Tag Archives: justice

Quid Pro Quo – Oh, No!

Posted by David

“Life is quid pro quo.” Is that really the way life is? I hope not. Most people take life to be that way. They expect outwardly and inwardly that if they do their part, they will get the other side of reciprocation. Is life just a series of subtle and not-so-subtle contractual engagements? I hope that’s not the case.

Here are some types of quid pro quo thinking:

“I’ll smile and be polite, then…”

“If I give her the job…

“If I take care of her kid this afternoon…”

“If I marry him…”

“God, if I believe in you…”

Expectations such as these are a setup for disaster, because life is not quid pro quo. Life isn’t so mechanistic, at least not the life I know. If it was, there would be no hope, no grace, no joy, no love. We’d be bound in slavery as Quid-Pro-Quobots.

We have a self-determination that allows us to choose and ask and grant and love. With that comes responsibility. My three-year old boy and I were talking about responsibility recently. And he was wondering if Magpie our cat was able to be irresponsible. He had noticed that she would get on the table and clearly she knew that she wasn’t allowed to. As with many of his deeper questions, I had to think about how to respond. I explained that cats aren’t able to be responsible, but that Magpie still isn’t allowed to get on the table. I probably hedged a bit in my explanation. Then he went on to ask about other animals and whether or not those animals were capable of being responsible or irresponsible. Neither of us were completely satisfied with the conversation. Even so, I still hold that animals don’t have the ability to be responsible, yet we do. We make willful choices and that characteristic places us under an umbrella of Justice: God’s justice, that is.

God’s justice is perfect, but that doesn’t mean life is an eye for an eye, or if I rub your back you will rub mine. Relationships aren’t so simple. God’s relationship with us isn’t that simple. If relationships were, where would the friendship be? Friendships aren’t so rote. But isn’t that the contract we see established with most relationships. Those relationships are doomed to fail or become drudgery. True friendships don’t work that way. They don’t care what the other has done for them recently. They act in love. True friendships are much more like water flowing in a river than life living under the bondage of quid pro quo.

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The Marginalized

Posted by: David

Society will always marginalize this or that group, no matter what group is in power.

If Party A: the poor are marginalized.
If Party B: the disabled are marginalized.
If Party C: the weak are marginalized.
If Party D: the hard workers are marginalized.
If Party E: the justice-seekers are marginalized.
If Party F: the peacemakers are marginalized.

Blessed be the marginalized, for they shall be brought within.

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Questioning Questioning Authority

Posted by: David

To question authority we use our minds, knowledge, consciousness and common sense as a litmus test of justice in a particular social system and the authority in power. But is this really necessary since injustice is found in all societies? There seems to exist systemic injustice.

All human systems of society are unjust in different ways. The authority of that system simply reflects the relative justice of that system. When you question authority, you’re questioning the relative justice of the system as a whole since the system is closely integrated. The leadership is not separate from the rest of social system. They are one. If the body is just, the head will be just. If the body is unjust, the head will be unjust. I don’t think there’s a middle ground. Something is either just or unjust. There’s no sorta-just social system.

But “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. For if he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will pile burning coals on his head.” Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God’s permission.

The reason these sentences were all blended together by Paul in the sequence he used is no coincidence. He recognized that by submitting in goodness to the governing authorities (potential enemies), you pile burning coals on their heads. The reason for this has to do with the nature of justice and how perfect that justice is (i.e., there’s no sorta-just system). If only a fragment of justice comes in contact with an unjust system, the unjust system will be burned and/or transformed so that it can handle being in contact with the just system. Because justice is either just or unjust, that which is unjust cannot exist in the presence of that which is just. The two are like oil and water. Justice is that perfect; it cannot be tainted with injustice.

Counterintuitively, the way to restore justice in an unjust system (in which I’m including all social systems) is not to rebel. It’s to inject it with true justice. The initial injection was Christ. Practically-speaking for us, restoring justice involves: humility, mercy, love, justice, hope, submission.

Yes, all current authoritative social systems are corrupt. In a sense, there’s no real need to question them, because they are all corrupt and unjust in different ways. However, if one rebels and takes over an unjust system, it always takes unjust means. Just one innocent life cut short, just one shout in anger, and just one contemptuous thought makes the rebel unjust. This same type of rebellious take-over was completed in 1776, 1865, 1945, and 2003—not to mention any other seemingly-good historical changing of the guard.

That may sound hopeless, but it’s really not. I may not have faith in socially-conceived systems of justice, but I certainly believe that the universe is run by a just God. Thus, there actually is a deep justice in this world, deeper than any socially-conceived justice system. And that system of justice is not only available in some heavenly realm in the future. That system of justice is available right now.

