Sarah: That’s not fair!
Jareth: You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?
~ lines from Jim Henson’s film, Labyrinth, 1986
The majority – if not all – of people reading this, through sheer luck, have been born into first-world circumstances. Even among those, there are millions of people living in poverty and various situations of disadvantage. I think most of us can agree that this is not “fair”, although it doesn’t necessarily speak to justice.
It is the role of the State, as representative of the populace, to craft guidelines by which individuals are held accountable for upholding their responsibilities to each other. To this end, from a criminal prosecution standpoint, a Justice System only works when it is fairly administered. Judgments must be free from discrimination or bias in order for justice to be served.
From an economic standpoint, the line between fairness and justice seems to have blurred. Today, economic justice is a topic which has become tragically divisive in American society. Rising income inequality and what seems to be a deeply entrenched attitude of callousness on the part of the “1%” and the Republican Party platform are calling into question what we, as a society, are about. When we equate open heart with bleeding heart, we have strayed – from merely a human standpoint – from the labyrinthine path toward justice.
Human rights are a justice issue. Equality of opportunity (not to be confused with absolute equality) is a justice issue. Governments and citizens have a moral obligation to address these via raising awareness and crafting policies and legislation that pave the way toward their realization.
The voice of fairness is a whisper from the heart, telling us something isn’t right. The voice of justice is a shout from the soul, imploring us to do something about it. While fairness is merely something we can observe, justice is something we can affect. Fairness calls us to compassion. Justice calls us to action. Living in a world where fairness prevailed would be wonderful. Creating a world where justice prevails is essential. It’s time to get to work.