Peace and Justice Easy Enough To Say, Hard to Achieve

Some time ago I met a colleague I hadn’t seen for years. After briefly catching up on the time that had passed since we had last met, she told me with great excitement she now had time to “make a difference” and had joined a peace and justice group. As a retiree she said she would devote her time to achieving peace and justice in the world. I told her I thought her goals and commitment were laudable but her task was daunting. We spoke a bit more and I asked her how one defines justice when there is conflict. I wondered, is every peace good? She said she would call me and we would talk more. Somehow that call never came.
I did leave our conversation with more questions than answers. To some degree justice is in the eye of the beholder. Justice for one is often experienced as the lack of justice for another. What is social justice? Are concepts such as an end to oppression and fairness easy concepts? I think not. Often the oppressor says they are the oppressed.
Consider our days on the playground — the cries of “no fair” and “it’s mine!” The gang of children surrounding the kid who is different and alone saying “majority rules here kid; you will do things our way!”
The often mentioned concept of the greatest good for the greatest number (the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill) is fraught with problems of application. When there are minorities, to consider the “rights” of the greatest number may conflict with the “rights” of the minority in question.
As we look around our nation and the world and see groups, each in a struggle for what they perceive as “peace and justice” for the groups they represent, we see how difficult the very concept of “peace and justice” is. As we think through these issues we are reminded there are no easy answers and no easy fixes. When we dedicate ourselves to encouraging peace and justice in the world we must remind ourselves that we must avoid philosophical and ethical imperialism. That is to say the importing of our perspective and the imposition of it on others.
I am looking forward to that call to discuss this issue Perhaps I will take the first step and make the call. The issue is a serious one in our time and communication is the beginning of a realization that there are no simple answers here.
Sincere wishes for a spring of joy and great beginnings.

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