Saturday, March 4, 2017

Justice (Part One)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

If we should deal out justice only, in this world, who would escape? No, it is better to be generous, and in the end more profitable, for it gains gratitude for us, and love. -Mark Twain

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

Warning: If you're a regular reader who doesn't much care for my constant references to sharing the playground with the other kids, you're gonna' really hate this column. I'll understand if you choose to bail at this point, although I don't think it would be the prudent thing to do (GRIN).

All the kids have to share the playground and the majority of kids are hardwired with an obsession that I call That Ain't Fair!!! syndrome.

Please note the deliberate use of three exclamation points. Please note that an obsession with fairness is an obsession with justice. Please note that when callowyutes reach the grup stage in the life cycle of H. sapiens the obsession remains. However, it's often, but not necessarily, muted by life's lessons.

[Aside: I chose the word obsessed because in my experience, having been an actual kid several thousand years ago and currently living with four of them in my freakishly large household, obsessed is accurate. Also, even the most mildly mannered grup is acutely aware of justice, or more likely, injustice. As I have  pointed out previously, Earth's a very rough neighborhood.]

So, where does this obsession come from? If you're of a traditional religious bent, there's an excellent chance that you think that it, like everything else, comes from God.

Most psychologists (I know, I know, grain of salt) now believe that we're not born with blank slates, that we arrive already programmed (so to speak) with certain basic information.

Jonathan Haidt is a moral psychologist (and one of my heroes) who has made it his life's work to identify what are the fundamental tenets of what he calls the moral mind. He believes, as do I, that newbie H. sapiens arrive here already wired with these fundamentals.

Note that an atheist, or a fundamentalist, or something in betwixt might find some common ground here. Don't demonize, compromise (DDC).

[This video, a TED talk, not only explains where he's coming from, it explains the difference betwixt progressives and conservatives, and why they're so antagonistic towards each other, in 18 minutes and 32 seconds. You have to listen closely, he talks too fast.]

Now, regardless of where you think this "obsession" comes from, as long as you accept that Justice is a thing and that it affects all of us to one degree or another, you see why it's a cardinal (hinge) virtue. I must also point out that religious or non-religious, left, right or center, and regardless of skin tone, that consideration of the virtues, particularly the four cardinal ones, just might provide some common ground in these unhinged times -- DDC.

[It occurs to me that I didn't explicitly point this out two columns ago when I began this series, this finding common ground theme, which is one of the primary reasons I'm on about the virtues. It's hard out here for a Garrulous Geezer.]

                                                        * * *

So, just what is justice anyway?

Well, besides being "your one-stop-shop for the cutest & most on-trend styles in tween girl's clothing" Justice is...

(Insert sound of car tires screaming from a panic stop, here.)

Okay, wait a sec'. Why is a store that sells glad rags for girls called Justice? 

The Justice Mission
To positively IMPACT and EMPOWER our associates, ALL GIRLS and those that love them by creating authentic connections through FASHION and FUN.

Or... how to say absolutely nothing with 22 words.

And we're back.

My old buddy Merriam-Webster offers up a deluge of definitions for justice. I choose 2a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.

[Well duh! What's yer point? Dana the imaginary gentlereader is awake. Marie-Louise, my muse, has taken Iggy (imaginary grandsticky) and gone shopping for new shoes -- yet again.]

My point is that though the definition is rather open-ended and vague, it works because we do have an intuitive grasp of just what justice is. One will encounter gray areas, one will always encounter gray areas.

But I maintain that 98.39% of the time that you will know instantly what's fair, what would be just, in any given situation. Careful, the devil lives in the remaining 1.61%.

Incidentally, I also maintain that one also knows, 98.39% of the time, whether or not what you're doing, have done, or plan on doing -- is right or wrong. This applies to all of the virtues and will be the subject of a column once I get through them.

[Dana: So what's your prob Bob, I... ]

The problem is, besides the 1.61% problem, well, let me put it this way. When I was a kid, I divided my free time (weather permitting) betwixt the 12th street and the 22nd street playgrounds (the former being larger and with more shtuff to do and the latter having a tiny swimming pool).

Kids in the dark ages were also obsessed with justice (fairness) but we shared in a consensus that's now shattered.

The same "rules" (more or less) that ensured justice (including punishment) and fairness applied at both playgrounds -- and at home, in school, in the neighborhood, at your friend's house, etc.

While hardly a utopia (substance abuse, child abuse, racism, bullies, etc.), beyond the formal (statutory) laws, there was rough agreement as to what the social laws were.

[HUGE BUTNot that they all made sense. If you weren't a person of pallor you suffered from discrimination, ranging from mild to insane. Given groups of people of pallor looked down on other groups of people of pallor. Stupid (behavior) was as stupid (behavior) is.]

Jump to the late sixties. Well-meaning boomers, raised taking an (overall) unprecedented level of prosperity and security for granted (remind you of anyone), start tossing tots out with the jacuzzi water. The Great Fragmentation Begins.

So, how do the members of a fragmented culture agree on what constitutes just and fair? Stay tuned for part two.

Poppa loves you.
Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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