Ensuring justice is one of the most essential functions of government because without it one has anarchy. It is also one of the most difficult because injustice is pervasive throughout society and history and is a part of a lot of personalities
The easiest thing about injustice is to document it and some people make careers out of doing that. The most difficult thing is to correct it. Often ideas for correcting injustice are a function of the personality of the person speaking. For example, some people like to tell others how to live their lives and these people promote solutions that do that. .
What is injustice? My favourite verse from the Panchatantra, an ancient book of wisdom literature from India, may help answer the question.
Forget your prosings manifold,
the moral law is easily told.
To help your neighbor, that is good,
to hurt him, that is devilhood.
This simple verse is a lot more complex than it first appears because psychological violence has to be included in the devilhood. From this it follows that whenever somebody is hurt by another person, physically or psychologically, they are the subject of an injustice. This is a general definition and calls into question the commitment by our society to law and order. Some laws, especially those that legislate morals, values, sexuality and religion are themselves unjust.
There are two sources of injustice. The first arises from a shortage of resources such that not everyone can have a comfortable standard of living. Shortages can be temporary such as during a famine or they can be long term such as we are now experiencing where we have used up the most easily accessible energy and mineral resources and those that are left are expensive to extract. This is a long-term problem and to deal with it we have to reduce population and move to a more sharing economy. Easy to say but difficult to do.
This guy believes everyone should have the opportunity for the same standard of living as most other people. If I am right in thinking we are in for a long period of a down economy then we will have to go through a painful adjustment in which many people will think they are being treated unjustly. Justice will require the pain be felt equally.
Most of us most of the time think and act in our own short-term interests as opposed to the long-term interests of the community. This in itself will lead to some injustice. Economic injustice is even worse because of the corporate culture of greed. Many people believe firms have a responsibility to maximize their profits regardless of ethics. The result is that we live with a highly exploitive economy.
The second source of injustice is the negative aspects of human personality. There are people who like to hurt others, who are greedy, who are inconsiderate or who like to tell others how to live their lives. To satisfy these personality traits these people inflict injustices upon others. These are difficult injustices to deal with because we are dealing with people and people who often have a strong commitment to their behaviour. Sometimes they may not see their behaviour as being unjust. The most evil of all people are those who try to force their morals, values, religion or sexuality upon others. Over population makes it difficult escape from injustice inflicted by others.
There are two ways of hurting other people. One can deliberately do something that hurts another or one can refuse to do something another person wants you to do. The second way will at least stress a relationship and may even terminate it. We do not have to have relationships with everyone.
One of the dangers in fighting injustice is that it is easy to replace one with another. Feminism and black lives matter are good examples. Women do sometimes experience injustice and it is wrong for police to kill. However men also experience a lot of injustice and even more when women demand special privileges. Police do not always care about the colour of the people they kill. The greatest injustice against women is that so many end up being lonely old ladies. When a police officer kills somebody they are denying that person the most fundamental premise of justice – the right to answer charges against you.
One of the ways to control other people is to make them feel guilty. A lot of the feminist and black rhetoric is intended to make men and white men feel guilty. We have to suspect some people are trying to power trip us. If you acknowledge that others than just your group suffer injustice, it is more difficult to impose the guilt trip.
It is easy for judicial systems to become a source of injustice. Just ask non custodial parents. Here in British Columbia and probably around the world the feminists have been so successful with their sophisticated arguments (based on sophistry) that fathers are treated to a lot of injustice. We are assumed to be criminals, our children are kidnapped and we are denied the basic principles of justice. It can be very painful to be a caring parent and have your children taken away.
A problem with the courts is a commitment to the rule of law. Some laws are unjust and sometimes laws are applied to situations they were never intended to cover. Judges are/shoud be appointed because of their wisdom and we should demand that they earn their high wages by doing justice rather than just enforcing laws. Judges should have a responsibility to overrule a law they believe unjust and should be required to state their reasons.
Referring back to the verse about hurting people, maybe the guideline for judges should be to minimize the pain.
I want to close this post with three further ideas all of which are sort of related. The first is that justice and the lack of it are religious issues. The Buddha tells us the first truth is that there is suffering. He should have added that there is also pleasure and we should try to minimize one and maximize the other.
The second idea is that sometimes there are no satisfactory answers. People will probably continue to hurt each other forever. One of the functions of religion is to help us cope with this.
Finally, all of us should strive for the best possible relationships and for this we need a more or less equal exchange. A person who has a psychological need to hurt others may be able to find someone with a need to be hurt. For the rest of us, we need to go back to the verse near the top of this post.
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