Another theme that is emerging from the interviews on this blog is Justice.
We are accustomed to thinking of justice in punitive terms—a person commits a crime and is punished. Or that justice is blind. What does that mean, anyway?
But really, justice is so much more than this. Baha’u’llah describes justice as the “best beloved of all things” in the sight of God. The Prosperity of Humankind explains that as we become aware of the oneness of humanity, justice is the force that allows us to convert this awareness into collective will and build a prosperous and thriving global civilization. It operates at both the individual level and the level of society.
The Individual—Justice as a Skill
We’ve all met someone who has a keen sense of justice, who easily distinguishes right from wrong. Developing justice within ourselves, we are able to see with our own eyes and not through the eyes of others. We investigate the truth of an issue for ourselves, rather than relying on others’ information and opinions. Acting with justice, we treat everyone we meet with equity and fairness.
This path takes daily effort: Am I being fair? Am I being just in my judgments? But the rewards are tremendous. No longer are we ruled by our own prejudices or by others’ expectations. We think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions. The more we practice this skill, the stronger it becomes.
Society—Justice as an Environment
At the society level, justice takes on another dimension. When we choose justice as the guiding principle in our social groups, organizations, businesses and governance, we create a consultative environment where we can really look at all the options before us and choose a course of action that works for everyone. Justice is the best antidote for the partisanship that tears us apart. It prevents manipulation by special interests. When we look at every proposal with the light of justice, we will be able to see if it really serves the interests of all humankind, or if it is designed to benefit a few.
Justice in Food
Katherine Deumling, in Delicious Food, Fair Food, talks about the justice of food. With our present structures, if you pay farm workers a living wage, the food becomes too expensive. Those with modest incomes can’t afford to eat. Yet farmers and their workers deserve a decent life too.
Maybe we spread the work around a little more and solve other problems at the same time. We are starting to understand that sitting at a desk for 8-10 (or 12 or 14) hours a day is wreaking havoc on our health. So maybe we mix it up a bit—give everyone a chance to get some sunshine, fresh air and air conditioned desk work. Maybe we set up rooftop gardens on office buildings, or team-building expeditions to the blueberry farm. The point is, we humans are endlessly creative. We are always coming up with new ideas, new structures, new ways of doing things. We don’t have to accept “that’s just the way it is.” If we approach this issue from the principle of justice, we’ll find a solution that works for all of us.
Justice in Resource Management
Micah McCarty touches on justice in Prosperous Ecosystems. In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed to protect the dwindling populations of sea lions, dolphins, whales, polar bears and other marine mammals. The effort has been a great success—sea lions, at least, have rebounded. But now we have a problem that this piece of legislation did not anticipate: there are too many sea lions. They are not only threatening the survival of other species, they are starting to abandon their own young.
Again, looking at this issue with the light of justice, we can examine all sides dispassionately. We don’t have to hang on to solutions that were once necessary, but are now causing problems—dangerous problems—for other parts of the ecosystem. What would it look like to protect our entire ecosystem, rather than just one or two endangered species? What action would be needed? What structures would we need to create? What would we humans need to change in our patterns of behavior?
Building New Models
We’ve become accustomed to a world of conflict, of competing factions and outright violence. We may not like what we see, but we believe that’s how the world works.
We humans are capable of so much more than this! When we look at issues with the light of justice—what is fair for everyone—it fires up our imagination and we begin to challenge old assumptions, reach for new possibilities and create viable, lasting, prosperous solutions. We have the capacity, we are developing the skill and we are beginning to re-imagine how we do things.