Ruminations

Define Justice

Many of us, acknowledging our ineptitude, turned to the definition of injustice. While we could not define justice, we could define what it wasn't. We had all seen unjust things, even experienced injustice personally. Material injustice was easy. The more privileged of us could define it in terms of our guilt, of noticing as we grew that other people did not have all the things we had; the less privileged among us could define it in terms of resentment, always knowing there were others who had more. Interpersonal injustice was harder. Those of us whose fair skin earned us a basic respect, a quiet ease in everyday life, described it as the impetus for the Civil Rights movement. Those who were cursed with more melanin described it as their last ride on the bus, their last interaction with a clerk at a department store downtown.

Our teacher said this inductive reasoning, this working backwards from the definition of justice to the definition of injustice, was a common philosophical exercise, and a good one at that. But I don't think it was intentional. I don't think it showed mastery of reasoning. 

I think we defined justice in terms of injustice because justice is something we've never truly seen and injustice is terribly tangible. I can't put my hands around justice and hold it, running my fingertips over its soft, smooth belly because I don't know how to catch it, don't know what it looks like or sounds like or where to find. I can grasp injustice, choke it until my hands cramp up, my knuckles ache, because I know its rough edges all too well, know its cloying sounds, its nightly haunts. 

In our society, as in every human society, wrong is easy, attainable, all-encompassing. To find the good is hard, to share it, show it off, make it known to others, almost impossible. 

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