I’m not much of a television person so I obtain my news via the Internet. Although I am currently not residing in the United States I have to admit I am both surprised and unsurprised by the recent shooting in Arizona which has left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition amongst another 13 wounded and 6 dead. I’m surprised, not because of death, but rather by people who willingly take the lives of others into their own hands. I suppose the way that I’ve always looked at it is that if one does not want to live then I suppose that’s one’s choice, but to take the lives of others into one’s own hands… well that is selfish and unacceptable. Maybe it’s not so much that one doesn’t want to live but rather that one wants to get across hers/his point of view, if that is the case, one should not resort to violence. We are all living animals and as a very particular kind of animal, as human beings, we ought to use other methods of expression as we are very capable of doing so; for instance, having verbal dialogues with one another, to discuss and respect each other or expressing feelings, ideas and concepts via visual stimuli like art and photography. I suppose I’m asking too much of people, as a human race we’ve had thousands of years of violence and warfare, what should make me believe that the 21st century would be any different? I guess the truth of the matter is that I don’t believe that the 21st century is any different, however having that said, I know I do wish that people would stop resorting to discrimination, prejudices and violence to try to prove that they are correct or that their beliefs are accurate and I suppose it’s the violence that is unsurprising – which I have to admit, that in it of itself is rather disturbing.
This isn’t the first violent act in the past two weeks. As many people already know, I’m currently residing in Egypt. On New Year’s Eve there was a bombing in Alexandria at a Coptic Christian Church in which 70 people were hurt and at least 21 were killed. Following the bombing were protests in which participants clashed with the Egyptian police. This isn’t the only bombing… On January the 8th, at least 17 people were killed and 23 others were injured in a suicide attack at a public bath house in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. On the same day in Honduras, gunmen opened fire on a minibus and killed 8 people, four women and four children – the motive, still under investigation.
What is the world coming to, what has the world become, or maybe the question ought to be, why is the world in a state of barbaric perpetuity? Are we as a human race, incapable of acknowledging, accepting and respecting the existence of difference? I’m not asking for people to be “tolerant” since the notion of “tolerance” is really just a politically correct term that suggests the acceptance and approval of prejudices rather than truly understanding and respecting “the other” – whatever “the other” may be or represent (there’s a great book by Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire, which I have as a PDF if anyone would like to read it – she focuses on the concept of tolerance, her book is simultaneously liberating and frightening when one engages in contemplation over the subject).
Part of me would like to believe that with the application of law via the State means that some notion of justice is delivered or upheld. But I guess that begs the question of what is justice and all the other variously problematic questions that follow. For instance, how is justice experienced, why is justice important, who (or what) determines what is and isn’t considered justice, who delivers and receives justice, is our conceptual understanding of justice universal, if not, then under what conditions or circumstances does justice become irrelevant and who determines that…? The questions are endless, but it seems to me (based partially on this past semester’s research) that there are two different forms of justice: (1) Justice as a term that is synonymous with the term “fair” or “fairness” where the emphasis is on equality and fairness, and (2) Justice that looks to and matches merit, a claim that suggests people should be given what they deserve (Raphael, D.D. (2003). Concepts of Justice. New York: Oxford University Press.). From my understanding, it would seem then that the notion of justice is always subjective, the reason being that one first needs to understand, perceive and define the notion of what is “fair” before one can engage in the deliberation of determining “fairness”. Similarly, if one understands justice in its second definition, as looking to and matching merit, then justice in this sense is also, subjective for the same reasons as viewing justice as being synonymous with “fair” or “fairness”. If one defines MERIT as: (1) value that deserves respect and acknowledgement, (2) a good or praiseworthy characteristic that somebody or something has, or (3) proven ability or accomplishment (Encarta Dictionary, 2007), then, one can again, identify the same problems, who or what assigns merit, how would one measure merit, or in other words, based on what standards or qualifications is ‘’merit’ evaluated and for what purpose(s) does it serve and so forth.
From here, the initial questions resurface and one becomes re-situated at the beginning of the exploration with the very first inquiry, how is justice experienced? I strongly believe that the notion of experience is fundamental in comprehending how abstract ideas like justice, is construed. Experience is also fundamental in understanding how concrete manifestations of ideas like violence, is construed and ultimately executed. One’s experience is essentially the primary factor that dictates human life. Sure, we have the ability to rationalize logically, but before one commences with analytical thought, one first encounters an experience in which the result is contemplation. For instance, ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras first experienced via visual stimuli the reoccurring patterns in life which later led to his development of mathematical and astronomical theories. Similarly, ideas of justice and equality have been expanded upon over thousands of years via collective personal experiences. For instance, civil rights, minority rights and women’s rights all arose from collective personal experiences of unequal treatment and other forms of discrimination which led to discontentment and ultimately a revolt against the status quo. In addition, the perpetuating acts of prejudice, discrimination and racism are also propelled (in part) through experience (e.g. what is seen via the media, experiences within one’s own personal life, etc.). It would seem then that the manifestations of what one believes represent justice is therefore always subjective, as it is when one (individually or collectively) experiences the difference(s) in treatment when one begins to question, challenge and advocate for change. So as referenced in the title of today’s entry, how then does justice breed new forms of violence?
If justice is supposed to be the changes in which the “other” is included within the status quo, one might not come to the conclusion that justice would breed new forms of injustice and violence as it would seem counterproductive or even counterintuitive. On the contrary, when new forms of justice are incorporated (via concepts, legal legislation, morals, etc.), new ways of injustice and violence must be created in order to bypass new understandings of individuals or groups of individuals, in other words, new “victims” are created followed by the creation of new villains. In this sense, the concept of “utopia” can never be achieved as the idea of “justice” is never universal or all-encompassing but rather subjective and ever-changing and evolving. The reason being that one cannot predict all the injustices that might occur in the not so distant future as they unravel and reveal themselves through the addition of new justices. Justice then, cannot exist without injustice, thus as one frontier is conquered, another is left exposed. What then does this suggest about humanity? Are we forever left in a state of chaos and war and never everlasting peace? Perhaps that’s the tradeoff, with new technology, new ways of thinking, we must also find new ways of coexisting peacefully with each other, except the focus of society is no longer on coexistence, but rather individuality, the progression of self-development and self-sufficiency. Of course true to form I will argue that this in itself is paradoxical or at least ironic as contemporary society yearns for a thing called the “global community” – again based on a collection of self-sufficient individuals. This for me then breeds a new set of questions… would an emphasis on community be ideal and thus minimize injustice and violence? Honestly and unfortunately, I think not, although I do believe that more community oriented societies have a different sense of what justice ought to be, one that is more encompassing of others than one that is based in individuality and tolerance. So… where does that leave one in terms of justice, violence, and in general, life? If one agrees or at least can follow my train of thought, then one might ask, then what is the function of social change if universal justice does not exist and thus cannot be achieved? Would social justice be in vain or are they merely “trench warfare” battles in which humanity tries to win as many as possible when injustices become too obvious to hide and override with the status quo. Lastly, for me at least, it begs a bigger philosophical question, what does this suggest about human nature?