Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Justice in the face of anger

Every now and then, I want to make a post where I can Explain Something For All Time. Of course, it would never work because if you come up with a foolproof explanation of a concept, nature would invent a better fool to render your effort useless. Still, I've been feeling that way, and today I'm going to take a swing at it, okay?

What I want to explain today is this: no, you don't earn praise, glory, love, or even a cookie, for supporting justice.

If you're hoping for those things, you're feeding yourself (literally, in one case), not justice.

Either you care about justice - the notion that people should be treated fairly and well - or you don't. And if you really care about it, you don't care if you receive a reward when justice prevails. You might care about what happens along the way, of course, but if you care, you'll do some work, or make some sacrifice, to see justice prevail.

What does this mean? Well, it means that if some Evil Feminist says that our society is not fair to women, you can't get Highly Offended and insist that such talk is Driving People Away From The Cause.

People who care about justice will stick around (even if they hate what the local Evil Feminist is saying) because they care about justice more than they care about language that may, or may not, be inflammatory. Those who won't stick around don't really want justice; they want a reward of some form or another, and are leaving because they didn't get what they wanted.

If no one's ever told such folks this, let me say it now: Life isn't fair, and you don't always get what you want. You don't base moral decisions on the reward you get; if you're getting a reward, it's not a moral decision, it's a transaction. There's nothing wrong with wanting a reward for doing something, but you can't pretend you're doing something especially moral when you ask to be paid (in praise, glory, love, or cookies) for what you've done.

I just saw this on the topic of the patriarchy, so I mention the Evil Feminists, but it holds for racism, heterosexism, and more, as well.

It can be prudent to speak gently - I'm not using hyperbole and calling people who haven't figured this out a bunch of moronic dunderheads, am I? - because you do indeed catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But it can be counterproductive to speak too gently. If you don't show some anger, if you don't have some real passion, if you're not really infuriated by the status quo, then you can't really have too big a problem with whatever issue you're facing, right?

If you want to confront an issue, and it's a serious issue, you need some anger, and anger is justified. And sure, you can go overboard, and a lot of people do. But a person who cares about that issue, who cares about justice, must look beyond the anger, even if a person has gone overboard, and try to overcome whatever unfairness really exists.

To do any less is to be willing to let injustice prevail.

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