The concept of “social justice” can be defined as the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. It’s as good a definition as any—but why should there be social justice?
In To Find The Way Of Love, the point is made that humanity did not have social inequality until we developed hierarchy. Because hierarchy produces (and depends upon) inequality and control, it’s naturally antithetical to the concept of social justice.
The most extreme form of inequality and exploitation within hierarchy is, of course, slavery. Practiced for thousands of years, it’s still tolerated by governments and religions around the world, because slavery has always conveyed economic advantage to slave owners. Forced labor, forced prostitution, forced conscription as soldiers, prison labor (which, according to a recent newspaper article, is now undercutting the private sector)—throughout human history, cheap labor wins out.
Not long ago, the partnership of corporations and state to foster social inequality ended up creating fascism in Italy and Germany. And farther back, many other complex, persistent systems of inequality were established and supported by church and state, sometimes hand-in-glove. Consider the Inquisition, a 500-year atrocity of the church and state together. Or Britain’s doctrine of the “divine right of kings,” promulgated for centuries, that kings derive their right to rule directly from God and are not accountable to their subjects, whose rebellion would be the worst of crimes. (Powerful evidence for the merit of separating church and state…) Thankfully, things are different today. Why?
The demand for social justice grew out of resistance to the oppression practiced by church and state, with their enunciated beliefs that all men and women were NOT created equal and did NOT have certain inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The question of “Why social justice?” can be answered by an innate sense that appears to be part of human nature. What is stunning is that mankind has never lost the drive to be free and equal, never given up the hope for social justice, no matter the personal cost of striving for it.
Oliver & Barbara