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The Tree of Consciousness Sprouts (part 3)

Posted by: David

Nurse Piggy: It’s too late, Dr. Bob. We’ve lost him.
Doctor Bob: Well, he couldn’t have gone so far. He was under the sheet just a second ago.

We all know that Miss Piggy and Doctor Bob (a.k.a. Rowlf the Dog) didn’t really have awareness or consciousness, but their puppeteers certainly made you laugh. What is laughter anyway and are there any other species capable of it? Laughter is most likely special to us because of our consciousness. In most cases, laughter is a spontaneous reaction when our morality or our sense understanding of the world is tested. I think the reason the Muppets’ joke above is so funny to me is because Doctor Bob and Nurse Piggy or so dismally aware of the concept of death and dying. They take death so lightly that they can make a bad joke about the death of a patient. Why does it make me laugh? You’re more than welcome to analyze my psyche if you’d like. I expect that it simply jars my subconscious understanding of right and wrong.

In bringing up the loaded word consciousness, I’ll begin by explaining my usage. I am not using it in a sense such as, “He lost consciousness.” I am using it in the sense that implies having some level of understanding of right and wrong such as, “It was his consciousness that made him a crusader for justice.” Consciousness in this usage implies that there is a complex awareness of the morality of an event or an action.

Previously in Re: Salvation, I implied that there is a curious co-dependence between freewill and justice. Without justice there is no need for freewill and without freewill there would be no need for justice. The same thing applies to consciousness. The existence of morality depends on the existence of  ‘someone’ who can make a choice in the matter. Without morality there would be no need for choices and vice versa. When we make choices, we are basing those choices on some sort of system of value judgments of what we think is right and wrong. Consciousness is simply an awareness of what is right and what is wrong. (Interestingly, In Genesis the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is sometimes translated as the Tree of Consciousness.) Without knowledge of what is right and wrong, humans would still be aware of our surroundings and relationships, but would we have consciousness? Interestingly, Eden was a place where man had choices, yet didn’t have the knowledge of what is right and wrong. It wasn’t that right and wrong didn’t exist, mankind just didn’t know about it.

Most of us would agree, except the deeply antisocial personality or philosophical word-smither, that there exists some sort of right and wrong in our world and that we make choices based both on a deeply-ingrained sense of morality or common sense as well as a socially-constructed criteria of social ethics. And not always do we make the right choices. Sometimes we clearly, stubbornly or brutally make the wrong choice. Anyone who can look at one’s actions even partially objectively will see that sometimes we do what we sense is wrong, usually for our own selfish desires. But let’s not go here yet, the point is that consciousness depends on knowledge of right and wrong.

I doubt that a dog has the form of consciousness outlined above. He knows that if he wags his tail and is cute, he’ll get a dog biscuit or that he’ll have a warm house to curl up in. He’ll probably even have specific affections toward certain people for complex reasons, but I doubt that he understands the ‘Golden Rule’ like we do.

It seems to me like a shot in the dark to guess whether planets or other grander scale systems have consciousness. Most would say that shot is easy and is an unequivocal, “No, don’t be absurd.” I will say that they do not seem to have much choice in their motions, and thus even if they have an awareness, applying consciousness to them is a bit far-fetched. They follow extremely precise patterns and have been so for a long, long time. Even larger-scale systems, such as galaxies, have such beautifully-defined and mathematical structures and they seem to follow very closely to a pattern. Following defined patterns, would seem to indicate a lack of consciousness since the pattern’s lack variation. A lack of variation in pattern may demonstrate the inability to choose. However, one could argue that they do have choice, but they always choose to follow the pattern defined for them. But again, let’s not get sidetracked.

For some reason, we are special organisms in the universe so far as I can see. We seem to have a grasp of right and wrong and have a choice in the matter. Most of us feel a sense of right and wrong. Some would argue that this sense of justice is just complex reactionary forces that are no different than that of a dog. I beg to differ. No pun intended. I believe that we do have consciousness and there was a particular point in our history in which we became enlightened for better or worse. And this particular point was actually the beginning of History.

This moment was also very important because it marked the point when we began building our own tree of knowledge. One intriguing part of consciousness is how it relates to knowledge. If we didn’t have knowledge in the first place, we wouldn’t be able to store up understanding of right and wrong. In Part 4, we’ll build on the first three parts in this series as we look at how knowledge relates to consciousness, memory and forces.

