If you are a long time reader of my blog, it will come as absolutely no surprise that I am a firm believer in the power of the individual to make a difference. And I believe in this power not only in the small or even medium things, but in the big things. One such big thing is justice.
The fact that there is no justice in so many (if not all) countries where the legal system is theoretically designed to bring about justice, reminds me of the fact that there can be no progress at the level of society if there is no progress at the level of the individual. This dual moral process works hand in hand; a just system can only be designed by just people, and just people flourish in a just system.
Justice is a complex issue which will take years, if not decades (hopefully not centuries) to figure out; this is why it is important that more and more individuals set their hearts and minds on understanding and practicing it in their day to day lives, so that their experiences will feed into a discourse on justice which will help fashion a system that is increasingly just.
It is incredibly exciting to see the increasing number of people are standing up for the cause of justice. One of my preferred examples is that of Pink Shirt Day, which started when two high school boys stood up to bullies who were mistreating a fellow male student for wearing pink by, quite simply, wearing pink themselves. Actually, they bought 50 pink tank tops and distributed them to everyone who would support them.
There are many, many other such examples. The most recent one unfortunately began quite horrifically with the brutal gang rape of a 23 year-old woman in Delhi last month. But what followed was very inspiring. This incident did not go unnoticed like so many rapes in that city do. Instead, thousands upon thousands have poured into the streets to protest. What a huge shift, one that is making my Indian friends so proud of their country these days – with reason!
While even more awareness is definitely needed, it’s not enough. It feels like we are reaching a tipping point, where everyone is going to agree that certain long standing injustices are not acceptable anymore. We that are already aware of these injustices have to take the next step, to start forging ahead on this path to creating a just society.
But, well… What is this next step? There is so much injustice in the world that it is a little overwhelming at times, and easy to forget that we can make a difference. That’s why I have a feeling we should start at the simple level of person-to-person interactions. Are we being just to those we interact with in our day-to-day lives? And at the same time, are we being just to ourselves? If we learn to balance out in each of our relationships, an approach that is just towards both parties, these learnings will no doubt infuse every aspect of our lives.
Something a friend of mine recently told me was that she stood up for herself and others when treated unjustly, even if it is the smallest act of injustice, because she wants to live in such a world; she can’t hope for a just world if the her own, personal bubble is not being cleaned out of injustices.
Even in communities that spans the globe and are attempting to build a new, better world, because they are placed within the dross of the current world, injustice happens all the time. It comes as a big surprise to me that more members of these communities do not voice their concerns when they see unjust acts occurring. If we are not able to voice our concerns about acts of injustice perpetrated at the level of the grassroots, then do we have the moral authority to voice our concerns about acts of injustice perpetrated at any other level?
As mentioned previously, one can attempt to learn about such things in the smallest building block of society: the family. When a child sees a parent preferring one child over the others, however subtle this preference might be expressed, said child should consider, in a loving, respectful manner, consulting with their parent in an attempt to create a more just family environment. The next level is that of close friends, i.e. our chosen family. When a friend is actively shunning another friend, then it should be up to all the other common friends to voice their concern.
One of the main challenges in such an exercise is that it creates great discomfort that is immediately chalked up to disunity. We have to get over this misconception; consulting on how to create justice, however uncomfortable it might be, cannot cause disunity unless the ego infects the conversation. If all participants in such a consultation strive to keep their egos at bay as much as possible, the discomfort is merely part of growing pains. If a child were to stop growing every time it experienced growing pains, it wouldn’t grow much, would it!
This is not to say that we should just voice our concerns anywhere, anytime. There are other things to keep in mind, such as tact and wisdom. But most importantly of all, we should only voice our concern about injustice for the sake of the community, and not to soothe one’s ego. There is no doubt in my mind that humanity is at a stage where it can start having these discussions regularly, and achieve higher and higher levels of justice that it has never been able to achieve before.
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 5 January 2013.