Sometimes we wonder if justice is an absolute and definitive concept. But it is not. The meaning of justice changes from society to society, and from time to time. Something that is just and acceptable at a time in one society may not be so at another time in the same society. Similarly, what is prevalent practice in one part of the world today may be frowned upon, or even be punishable in another corner of the world. How do we know what is just and what is not? What is the definition of justice?
We are all babies of our time. Only a few people can live out of and ahead of their time. Others are influenced and molded by the time and place they are living in, having their thought process and concepts shaped by their environment. People cannot think beyond immediate social norms, and so their idea of justice is what is prevailing in their surroundings. However, a few great individuals have been ahead of their time. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln are such examples. They swam against the tide. Their thoughts have changed the social norms and have created new traditions, and new customs, and carved out new space for the emergence of social norms.
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are,” remarked Benjamin Franklin. True justice, it seems, transcends time and place, urging us to not only introspect but also to act, ensuring that the arc of the moral universe, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, bends towards it.
Are you one of the masses who belong to their environment and accept the traditions or belong to the class that can influence and shape the just social order? It depends on your idea of justice. If you can think and examine the customs you are living in, perhaps your horizon will broaden and you will make the system more just than you found it. One’s ability to see through the future is important. If one can do so, it is extremely impactful for determining the thought process one will have. Either we are subjected to the thoughts of others or we do subject others to our own thinking. Either way, our understanding of justice matters. If you have no independent assessment of this concept, you are bound to be the one who follows others.
In every generation, some new concepts emerge and prevail. Acceptance or rejection of them in the wider world will be affected by the education system and social order of the time. If it is a free-thinking society, perhaps it will be shaped in a much broader and more logical way, but in the absence of it, it may remain much narrower. There was a time when the earth was believed to be flat and challenging this idea might have been termed unjust.
So, where do you stand amidst this continuum? Are you a reflection of your surroundings, a mirror that simply reflects back what it sees? Or are you among those rare individuals who not only question the status quo but also possess the audacity to mold it? This distinction boils down to our own comprehension of justice. It is about challenging norms, questioning traditions, and broadening one’s horizons. A critical introspection is key. By examining the world around us, and understanding its implications for the future, we are in a better position to either shape others’ perspectives or be shaped by them.