This week we celebrate the World Day of Social Justice on 20th February.
Defining justice and social justice
For the most part, we are more familiar with the meaning of justice: fairness, egalitarianism, absence of bias.
But social justice. What do you understand it to mean?
Social justice is best understood in terms of equity in the distribution of wealth, opportunities, power and privilege within a society. It is the idea that every man, woman and child has equal worth. And that this needs to be protected by all other members of a community.
These are foundational understandings of a just and fair society.
Yet, it comes at a cost.
Setting aside self
One of the greatest struggles of 21st Century life is the struggle against the over-emphasis of self. The tenet that ‘me and mine’ are more important than ‘you and yours’.
The struggle that once lurked at the back of our minds or depths of our hearts is one that many now wear loud and proud.
Inequity is the antonym for social justice. With self and greed, key elements in the elixir.
But social justice resists such an ideology. Instead, it requires that self and greed give way to others and sacrifice.
I am not talking about setting aside the important cogs of innovation, personal drive or ambition. But I am suggesting that it is critical to recognise that these qualities, at the core of personal success, can be generously shared offering equity and opportunity for all.
In this way, “individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice”. With the expectation that there is enough to go round.
A lesson of immense worth
In mid 2017, I heard a radio interview with an Aboriginal leader recalling a difficult period in his youth, forcing him to leave his rural community and move to the city. His uncle had volunteered to transport him to the town centre to catch his bus. When they arrived, his uncle stopped to share a few words,
“I don’t have anything much to give you. But I do have this bit of advice. First of all, there is no one in the world better than you. And secondly, you are no better than anyone else.”
Today as I think about social justice day, I think of those words. If we all lived like this was the highest form of truth in the way we relate and care for one another then society would look very different. Poverty would look different. Success would look different. Relationships would look different.
And today is one of those days that we dream about the kind of world we want to create. I dream of a world that is just and fair for all. Where each one can say, “No one is better than me. And I am no better than anyone else.”