On justice

Six simple cartoon people: the three on the left are bright blue and are smiling, the three on the right are bright green and are frowning.

Suppose this group of people over here are treated justly, but that group of people over there are treated harshly and unjustly.

The first group of people do not have justice, although they probably think they do. What they really have is preferential treatment. No-one can have justice unless everyone has it; that’s what justice is.

While preferential treatment can look and feel a lot like justice, there are some important differences:

Justice applies to everyone, no matter what. It can bind a society together, ensuring that every member of that society has good reason to support the well-being of the whole. Justice is dependable and predictable. It can form a bedrock which people build their lives upon.

Preferential treatment, on the other hand, is doled out at the whim of the authorities. It can be given or revoked in the blink of an eye. It can be sold, or secretly given in exchange for bribes. It can be made conditional on following an arbitrary and ever-changing set of rules. It can be used to hold an unjust power structure in place.

Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations. Only justice, is justice.

Inspired by a quote from bell hooks: “We can’t combat white supremacy unless we can teach people to love justice. You have to love justice more than your allegiance to your race, sexuality and gender.”