Tag Archives: justice

Relationship

How we understand and undertake relationship is a huge part of our total life experience. It informs not only our interactions with other humans, but how we understand ourselves, and how we relate to the planet and its many non-human residents.

How do we learn this vital aspect of life? No one formally teaches us how to have relationships. Many of us go through without ever sitting down and considering how we treat other people or expect them to treat us. Many people never think at all about their relationship with the planet. When things go horribly wrong we may be forced to sit down with our ideas and assumptions to start the process of figuring out what actually works, and what was rubbish all along.

We learn relationship by watching our parents. What happened to us back before we can consciously remember it will have set the groundwork for our ideas of what relationship is. We learn from how people treat us – from the moment of arrival onwards. We learn from our siblings and how the adults around us encourage us to be. We continue the behaviours that bring rewards (and attention is reward, so many children end up courting a telling off because it’s the only attention they get).

As we grow we unconsciously pick up more information about what other people do and what is generally considered normal and acceptable. School, wider community, and television play their part. How many people have the drama of soap opera colouring their notions of acceptable human interactions? How many people learn from the daytime television freak shows where the most dysfunctional people are encouraged to shout at each other in public? When you stop and look at the way we portray relationship in the entertainment industry, it’s all about drama, tension and difficulty. Because that makes for the most immediate stories. It doesn’t tell us how to do actual relationship, but if you spend more time with the TV than interacting with actual people, do you know that?

I have some huge and dangerous blind spots around my ideas of how people can and should treat me. I’m poised to have to do a great deal of scrutinising of my beliefs and assumptions about relationship. I’m also investing a lot of time at the moment trying to work out in a rational sense where the boundary lines ought to be. How should we treat others? What do we have the right to expect? What does honourable relationship really mean? I’m going to try and work out, and express, what it means to undertake good relationship, and what is not acceptable. Not based on soap opera drama or what I’ve taken for ‘normal’ but based on what is honourable, fair and just. It’s an area that also raises issues about power, authority, ownership and social justice, so as I explore the main theme I expect I’ll be branching out in all kinds of directions.

For anyone coming with me, thank you for taking the time to read, and an extra big thank you to those of you who share stories and become an active part of the exploration.

The love of justice

One of the prayers favoured by Druids calls for the love of justice, and in the love of justice, the love of the gods and the goddesses. Waiting to talk to my solicitor this afternoon, these words were rattling about in my head, alongside a friend’s recent comment along the lines of “not just the love of it, but insistence upon it”. (Sorry, precise quote escapes me, but that was very much the sentiment.)

I’d never really contemplated the relationship between justice and divinity before, but I realise that there is one. The religions that include deity, afterlife and/or reincarnation tend to have justice at their core – the idea that someone will have kept score, that balance will be addressed, good folk will finally get their dues, and wrong-doers get what they deserve as well. Most of what actually happens to us, it is preferable to believe was not deserved. So much of life is random. The desire to believe in deity is partly fuelled by the desire to find reason, to have it make some kind of sense. If there is justice, then there is sense. Equally, without justice, it’s very hard to believe that anything benevolent watches over us.

Experiencing justice reinforces a feeling that human culture is good, and that there is some inherent fairness in life. Feeling that makes it easier to believe in deity. However, there’s a great deal of injustice out there, not only in human culture, but in the random, senseless things that life dishes out. How then can we hope for a knowledge of justice, and a love of it that enables us to believe in deity? I absolutely resent any approach that goes ‘god knows best’ and assumes that whatever happens to us is inherently good because god wills it. It’s a cop out, pure and simple.

I don’t personally believe that our lives – be that big events or small details, are directed by gods. My notion of deity is a lot more vague. I believe that many things happen for no reason. Just every now and then some happy random event will make me wonder if I am being watched over by benevolent external forces, but it’s not something I’d gamble on. I’m not very good at belief, when you get down to it. I do believe there are energies and awarenesses other than human ones that affect things, but I don’t really think anything is keeping score, much less standing by to put it all right.

Justice, when you consider it, is actually a very personal thing, and what constitutes justice for one of us, might make no sense at all to another. Being heard can be enough justice for some people. Others cannot be satisfied with less than an eye for an eye. There’s no tidy definition of what justice looks like.

If there was a higher power, it ought to be concerned with fairness and justice, yes? The book religions suggest a lot of people think that way. There’s not much evidence to support the idea that some bloke with a beard actually metes it out at all. Not anywhere we can see at any rate, and justice that isn’t seen to be done… doesn’t really count, or help much. What we can do, as individual people, is consider what this higher, more aware justice ought to look like. Justice that isn’t about revenge or point scoring, but in righting the balance, restoring what has been damaged and allowing people to move forward from whatever has injured them. Justice that gives the wrongdoer chance to learn, atone and improve wherever that’s at all possible. That would be divine justice.

We don’t appear to have any gods making that happen in a reliable way. So what it comes down to is us humans taking inspiration from the idea, and making it happen as best we can, by our own effort, our own insistence upon it. And in doing so, perhaps there are some glimpses to be had of what divinity looks like.

Peace One Day

Today is Peace One Day http://www.peaceoneday.org/en/welcome if you want to explore the history and current projects. It’s a very simple premise – one day focused on peace and raising awareness of peace. This is me doing my small bit.

People respond to Peace One Day in all kinds of ways – with art, poetry, ritual, vigil, meditation, prayer… it doesn’t matter what your religion is, (if any). It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, or your political stance. Peace is good for people. Freedom from violence, abuse, oppression and tyranny make the world a better place. Take the time to do something for peace today. Post the Peace One link on your social networking site of preference. Think about your own life and how your inaction, or action might make a difference. Support an anti war campaigning group or charity if you can, or one of those incredibly brave outfits like The Red Cross and Medicine Sans Frontiers who go into war zones saving life and trying to reduce the terrible cost in human suffering.

If you do not want to ever be asked to kill another human being.

If you do not want your sons and daughters recruited into someone’s army.

If you do not want to be bombed.

If you do not want to see any more heartbreaking images of orphaned children on your TV.

If you care about justice and human rights….

Peace One Day. It’s a powerful dream and we should never give up on it.

A context for peace

One of the things I’ve realised, writing peace articles lately, is that peace isn’t something you can work for in isolation. In many ways, achieving peace is going to be a consequence of achieving other things first. 

On a world scale, we have no scope for establishing peace until we have a lot more equality and justice. While there is exploitation, starvation, abuse of power and a huge gap between the rich and poor, peace is impossible. Faced with injustice and suffering, people will take arms when they feel they need to – and with justification. Peace bought by oppression and hunger is no kind of peace at all. 

At more personal levels, peace depends on honour, care, and respect. That’s not something we can achieve as individuals, we have to do it collectively. It’s impossible to live peaceably in an environment where others are cruel, greedy, abusive or otherwise uncooperative.

Peace is a human thing. We can’t and shouldn’t try to avoid the challenges and conflict inherent in living, but we can seek to exist peacefully alongside each other. We can only achieve this through thoughtful, honourable living. Working for peace means working for justice, compassion, tolerance and equal opportunities. It is not an easy path, which is why we are so far from having peace in the world. Being greedy, selfish, violent and unfair is a lot easier and pays good dividends, and that’s why people stick with it. Seeking peace means working against our own immediate interests for the good of all, and that’s not a simple path to walk.

The little pockets of peace we manage to create and hold are intensely beautiful things. Gems in the dark waters of human interaction. We can treat each other well and honourably. It might not bring immediate financial gain, but it rewards us in other, more soulful ways. When we have peace between us, we can also have peace in our hearts. I can’t think of anything more precious or worth striving for.