Justice -vs- Social Justice
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Groucho Marx said that military justice bore the same relationship to justice that military music bore to music. One might also say that social justice bears the same relationship to justice as social housing bears to housing (or social security to financial security).
Individual justice has always been about equality "before the law". The history of English Law has had much to do with ensuring that - as far as practicable - the law applied equally to all. It may be that the affection in which "equality" is held in Britain has much to do with this history. But there is a big difference between treating individuals equally and trying to equalise relationships between social groups.
Women earn less than men. Tall people earn more than short people. Both statements are true, on average, but unless you understand why, you are in danger of doing profound injustice if you try to rectify the inequality group by group. It is certainly a mistake to assume - as social justice merchants always do - that the group at a disadvantage was put there by the other.
I am tall and I conform to the group stereotype of being a high earner but I don't oppress short people. I don't even laugh at them (much). Equally, I am a man and I have never knowingly oppressed a women (though I have been oppressed by one or two). Attacking the "social" injustice by punishing me as part of an "oppressor" group is to do profound injustice.
So often, that is precisely what governments focussed on "social justice" attempt. Having identified an "oppressed" or "vulnerable" group in need of help, they look for a relatively better-off group to characterise as "the oppressor." Then they penalise that group in order to "equalise" it with the other.
The results of this simple-minded thinking have been catastrophic. Consider the following examples. Would you describe them as just?
- A heterosexual man is murdered on his way home from the pub. A homosexual man is murdered on the same route the next day. Both killers are caught and prosecuted. The second murder is deemed a "hate crime" and so the punishment is more severe. The first is presumably, as Gene Hunt put it, "an I really, really like you crime."
- A nurse offers to pray for a patient and does not press the matter when the patient declines. She is subject to disciplinary action for "failing to show a commitment to equality and diversity." The logic appears to be that she is part of an "oppressor" religious majority from whom "oppressed" religious minorities must be protected.
In the first example, in effect, society values the heterosexual's life less than the homosexual's. Presumably the justification is that the homosexual belonged to an "oppressed group" but no regard is had to whether the dead heterosexual or his grieving family belonged to the "oppressors." Both men are equally dead. As individuals, it seems to me that both were equally important and that both killers were equally bad. It is nothing less than evil to treat the murder of one as "worse" than the murder of another.
In the second example, I am at a loss to understand why what the Christian nurse did was any worse (or to put it sensibly) any less kind, than if a
Muslim nurse offered to pray to Allah for me. If that happened, I would not be offended, I would be touched. In my recent family crisis, friends from all over the world offered to pray to their various Gods for me. Atheist though I am, I was moved. Who in their right minds would not be? They were expressing concern for me and my family and their intent must, in any sane world, count for something.
It seems to me that social justice is a very long way from justice and that "social" is a prefix generally to be regarded with suspicion.
Yes, with the consequence that it's no longer true. Ambitious parents in Britain should now encourage their children **not** to go to university (unless it's one that people outside Britain have heard of).
Posted by: Tom | Friday, August 14, 2009 at 01:39 PM
V.Good- However as a person of challenged height- I demand my rights to have more height ;-)
Posted by: Guthrum | Friday, August 14, 2009 at 11:54 AM
Don't muddy the waters. Statistics clearly show the undeserving tall earn consistently more than most hard working British families who do not enjoy such an unfair advantage, you can't avoid it.
But We should not punish you for being tall, that would not be fair. No your parents are to blame, unfairly improving your chances with their unfairly tall genes.
One solution would be a law that insisted any couple planning to have a child should average 5'10" In height between them. The taller the man or woman, the shorter their partner would need to be. There would be stringent penalties for flouting the law.
An alternative might be leg bone shortening surgery, or the free issue of elevating inserts to the shoes of the less fortunate.
That way we can help equalise the income of all and put and end once and for all to height related poverty.
Statistics apparently also show that those who attend university have significantly greater earning power. Attendance should be compulsory, thus boosting everyone's income (providing they are not taller)...
Oh! Didn't we do that already?
Posted by: Moggsy | Friday, August 14, 2009 at 11:19 AM
Wow, you really ran with these prompts.
While the second case seems totally bizarre, I'm very suspicious that there is more to it than meets the eye in that linked article. Perhaps she is a bit more forceful than she let on, only her side there after all.
But if it is as stated there, it sounds as if the UK is turning/has turned into a very sad place. failing to show a commitment to equality and diversity Huh? Is that the best they could do?
Posted by: JMB | Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 08:13 AM
Not half as disappointed as I, sir. That story was well and trenchantly covered elsewhere in the British political blogosphere. The government disputes the details, but it doesn't matter. The story does no more than prove (a) the British government is completely out of its box, and (b) British citizens are slumbering their way to the loss of everything that made Britain worthy of their loyalty.
Posted by: Tom | Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 03:19 AM
Good stuff - good writing.
Based on the name of the blog I expected to see comments on the heinous actions of the British government recently. Specifically, the placing of government spy cameras in homes where there "may" be problems. I beleive the initial number is 5000 homes. That is absolutely Orwellian. Is the British citizenry asleep or are they zombies? No disrespect intended - Im just very disappointed.
Posted by: [email protected] | Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 11:02 PM
Thank you. I entirely agree about Glenister's performance, which was wonderful. I have fixed the link to point to him.
Posted by: Tom | Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 08:49 PM
Very good post.
The link to Gene Hunt goes to the US series.
Philip Glenister's portrayal of the Gene genie is better.Loutish and humorous, a little bit bent but straight and upstanding too.A fine performance from the actor. I wonder if he enjoyed playing that part.
And the actress who plays the WPC in the Brirish series does a better job too.
Posted by: Kevyn Bodman | Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 08:24 PM
Yes I totally agree with you on all of that.
It is very well written and thought out.
Thank you for sharing such clarity of thought.
Posted by: Fay Levoir | Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 07:52 PM
Excellent post. Completely agree.
Posted by: RobW | Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 02:16 PM