This piece 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 may be worth pursuing even further.
The persecuted and marginalized eventually rise up, claiming more power
But when one thinks about it, this is just one point of view, one among many. Scores of people around the world would not agree with it. I, for example, 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 on a mission to subvert divine order through godless procedure” – while a righteous person in search of peace, stability, and a life “without the binge-and-purge horrors of liberal society” might avoid me like the plague – and they may be right, both of them, at least from their point of view. Bringing people together is not necessarily the way to go for everyone. Some people believe with all their heart that some 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 one is forced to exist alongside attitudes that defeat the purpose of coexistence. They deem some values corrosive, just like open society considers criminal action a threat; just like the environment can’t handle pollution. It’s all about how one defines crime and harmful behavior.
Thus, we’re presented with a multifaceted world that hinges on a number of divergent, and often clashing, notions of order. And justice for all becomes a process in which cultures clash, pitting their points of view against each other. In multicultural societies this is done through tolerant cooperation, coordination, or coexistence. The notion of coming together works in most circumstances, but it tends to get abused down the line. The persecuted and marginalized eventually rise up, claiming more power, exercising a kind of reverse discrimination. Having been oppressed for years, one tends to be 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 a tolerant bedrock, using the rights afforded to them by the system to attack said system and promote uncooperative agendas. 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 you have the abuse that comes from those who are committed to the cause of an inclusive and tolerant society. In the wake of pressure from the groups mentioned above, not to mention the zeal that drives their ideology, they become neurotically critical of anything they deem contrary to openness, and act in rash ways, coming down hard on all who disagree with them, hurting the system, damaging the notion of openness. Historical fact!
On the other hand, we have the non-multicultural societies, the closed and repressed cultures 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 lead to reform or revolution. When these movements become successful, they either bring about a new closed society, a new tyranny and dogma, or give rise to 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 find themselves preserving a number of values in the wake of the mayhem that comes about from rampant deregulation. In other words, they protect what they deem classic and irreducible principles.
Others are rigid because they act in self-defence. When threatened, we lash out, even oppressors – especially oppressors.
Others aren’t justified at all – they’re just bigoted and hateful.
All rigid groups run into trouble when they clash with each other. This includes those who are closed and fanatical from the onset, as well as those who were there first, those who came later, and those who turn rigid in order to protect the notions of openness they so cherish. I keep mentioning the latter because a lot of attention is focused on the classic fanatics/ideologues, but little is said of those who advocate extreme forms of “tolerance”, and who clamp down on our ability to say or do anything, lest it offend them. Viewpoints such as theirs tend to become righteous very fast, seeing enemies everywhere and applying their justice slowly but surely until no one can say anything without breaking some kind of rule.
Ever wonder how tyrannies start? Brawny ones hit you like a ton of bricks, fast, 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 effective tyrannies were consolidated in the name of fairness.
Justice, like it or not, is a relative concept. It’s 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.
If such is the case, let us consider where we stand. We have to know where we are and where we’re coming from to figure out where we’re going. Right now secular justice is looking 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 looking to make a comeback – to reverse the progress of secularism and reintroduce the divine to our affairs.
And then, of course, you have a number of political and cultural notions of justice in play, all of them vying for supremacy, control, or self-determination in various parts of the world, across the globe, from the macro level to the micro.
With this 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 on what the best answer is and how things will pan out (and I won’t presume to give a lecture on how good our world would be if everyone were to join hands – it’s more complicated than that), so here’s 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 some people a just and fair world means eradicating the crime inherent in aggressive attitudes and malicious behaviors.
- For some people a just and fair world means going out in a blaze of glory, in the name of whatever they believe in.
- For some people a just and fair world means doing one’s job and not getting bogged down by politics and righteousness.
An adaptive society is where justice really exists. That means being able to open up when things have clamped down, close down when things are too exposed, and work out the difference when making the transition…
Clearly, 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’s open and inclusive, innovative and daring, fueled by curiosity, discovery and discernment. A scientifically-minded but not spiritually dry society. A society that can stop, turn, and fight for its life when things aren’t working. A society that uses ideology to serve the future, and not the other way round – a system that learns from the past instead of getting stuck in it. It won’t be perfect, but it will do, a survivor with grace. A noble savage with intellect. Lofty words, but why not – they sound good and feel good, and will probably do us good, if we uphold them.
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 even matter. The sad reality is that time is bigger than us, we are transitory and ephemeral, our self-importance too inflated. History never ends, and neither does the process of change and adaptation. Complexity and plasticity are universal axioms. 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 have clamped down, close down when things are too exposed, and work out the difference when making the transition. Because adaptation knows no ideology. It’s a purely intelligent, future-oriented process that transcends ego and self-importance, serving life across time. It’s a forward-thinking dynamic larger than any individual, group, or ideology.
Call it survival spirit.
Eyes open, mind sharp.