By Abel Merawi
December 16, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Just as we want our basic needs met, we also want justice. If democracy is to be praised, it should be primarily praised for bringing the idea of justice to the forefront. Justice represents the idea of equality, fairness, correction of wrongs, and any noble direction taken to create righteousness. It is worth remembering that justice is social by its nature since it originates from the society and later becomes the foundation for our justice system. Thus, it may not be necessary to attach an adjective to it such as social or political justice. Nevertheless, social justice is a commonly used phrase that represents fairness to those oppressed by a system or social order. This is not wrong in its intention, yet the word justice suffices since it embodies social or any other form of justice. The confusion and the problem occur when we disguise cosmic justice in the name of social justice by blaming society for natural and historical injustice.
As a working definition, cosmic justice could be taken as a way to correct natural and historical inequalities that are not created by society but by natural and cosmic forces. Let us consider the following scenarios that resemble actual life and attempt to distinguish which ones seek justice and which ones seek cosmic justice. (1) We live in a developing country and it would be unjust for developed countries to enjoy all the privileges; therefore, they are obliged to help us. (2) Women are currently mistreated, so justice could only exist when they are treated equally. (3) Our society is a technical one while yours is technological, thus it is fair to take away some of your achievement. (4) You are rich while I am poor; it is unjust for you to have so much wealth while I can barely survive. (5) African Americans are systematically oppressed and are victims of police brutality, so we seek a sort of justice that can put a stop to it. (6) Our ancestors were oppressed by the Roman Empire, so we want the people that currently live in the land to pay compensation and apologize. (7) We are denied access to job opportunities based on our ethnicity, we demand justice that grants access based on merit rather than ethnic background. When we look at the above scenarios, in situations 1, 3, 4 and 6 people are seeking cosmic justice, while in situations 2, 5 and 7, people are demanding real justice. This shows that social injustice is caused by society whereas cosmic injustice originates from natural and historical happenstances.
When elaborating the meaning of cosmic justice, Thomas Sowell states, “The unfairness or injustice that remains after society has done its best cannot be called a social injustice, though it is an injustice in some cosmic sense – extending beyond society‘s rules and practices – because it goes back to happenstances into which people are born.” In the same spirit, it is unjust that some people live in poverty due to natural calamities while others enjoy the favor of nature. But this is not the fault of society, which makes it absurd to point fingers on the fortunate as if they are the cause of this natural injustice. Society is expected to provide for its members, and it should be blamed if the system does not put the unfortunate members into consideration. Yet, after the social system has done everything possible, it would be unfair to speak of social injustice.
Currently, there are groups across the globe, seeking cosmic justice by making it appear like social justice. The most common one is the resentment the poor hold against the rich. I am not saying that it is true in every case, but it is important to draw the line. Ayn Rand in her fictional work called ‘Atlas Shrugged’ shows this situation in detail. The book shows how the deserving rich, who accumulated their wealth through creativity and fair trade are treated as evil monopolists by the government and the society. The government creates various systems to take control of their wealth and industries by accusing them of robbing the society and with the excuse that the poor need it more. They use the slogan: From all according to his ability, to all according to his needs. This appears to be noble, yet it simply means that you get something not because you work using your ability to deserve it but just because you need it. The ability of the honest traders was condemned and sacrificed for the service of the poor. As a bold statement, Atlas Shrugged declares as a motto, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine." Ayn Rand shows that it is not the fault of the rich if the have-nots demand their survival without any effort of their own. Thus, it is not social injustice for one person to be rich while another is poor unless the rich tricked and robbed it from the poor.
In most cases, we seek cosmic justice because we confuse cause with correlation. For instance, children from a wealthy family get better education and better carrier options, while children from a poor family get less access to quality education which leads to less success at work. This can never mean that the wealthy made the poor receive bad education. There is a correlation between economic status and education, but this doesn’t mean the rich caused the poor to be in their unfortunate situation. Similarly, a child born in a wealthy family may receive inheritance thanks to the natural and random chance at birth, but this should not be considered unjust. However, the government and various social institutions must strive to create a balance, which is a way to correct natural and historical injustice. The cry for cosmic justice sometimes emanates from confusing cause with correlation, and so we should examine the cause of injustice before reaching hasty conclusions.
The confusion is also seen amongst social, ethnic, religious groups and even between nations. Sowell points out that it is wrong to claim the racial and ethnic difference in performance as social injustice because, “there are many historic, geographic and demographic reasons for groups to differ from one another in their skills, experiences, cultures, and values—whether these are different social, national or racial groups.” Since the cultural values and principles vary among societies, the performance of people from different backgrounds is bound to be different. For instance, a person who grew up in an agrarian society may not easily be competent in a technological society, but blaming the technological society for being unjust would be demanding cosmic justice.
In the end, we must have a clear definition of justice. We can blame the present generation for ancestral or natural injustice that was not caused by it, but this will not solve our problems; it can only worsen it. It will be absurd to blame a young man who believes in gender equality for the faults of a narrow-minded ancestor. In our attempt to seek cosmic justice, we may cause more injustice in the present. Thus, let us shift our focus to current societal problems that are created systematically by the society or by the government and seek real justice to create a better tomorrow.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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