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Published: Tuesday 29th of October 2013
What is Justice?
As a concept, justice is society’s retribution towards an act of an individual or a group, that harms or violates the rules that bind the said society. This retribution can vary from one group of people to the other based on a myriad of factors: geological position, cultural differences and personal identity, to name a few. Different groups can form vastly different social rules that in turn will persecute different acts of disorder in unique ways.
From a historical standpoint, Justice has always been tightly woven into the political sphere. Influential people with control over wealth and resources will always have a self-entitled sense of Justice that will differ from that of the common citizen. A good example is the Roman Emperors; Caligula is well known for his opulent lifestyle and perverse nature. He also practiced his own type of Justice. After uncovering a plot to usurp the throne by the Senate, Caligula forced the senator wives to participate in an orgy where they and their husbands were publicly humiliated. This type of personal retribution does not fit in with society’s form of punishment, but since Caligula was an anointed Emperor who controlled wealth and power, his Justice became the Justice of the people. If opposed, such an almighty monarch could dispatch any threat with ease. Having such power is an infringement of civil and personal rights; a human with power over others who can dictate the severity and type of Justice is against any common understanding of freedom.
Similarly, Philosophers saw Justice as something that resides within the self. To Plato, there was no universal sense of morality and Justice, rather, a self-reflection. One was supposed to study and learn from the surrounding chaos in order to produce an adequate judgment over other. The more mistakes you made, the better you would learn how to avoid them in the future. Based on this theory, we elect our leaders today. We choose the person who best speaks to our inner sense of morality (albeit in principle rather than actuality). That person is charged with the responsibility of managing us (citizens) and the government (representatives of the group). Whether on not they deliver our type of Justice, or theirs, is an entirely personal choice. Many have debated the necessity of an “over-figure”, someone with authority over everyday life. The claim is that with such a person in power there would be swift punishment for ill-dealing people and rewards for those that follow the community code. Others have expressed concern that this archetype of power is dangerously close to the same template as in Nazi Germany.
Based on State and Jurisdiction, Justice is enacted in a slightly different way. A hot topic for discussion, the Death Penalty isn’t a universe way to punish a criminal. Many think that this radical punishment for a crime is inhumane, while some support it. It all comes down to a sense of inner Justice. Whatever a society decides together is the universal form of punishment will always differ from the sense of personal responsibility of a single individual. This concept goes both ways. For example, a man murders another person and claims that it was self-defense. In the eyes of society, that man would be guilty of manslaughter regardless if he were telling the truth or not. Societal justice is different from personal justice where the need of the many will always outweigh the need of a single individual.
Given the complexity of justice, many schools are tailoring classes to help students grasp this concept. Subjects in Philosophy and Civil Awareness are being introduced in select school. In these classes, children can learn about the different Schools of thought on the subject of humanities and the way these lessons can be related to their everyday lives. Plato and Aristotle are great topics of discussion when teaching philosophy. Both philosophers dedicated their lives to exploring the inner self; their thoughts have been woven into our concept of self and the way we perceive our fellow men.
Great exercises that can be assigned in these classes are: