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Know Your Rights – And Be Ready To Defend Them – Part 2

This Article is a continuation from yesterday’s Know Your Rights – And Be Ready To Defend Them – Part 1

All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” begins with the following quote: “In times of tyranny and injustice when law oppresses the people, the outlaw takes his place in history.”

Finding the overlap between different cultures and their given notions of justice with the aim to make everything come together is a great challenge. Acknowledging the need for differing viewpoints to coexist is what has brought different cultures together, creating a more practical world to live in, and it may be worth pursuing further.

But when one thinks about it a little more, this is just one point of view. One among many. Scores of people around the world would not agree with it. I, for example, may deem it a just and fair way to approach life, but a religious person who believes that justice lies in the word of God may deem me “a demon trying to subvert divine order through godless procedure” – and a righteous person seeking peace, stability and a life “without the binge-and-purge horrors that come with a liberal society” may avoid me like the plague – and they may be right, at least from their point of view. Bringing people together is not necessarily the way to go for everyone. Some people believe that certain principles cannot be watered down. They feel that not every point of view is valid and that coexistence is a moot point, at least when being forced to exist alongside attitudes that defeat the purpose of coexistence. They deem certain values corrosive, just like open society considers criminal action a threat; just like the environment cannot handle pollution. It’s all about how one defines crime and harmful behavior.

Thus, we are presented with a multifaceted world that is hinged on various, divergent, and often clashing notions of order. And justice for all suddenly becomes a process whereby various cultures clash, pitting their points of view against each other. In multicultural societies this is done through tolerant cooperation, coordination, or coexistence. The notion works in most circumstances, but it tends to get abused down the line, as people once persecuted or marginalized rise up, claiming more power, exercising a kind of reverse discrimination. Being oppressed for years tends to make one rather grumpy and not overly concerned with fairness across the board. Historical fact.

The system also gets abused when less tolerant belief systems take root in the tolerant bedrock, using the rights afforded to them by that system in order to attack that system and promote their uncooperative creeds. Some individuals are just opportunistic or aggressive in that way and there’s nothing one can do about it other than deal with them. Historical fact.

Then of course you have the abuse that comes from those who are totally committed to the cause of an inclusive and tolerant society. In the wake of pressure from groups mentioned above, not to mention the zeal that drives their own ideology, they tend to become neurotically critical of anything they deem contrary to openness, and begin to act in rash ways, hurting the system. Historical fact.

Balance is achieved when notions of justice that uphold the concept of balance and notions that don’t are brought together. It is a phenomenon, not a principle (image by www.backgroundnow.com – on flickr.com)

On the other hand, we have the non-multicultural societies, the closed and repressed ones, where justice is upheld through the power of rigid ideologies and dominant groups. This invariably leads to the persecution and marginalization of secondary groups over time, which leads to the creation of opposition movements that often lead to reform or revolution. When these movements become successful, they either bring about a new closed society, a new tyranny and dogma – or they create a fairer and more inclusive system, which eventually leads full circle to tolerance, openness and multiculturalism, which in turn promote innovation and progress but also new rigidity.

Some of these rigid groups are justified in being rigid insofar that they are trying to preserve certain values in the wake of the mayhem that comes about from rampant deregulation, protecting what they deem classic, irreducible principles. Others are justified in being rigid when resisting groups that are too aggressive in themselves. Others are not justified at all; they are just bigoted and hateful.

All rigid groups run into trouble when they conflict with each other. This includes those who are closed and fanatical from the onset, as well as those who were their first, those who came later, and those who are becoming rigid in order to protect the notions of openness they so cherish. I keep mentioning the latter because a lot of focus is placed on the classic fanatics and ideologues, who habitually cause trouble for others, but little is said of those who advocate extreme forms of “tolerance”, clamping down on anyone’s ability to say or do anything lest it offend someone else. Viewpoints such as theirs tend to become righteous very fast, seeing enemies everywhere and applying their justice slowly but surely until no one can really say anything without breaking some sort of rule. Ever wonder how tyrannies start? Brawny ones hit you like a ton of bricks pretty quick, but smart ones come on slow, steady, through the death by a thousand regulations. Yes, bigotry and closed-mindedness have a way of surfacing under the guise of “positive” and “protective” initiatives. Some of the most effectivetyrannies were consolidated in the name of fairness.

Clearly justice is a relative concept. It is an absolute process with varying outcomes, each pertaining to who holds power at what time, in what surroundings. It depends on how people relate to their environment, how they react to changes around them. It shifts with time, championing the victorious points of view and the prevalent zeitgeist. In fact, in realistic terms, one could say that justice is the offspring of power.

No matter how tolerant or civilized, differing points of view have to fight it out. Their prevalence depends on how well they fare alongside or against each other. (Photo by Carl Chapman, Wikimedia Commons)

If such is the case, let us consider where we stand. We have to know where we are and where we are coming from to figure out where we are going. Right now secular justice is trying to consolidate itself across the globe, among roughly 4 to 4.5 billion religious people (out of a total seven billion), deeming itself to have come a long way from the Middle Ages, making good progress along the way. On the other hand religious justice is trying to make a comeback and reverse the progress of secularism, looking for a little divine compassion. And then of course you have various political and cultural notions of justice across the globe, all of them vying for supremacy, control, or self-determination in various parts of the world, from the macro level to the micro. With this being our reality, we need to know where we belong before we can make statements about a just and fairer world.

Once we identify where we stand, we can then devote ourselves to the notion of justice we deem most appropriate, to each our own, and fight hard for it so that it may prevail and stand tall for as long as it can. I have no comprehensive answer for what the best answer is and how things will pan out (and I will not presume to give you a lecture on how a good world is one where everyone joins hands – it’s more complicated than that), so here is a rounded outlook. For some people a just and fair world involves being tolerant and accepting all points of view, laying the foundation for a collaborative society. For others it means eradicating the crime inherent in aggressive attitudes and malicious behaviors. For others it means going out in a blaze of glory, in the name of whatever they believe in. For others it means just doing one’s job and not getting bogged down by politics and righteousness. We all have a distinct way of promoting a just world.

From my point of view – and I would like to position myself now – a society that moves forward is a society that is open and inclusive, promoting innovation and discovery. It is one that is scientifically minded, but not spiritually dry. It is also one which can stop, turn and fight for its life when things are clearly not working. It is not a perfect society, but a survivor with grace. A noble savage with intellect. Anything else just doesn’t make it through.

Having a small understanding of history and evolution, I would say that in the end it doesn’t really matter. All notions of right and wrong are suffused with vanity. In the end life seeks out the best outcome, mutating in ways that enable it to survive. The adaptable evolve, the dinosaurs perish, and life goes on. An adaptive society is where justice really exists. That means being able to open up when things are clamped down, close down when things are too exposed, and work out the difference when making the transition. Because adaptation knows no ideology. It is a purely intelligent, future-oriented process that transcends ego and self-importance, serving life across time. It is a forward-thinking dynamic larger than any individual, group, or ideology. Call it the survival spirit.

Eyes open, mind sharp.

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