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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday, 22 June 2015


 - Irwin Cotler

What is justice?

Is it punishment for crimes or sins committed?  Is it an eye for an eye?

Is justice something external, imposed by a court or a king?

Should justice be equal for all?  Should justice be focused on individual acts, or on broader context?

There is no justice in this world, as per the Littlefinger above.  There's no justice in the same way that there's no true "perfect", no examples of "zero", no black-and-white right and wrong.  These concepts are all human constructs that we have imposed upon this world.  When a lion kills prey, there is no justice; there is survival.  When a cuckoo bird steals a nest, there's no justice - only competition.

We tend to view justice through narrow lenses - our own perspective, how it relates to our family, or from the frame of "our people," whether it's a religion, an ethnicity, a nationality or a political party.

Justice has become a zero-sum game that profits those with power and entitlement more than anyone else.  How many scandals have emerged of powerful, wealthy people committing wrongs - misusing public money, bullying their staff, committing sexual assault - with little in the way of meaningful punishment for the perpetrator?  Is it assumed that a public shaming and the (often wilful) giving up of position, if not notoriety, counts as justice for them?

Meanwhile, how many youth are stopped and carded for nothing more than the colour of their skin? How many racialized youth are ticketed for minor crimes like speeding where peers of a different ethnic background are merely chastized?

Political centralization has resulted in less direct connectivity between people and their representatives.  Laissez-faire capitalism has quietly closed the door to anyone who can't aggressively hustle, regardless of what they have to offer.  Despite all the talk about breaking down social silos, the walls are growing taller.

Yet there is a movement out there that takes the wisdom of Irwin Cotler's mother to heart.  Justice is not something seized, with the responsibility for justice lying on the shoulders of those who feel wronged; it is a social construct, something that only exists when we build and maintain it together.

Justice is an idea, a human ideal, a belief that we are more than the sum of our individual parts and that civilization requires give and take from everyone.  The more power you have, the more responsible you become - but that's not a burden, that's a gift.  One that brings its own rewards.

Empower your employees and you build loyalty, increase productivity and build brand and market share; empower your community, and you have safety, peer support and resiliency to whatever the world throws your way.  Pride of community also results in better maintenance of both private and personal space.  Your infrastructure lasts longer.

When we put selfish interests first, those who are more competitive win and those who aren't, for whatever reason, lose.  That's not justice, but that's how society has chosen to operate.  Our silo walls blind us to the structural reality; we fail to see that a me-first approach erodes public infrastructure, public confidence and our social fabric.

Justice isn't imposed from without; it's something we have to practice, every day, and it begins with simply being conscious of context.  Next comes empathy, optimism and the will to collaborate.  How might we build that equitable world so many speeches allude to?

There is no justice in the world - it's a theoretical construct.

Unless we make it.  We - that means all of us.

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