for?’ is everyone. Everyone deserves justice.

      The people who perpetuated 9/11 deserve it as much as the person who gets a DUI. They all must be made to stand before the Blind Lady and pay for their crimes. But they must be made to stand fairly and with honor.

      I agree that America has lost it’s way. We struggle with our very identity as a nation. We see this in the media, the outlet for our inner struggle. We see it when former vice presidents shoot their mouths off questioning the current president, either to protect himself or to simply divide the nation more. Whatever reason he has, he is causing more harm than good.

      But even he will stand before the Blind Lady and be judged. It’s that simple. And if he can’t be made to answer on Earth, then when he passes his God will surely judge him for his crimes.

      Either way, he will pay.

      Eventually, America will regain it’s moral compass. It will right itself. It always does. It must, for life is a circle. We’ve been on a downward slope for the last eight years and we are just now coming out of it. I speak of moral obligations here, not economic ones.

      But the meaning is clear, I think. In short, things will get better, but we, the people, have to make sure they do. We have to prod and push Congress into acting and the only way to do that is to take an active hand in the government by writing our lawmakers and reminding them they are our employees. They seem to have forgotten that, I fear.

      If we are, as you say, as bad as our enemy, then we, as a people, will be made to pay for our moral crimes. That is why I believe it is our responsibility to correct the issue. To take an active hand in the process.

      In short, its up to us to make sure America behaves itself and stays a moral nation.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Goon

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  2. Mike says:

    The problem is that Justice, like all human social behavior, is an arbitrary and abstract ideal with little to no relation to the reality of daily life.

    Are cats justified in preying upon mice and birds? I would say so, as it is their nature. I imagine that if you could put the question to the birds and mice, you would get a different answer, with the free and easy availability of cat food, or scraps from alley garbage cans as major points in favor of their argument.

    The same is true in our fight against terrorism. At the end of the day, all behavior, not just the emulation of the ideals set forth by the concept of justice, must bow to the reality of the situation, or else the behavior will result in death. If you fail to eat, you die. Fail to drink, you die. Fail to avoid your predators, you die. We have added layers of complexity to bare bones of existance, but we still must abide by the objective reality of the situation—and Justice is very much a subjective reality.

    It is not fear-mongering to say that there are people in the world that will kill any or all of us they can, for no more reason than that we do not follow their religion, way of life, or their own concept of justice. It is not an attempt to strip us of privacy or freedoms to say that those people have used the very freedoms that we so prize against us, to our greivous detriment.

    We must avoid our predators, which for the better part of the human race is other members of the human race that happen to think differently and hold different values. To do this we must evaluate our own weaknesses, and do what we can to prevent them from being exploited in the future.

    This is what has been done, in many cases to an extent that is too extreme in the opposite direction. Total Censorship in place of Complete Freedom of Speech. Constant Surveilance in place of Complete Privacy. Indefinate Imprisonment in Place of Habeas Corpus. Of course, none of these extremes exist in the normal course of our daily lives. Examples can be cited at either end of the spectrum, but neither can be considered commonplace.

    Strict performance of moral obligations. Honesty. Equity. Integrity. The moral obligation to protect my body, my family, my community, and my country? The honesty to say that the aggressor sets the rules of engagement in any war. The Equity to say that we have as much right to our way of life as they to theirs. The Integrity to defend that way of life against all who would see it denied to us.

    I would prefer to live in a world where all men thought the same way I do—not to live as I live, but to respect my right to live as I choose. I will give my life to see that my children have a chance to grow old enough to give their generation a try to realize that goal.

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