Apart from freedom the other most fundamental idea intoned in victims of western civilization is justice. I don’t think I’ve done a good job explaining why freedom and choice are illusory phantoms yet but I think I’ve got the basics right already. Maybe more will come to me soon, for now I want to address the problem with justice.
Come to think of it, strife for justice is universal – communists were big on justice, too – justice for the workers taken advantage of by capitalists. If you think about this it should already sound alarm bells because no one cares about this kind of justice in the West anymore. It’s all talk but no action.
That’s why people like Bernie Sanders are getting so much traction – he talks for the interests of the common man while other presidential contenders are beholden to their donors and masters, the infamous one percenters who keep getting richer and richer while the middle classes slowly lose all their white privileges.
On the other, the Republican side the situation is really grotesque because Republican supporters are known to vote against their interests. They’d get riled up against cheaper healthcare and increase in minimum wages and stand united behind tax breaks for people already swimming in money. Their predicament points to the root of the issue with justice – no one knows what it is and people approach it from their own angles.
Communists put workers ahead of everyone else (besides party leaders, of course) so their idea of justice is what is good for the labor. One percenters think that they are the backbone of the country and everyone else is just helping so they naturally put their own interests first. Everyone is affected by this myopic vision and some feel more righteous about it than others so they raise more stink than usual.
Middle classes think that it’s them who make up the society and everybody else should do right by them. Their strength is in numbers and so their opinions tend to dominate public discourse, especially in democracies. They look at their welfare and freedoms as results of their struggle for justice or against injustice and they will protect their position by any means necessary. Those above them, politicians and one percenters, must be kept in check and must be under constant watch to prevent corruption and nepotism.
They’ve got this idea into their heads that they know what everybody else should be doing and how they should be behaving. They have no problems with demanding that extremely powerful people conform to middle class patterns of behavior but that’s not how things work at at the top. Looking from this middle position towards the bottom is not much better and is not much different from how elites look at the middle – simple people who don’t really matter but who are useful in making us comfortable.
They don’t pose even for a second to contemplate how they appear to those below them and whether they themselves might be open to charges of preferential treatment. Their financial dealings are too insignificant to be labeled corruption but they won’t miss a chance to get ahead by less than honest means. They’d justify it by saying that their careers and families must come first and throwing a few benefits to people who can facilitate their advancement is a fair game. This, btw, is exactly how the one percenters justify their shenanigans but in their case they move around millions so it’s called “corruption”. Besides, as far as I know, reciprocation between truly rich rarely involves passing around large sums of money, too. In the end they get their financial rewards, of course, but they trade power and opportunities and speaking of them in monetary terms is considered low class.
So, exactly the same things done by middle classes become unacceptable when done by the rich, and it’s only because of the scale, not some moral considerations.
Given all this it’s no wonder that all around the world people complain about rich and powerful being above the law. They ARE above the law that middle classes wrote to govern themselves. The problem is that this commoners’ law is being imposed on everyone else without any consideration for the starting positions – because everyone is equal. People are not equal, however, and the universe rewards everyone accordingly regardless of what middle classes think about it.
This explains the paradoxical situation where we have unprecedented levels of openness and transparency which should guarantee justice and fairness but the rich manage to amass more wealth even faster than before.
Ultimately, justice is an artificial construct altogether. There’s the law of karma and it governs the entire universe without a fail or even a glitch. What other form of justice do we need? This demand for justice appears when people evolve to the stage of prāṇamaya, when they figure out that they live in a society and that enjoying stuff together is more pleasant than doing it alone, which is the stage of annamaya. That’s when they invent various rules to facilitate their mutual enjoyment. They feel bad when others don’t get their fair share, they develop empathy and such, and they develop envy, too. That last feature is probably the strongest driver behind seeking justice – forget the orphans, we can’t stand other guys enjoying something we don’t get ourselves, it seems unfair and it needs to be corrected.
In the East justice as it is known in the West doesn’t even exist. There’s no such thing as equality and without equality there are no uniform demands on behavior. Chinese are communal people instead, serving justice for them means restoring balance in the community and making everyone happy, not putting someone in jail just because “the law”. Westerners think of the law as an abstract that must be imposed by the state, Chinese think of the law as real live relationships between real people. In this sense they are closer to the prāṇamaya explanation of justice I offered in the previous paragraph.
In Vedic culture justice means dharma but dharma is never translated as “law” in the Western sense. Dharma is more like a duty here and everyone’s duties are different. Dharma does not come from the level of prāṇamaya, it’s not about feeling good or about accommodating others’ interests. The only interests that must be upheld are those of the Lord, which is way above prāṇamaya on the scale of evolution of consciousness.
Most people have no idea what they Lord likes, however, and so no one knows dharma in full. Most of the time we just go by the words of the ācāryas and by the śāstra. Oh, wait, if we are completely honest then most of the time we go by our interpretations of the śāstra which is not the same thing and deserves a separate post.
What’s important to remember today is that “justice” is important only in as much as it aligns with śāstra, every other application for any other purpose is illusory and serves someone’s selfish interests instead. It might take a little intelligence to spot this selfishness or to recognize that even atheists might occasionally do the right thing but what we should remember is that the Lord is impartial and rewards everyone according to how they follow HIS dharma, not by how much WE like or dislike them.