A call from Justice
Life isn’t fair. What is it within our souls that makes us cringe at those words? They’re true, aren’t they? They’re drummed into every child by the age of five, when she first drops a lollipop in the dirt.
So why, even now, against all our adult experiences of disappointment, tragedy and loss, do they still have the power to make us hurt?
If a human being puts his finger on a hot stove, he will feel pain. That’s an innate reflex built into people, put there for our protection.
If a human being feels injustice he will feel pain. That’s built into people too, and for the same reason.
To want justice is to be human. Every exposé we’ve ever seen, every lament, every sad story, every unnecessary disaster, each one tugs on the same place in our minds, plucks the same heartstrings.
Justice is the word that hides, naked and ashamed, beneath the uncorrupted depths of the human heart. It has called to us since the beginning of time. I believe it is time we listened.
It is no longer enough to be, vaguely, in a general way, in favor of justice. Since the beginning of recorded history we have dreamed of a fairer, more just world. Time and again we have placed our trust in “isms,” hoping that this idea or that would produce the justice we seek.
Time and again the “isms” fail us. They are failing us today. Socialism is a spent force, capitalism is devouring itself. “We need to find a third way!” How many times have you heard that lament? How many years have we spent looking for that elusive third way?
But the third way is not elusive, it’s mythological. Private activity isn’t all that private, public activity is practiced by private individuals. We can talk about the economic balance, but that’s not where the heart of the matter lies.
Economics is mechanical, it’s a method. Capitalism and socialism are left and right when where we really need to look is up.
Unfortunately, we’ve allowed our methods to become ideologies. Ideology forces one to deny at least half of human nature. Free market ideologues pretend that the markets decide the outcomes of everything, and to interfere with them is not only useless, it’s blasphemous. They don’t really think that way, not with their whole natures. Otherwise the most successful among them wouldn’t spend the second halves of their lives giving it all away to charity. But free markets are their god, and homage must be paid.
Socialists pretend that the collective is everything, that the profit motive is selfish at best, sinful at worst. They pretend to believe in a utopia where all property is public, shared, and equally distributed. They don’t really think that way, not with their whole natures. They know that people need a sense of ownership and the incentive to get off the couch and do something. But socialism is their god and homage must be paid.
Those fixations are the result of making a method the measure of virtue. Both sides believe that only their methods can possibly produce a just result. Yet neither has done so; ideology is just an excuse for willful blindness.
The question isn’t whether our methods comply with our preconceived notions of what should work. The question is do those notions work to bring more justice or otherwise?
We’ve pummeled our way through five thousand years of history, hoping that somehow, justice would come into the world as a byproduct of this or that “ism.” If we weren’t so mesmerized by our pet methods we’d see them for what they are: contingent, speculative, changeable, even disposable.
What is timeless is our deep, universal yearning for fairness, for justice. Justice is the organizing principle of the human heart.
It can also be the organizing principle of human society. Not as a byproduct, but as our stated, explicit goal.
If we want justice, we must fight for justice, directly, overtly, tirelessly. The “ism” we seek is right before our eyes. It has been all along. Justism.
I can hear the objections now. What is Justism? How do you define it? Maybe what I call justice you call travesty.
We can argue about that, in fact, we should argue about that. It would certainly elevate the conversation.
We spend all our lives calling for justice while all along it is calling for us. This would be a good time to answer.
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