Justice for All: The Case for Legal, Social, Economic, and Personal Justice
In recent years, the world has seen a growing amount of civil unrest, political strive, economic instability, financial insecurity, violent outbursts, emotional/relationship conflicts, and a general decline in social cohesion. Part of this degenerative trend may well come from a real and/or perceived view that society is becoming fundamentally unjust. While parts of the world have long been deprived of legal justice, those who know it lose faith in the system when judicial review becomes little more than a superficial justification for government overlooking social grievances or it becomes bogged down in technicalities and lawyer speak.
Justice is the social institution that ensures an individual constrains his, or her, actions for the benefit of the whole by offering some guarantee his, or her, most pressing interests will be addressed by society. When society fails to adequately address the interests of individuals, it is the innate desire for justice that drives communities and individuals to demand offenders attempt to address their offending grievances and offer some sort of restitution for their actions. Justice is what we need to feel the rules of our society are worth following. It is when we feel violated and unheard or we lack choice that we feel the world is unjust. That said, justice is not simply about building a legal system that safeguards us from criminal acts. There is also a need for social, economic, and personal justice.
The idea of social justice stems from a need to offer all members of society equal opportunities to enjoy the privileges and rights afforded to all other members of the community. Largely thanks to the Civil Rights Movement of the Twentieth Century, America has learned individuals should not simply be condemned by society or judged by individuals solely on innate or potentially offensive characteristics. We have come to understand personal merit should be the determinate of someone's social position. Unfortunately, there remain communities of disempowered individuals who have been locked into degenerative circumstances where there is little to no real, or perceived, opportunity to escape. The value of personal merit, therefore, is greatly diminished for these persons as disempowerment is a lack of choice in terms of opportunities to improve one's social standing.
Furthermore, the concept of economic justice builds on the value of personal merit. Clearly, not everyone is born with the same privileges or hurdles, but economic justice hinges on a system that rewards personal merit that benefits society and punishes wrongdoings that hurt society. When people see Wall Street executives, who have maintained or bolstered their privileged positions after causing Americans and all the Peoples of the world untold hardships with the Great Recession, they feel a lack of economic justice. Someone born into a low socioeconomic family, who works hard, tries to be all that he can be, and seeks to do work the world needs, yet finds his basic needs are overlooked when no one will hire him for a job that offers purpose or advancement, feels economic injustice, especially when employers choose to hire uninterested, incompetent workers over him for even basic entry level jobs. In turn, a lack of economic justice is thoroughly demoralizing on a personal level and costs society in terms of unrealized opportunities.
Finally, the need for personal justice comes from a failure of society to punish individuals for selfish, socially degenerative, yet legal, behavior. Personal justice is not revenge as there is room for redemption and forgiveness. It is when we are always asked to turn the other cheek, especially if we have the ability to cause great pain to those who casually hurt us on a continual basis, that we crave personal justice. For example, the innate human need to be loved is often abused by self-serving, egocentric individuals looking to fulfill their own whims without concern for the needs of others. Creating the illusion of love, these people are, at the most, only capable of long-term hookups and other arrangements devoid of honest love. Their actions leave victims searching for the imperfect perfect model they came to love when they cannot find replacements who do actually love them and can fill the holes cut into their hearts. Personal justice is lacking when individuals and communities no longer offer open and honest criticism of such behavior. People need to be scolded when they cause others great hurt, especially if they could have spent a few moments of their time when it mattered the most to alleviate a lifetime of pain with honesty.
Although a lack of legal justice undermines the fabric of society, all forms of injustice cause damage to our communities and personal relationships. We live in communities to improve the quality of our lives, but people only have an interest in serving the interests of society when their interests are addressed. It is when society no longer serves the interests of the People that social order loses its value, starting with those who have been most neglected. Justice is, however, not simply the responsibility of elected officials and civil servants. Justice can only be served in all of its forms when all the People of a society fight for justice. Finally, it is important to remember people turn to revenge when justice fails them while revenge only further undermines community.