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Re: Salvation

Posted by: David

To understand “Why Salvation” we need to first consider whether not we think we have actual choice or “freewill,” and secondly, we need to consider whether or not we think there is a natural justice within the universe. If we grapple with these two concepts (freewill and justice) and decide, “Yes, I do have choices, and yes, there is true justice in the universe,” then the need for salvation becomes more clear.

I do not think that we could answer “no” to either of the questions independently. They hinge on each other. One could answer “no” to both and that would certainly be a sad Nietzschesque world.

Let’s skip freewill for now, that’s a whole topic on its own and I currently don’t have any convincing argument either way. It’s my “choice” that I believe we have freewill. If I had any argument, it would be that if there’s no freewill then there’s no real need for justice, because all things will just follow their predetermined routes. But I do believe in a perfect justice.

Justice is either all or nothing. The universe is either ruled by perfectly just rules or there is no justice at all. Could we live in a partially just universe? It must be a perfect justice or else it wouldn’t be just, would it? If a judge was to rule properly only some of the time, then he wouldn’t be a very good or just judge, would he? On the other hand, the universe could be ruled by haphazard rulings. This is how many religions and belief systems work. In these systems of belief, there are various gods that decide things on their various whims. It’s our role to capitulate to those whims. This system of belief is not one that believes in a just universe.

Natural laws abound and are all around us in our every day lives. If you fight those natural laws, it is to your own demise. I see the effects of a just universe (a just God) all around our natural world. There are clearly natural laws that rule the forces and matter of our universe. Fighting the law of gravity by jumping off a cliff would show me quickly that there are natural laws, and there are consequences when one doesn’t follow the laws. It seems to me that our universe is ordered. And in my understanding of things, when there is order, there is a justice that sees to keeping that order. In our government we call that the justice of the peace. The same name could be applied to the Governor of the universe.

So, let’s now suppose that there is true justice in this universe and we do have freewill. Then if we knowingly make destructive choices, then the justice that we live under will convict us. Or if we are falsely accused, this justice will acquit us. And here is our fate: all of us knowingly make destructive choices and we live in a just universe. Thus, if the governor or the universe is just, we will be convicted.

And it’s not just Joe or Adolph who should be convicted of a penalty worth death. We are all in the same family. We are all connected and co-conspirators. All of our subconscious minds have similar horrific thoughts. Some of us stab others with words. Others stab with swords. Some of the most pernicious acts are done with the eyes or a long, drawn out sigh.

This curious relationship between freewill and justice is seen in the story of the Garden of Eden. The mysterious first few chapters of Genesis can shed some light on what justice is and how we relate to it. In this story, that most everyone is familiar with, God gave man and woman choice. He gave us one rule and that rule was specific to us and our freewill. None of the other animals had that one law. The one law was that we couldn’t eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice that the tree didn’t have some obscure ancient name. It was written out clearly so we would all know what the fruit represented: the knowledge of good and evil. It was essential that a species with freewill not understand the difference between good and evil. For some reason, which we discovered later, we were not designed so that we were capable of dealing with that knowledge. By having that knowledge our species was doomed. We couldn’t handle it. That is why there was a law against it.

And let’s not think it’s unique to our species to have a unique law established for it. Each species or organization in our universe has unique laws that apply to it and not to others. A seagull cannot lay eggs in the pounding surf, but smelt can.

What makes us unique to all the other species on Earth is that we have freewill, which is why we were given that all important law, one that was essential to our distinct nature. Basically, God was saying, “You are special, and to keep this extremely special trait of yours, you must not know the difference between good and evil.”

You know the rest of the story. Unfortunately, now that we have the knowledge of good and evil, this has posed the most difficult problem to us. By possessing both freewill and knowledge of good and evil, we became self-destructive. We knowingly choose things that hurt others and ourselves. And by knowing this, we also try to prevent others from hurting us. We become bent on saving ourselves from the destructive habits of others. It is at this point when History began. Agriculture emerged. Cities dotted the landscape. Resources began to be depleted. War arose. Pointing fingers began. And that’s an important point of the story: with the fall we became aware of evil within others. We became the judge of others. We made our own government. We convicted others and were convicted. We became our own god.

However, unlike the natural justice described earlier, our judgment is not perfect. It is always a selfish judgment. The self will bias its rulings based on its desire for survival, which skews the weights and balances. Collectively, if not individually, we become psychotic, bi-polar, and communally and subsequently personally self-destructive. This is why the story of Cain and Abel follows the expulsion from the garden. Self-destruction became our nature. This nature could not be changed on its own, from within. The knowledge was with us and would be with us until the end. We must be transformed through an intervention, from outside our species to the innermost inside of our species.

This is why there is a need for our salvation.

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