Justice Now! Justice…What?
The struggle for justice continues. In such times it is helpful to remember those who have gone before so as to enflame our desires and educate our minds. There are ancient words spoken against an unjust people that are relevant for our time. Speaking of the oppressors it was said:
Their justice and authority originate with themselves.
Here was a people of “justice” but it was anything but just. Their conceptions of justice had their foundation and origination from themselves. They recognized no greater law than themselves. For these the adage was apt: might makes right.
But if such is the case with the unjust, what of those who seek justice? Can they also affirm the same principle of autonomous justice and hope to avoid the traps and pitfalls of tyrannical injustice? Is justice arbitrary? If we want to argue that the 1% is not the determiner of justice then we must as assuredly say that the 99% is not the determiner of justice either. Justice must be transcendent or else it bogs down into complete relativism—and relativism is no philosophy upon which to build a renewed society and culture.
Consider that if justice is not transcendent—above human origination—then the current quest for “justice” will eventually be co-opted in favor of forces of injustice. If the origination of justice is human then either its locus of authority is the individual or the group. If it is centered in the individual then each person becomes a law unto herself with the consequence that everyone else is an autonomous law unto themselves. This is moral anarchy. If justice is centered in the group—what the collective dictates—then the issue of relativism is still looms large. What justifies the group’s definition of justice? Groups can and do go astray. To even grant this presupposes a standard by which the group/state/government/collective can be assessed and found wanting. If justice is not transcendent then we are left with either anarchy or tyranny. If we would avoid these unjust scenarios then we must recognize that justice is transcendent. In the words of Martin Luther King:
“The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws. (from "Rediscovering Lost Values")”― Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Protesting for the cause of justice engages the body in a cause of action. No less important, however, is the engagement of the mind. The call to action must be sounded upon clear principles and these principles must be anchored in something more than human origin. Failure to ground the protest for justice in the transcendent will yield simply one more form of human tyranny.