Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Justice: A Loaded Term

The anthropologist in me cringes at the word Justice being casually thrown around with some sort of self important sense of cultural omnipotence. However my inner anthropologist also considers this a great subject to study, in particular the individuals who stand up and cry out for their brand of Justice.

So what's wrong with justice? Certainly my culture and many others capitalize on some generic sense that their way about justice is proper and makes others look subhuman. Well what isn't realized is that justice is relative to the culture you're in, or to some other outside influence (subcultural ideology, religious views, etc.). This is fine and to be expected, however it is also very problematic. Individual brands of "Justice" can be the cause more much controversy, and tedium then the loaded term is worth.

Humanity clings to abstract concepts such as this because we have a ideology camp mentality, that is we prefer being among like minded individuals or enjoy feeling connected to other individuals in a general area through belief systems, and concepts. This cannot be helped, however the closed mindedness of these regulatory ideals can be.

So lets look at the examples the world provides.

A bun of bread is stolen to feed a starving family: Theft in terms of Justice is almost a human universal, and some form of regulation to deal with it is present in almost all cultures. However the punishments, and cultural outlooks of theft differ blatantly. Stealing a bun of bread depending on the culture can land you in social isolation, prison, imponderable discharge from the family, lashings, hand(s) cut off, torture, or death.

Justice may carry a few universal ideals such as not stealing, but the outlooks and ways theft is punished vary so dramatically from culture to culture that the sense of there being an all mighty just way of things is quickly lost in diversity. Few individuals in the western world would consider petty theft of a bun of bread worthy of death, however in cultures with strict religious doctrine or in cultures where food is scarce individuals may feel completely justified in killing a thief for a variety of reasons backed by a sense of Justice being done.

If you can think of a war, rule, law, or regulation there is some form of justice implied by your culture being applied to it. Some may not be so direct, but the bottom line is every culture endorses their own form a justice and anyone within that culture with an independent view are typically viewed as the radical other. This view taken globally starts a ideology war when one country or region of the world claims that their system is much more just than another... and this is where the bias cycle regurgitates itself  among other loaded terms such as freedom, pride, and concepts which are so bias and abstract that they would make most post modernists blush.

Dominate culture sets the bias of the majority of people within it, justice causing some of the most harm historically speaking and still a major source of conflict throughout the world now.

This topic is so huge that I feel I'll probably speak on it again at great length, and showcase more examples and lead into discussion.



It is indeed a subject that needs a wide
open field to consider all the so called "justices" manufactured by the human brain and carried out by human hands.
It is, in every society, a word tossed about with the abandon of a drunken pole dancer. Excellent post. My best

TheDaughterOfTyr said...

Justice, like other ideas, is absolutely influenced by our sociological climates. Moral relativism scares the pants off me.