What is Justice?

With Social Justice being somewhat of a battle cry these days, I think it might be important to ask those who are working for social justice to please define it.

The word “social” is easy. The dictionary says: “of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community.”

The situation gets a bit thornier when we try to define Justice. Normal definitions have to do with moral codes and the law. Well, are the laws defined by our moral codes? Whose moral codes do we use, and how do we define those?

There are certain values which seem to be inborn. Those shared values make us human, and in fact, allows us to become a society. But we have such clever methods of justification that we can twist almost anything into a moral code.

Just watching the nightly news will make it obvious that there are at least two sides to every story, and a different opinion for every person watching. How can we derive our laws–our system of justice–from such a diverse pool, from such an aggregate of special interests? Our opinions, and therefore our beliefs, stem in great part from our needs.

Examine, if you will, both sides of the abortion controversy. Or the death penalty controversy. Or the controversy of your choice.  On each side you will find passionate feelings and opinions, and myriad justifications for those feelings and opinions.

But is that how we should write our laws? Should the moral code of our country be dictated by the current sway of passionate feelings and opinions?

Is there an alternative?

Matthew Fox, in his book A New Reformation writes: “Sustainabillity is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable and what is unjust is not.”

What if we built our laws, not upon feelings, opinions and scriptural interpretations, but upon sustainability? What if we projected two hundred years into the future and refused to do anything that would knowingly cause harm to our descendants, seven generations hence?

What if sustainability was the law of the land?

We might have a stable economy. We might have an educational system that addressed the needs of the students. We might have a food and water distribution system that nourished every citizen. We might have a fair taxation system that we could depend upon for the next few generations. We might have systems that would perpetuate in righteousness, and the politicians would not be able to throw the citizenry into fear so they could be re-elected, because the very way our representatives are elected would be different.

Sustainability isn’t just another buzzword for the decade. It could very well be the definition of social justice, and the salvation of our society.

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1 Comment

Filed under Social Consciousness, Sustainability

One response to “What is Justice?

  1. capncrusty

    “Justice”, to me, means “even-handed treatment”. The legal system should not grant any more credence to a rich guy or a cop than it does to a homeless vet or a convenience store worker. But it does. So we don’t have a “justice” system in this country, we instead have a twisted tradition that measures only a single element of a person’s status–their power–and thus assigns merit is it sees fit.

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