Grievances, justice and peace
Since 2007, the world has been celebrating Social Justice Day on Feb. 20. This day aims at promoting equal rights and opportunities within communities and in between countries.
The World Day of Social Justice highlights the significance of eliminating the obstacles that people face simply because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.
If we ask 10 people to define social justice, we will get 10 different answers.
Equal access to education, right to housing, child welfare, fairness, women’s rights, safety nets, income inequality, dignity, and universal health care are all issues that are to be included within the social justice concept, while taking into consideration the social harm that their absence can cause.
The economics of redistribution have always been linked to social justice, however, justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies.
“Justice” is a term people use all the time without really being specific about what it means.
While activists talk about economic justice, judges and lawyers talk about criminal justice; Parents, teachers, and students talk about justice indirectly too, though they may never use the term.
Sometimes, a “just society” is understood as a one that tries to increase the overall quality of life for its citizens; At other times, a “just society” is simply one that allows its citizens maximum freedom. So, which is it?
When we talk about what is “fair,” we might be actually referring to what is “just.”
And, we might not know what it is nor agree on its meaning.
Is justice about fairness? Equality? Getting what we deserve or what we need? Is justice about taking money from the ‘haves’ and giving it to the ‘have-nots’?
Is it sending a criminal to jail?
Is it sending out remunerations and punishments based on merit?
The reason people talk about justice all the time is because it’s one of the major social, ethical, and moral values they deal with on a day to day basis. Here, we get to the crux of the issue; what justice means to one person, to a large extent, defines how he/she thinks society should work.
Who decides who gets what?
And, on what basis?
These are questions researched by moral philosophy as “distributive justice” where everyone should get the same kind and amount of stuff no matter what.
Individuals who move toward extreme actions usually are grieved by a sense of injustice, whether real or perceived, by the world around them.
Agenda of stability, security, and progress cannot be independent from justice. The relationship between justice and building peaceful societies is critical to understanding and addressing drivers of violence; the success of one depends on the success of the other. Therefore, prompt and effective handling of grievances is the key for peaceful societies.
The cost of a grievance, factual, imaginary or disguised, can be socially harmful, especially when its causes affect many people, and thus creating a collective grievance. There are several possible grievances caused by violation of social contracts, laws, fair treatment, and rules or responsibilities. The first warning sign is when grievances become accepted as “legitimate.” Then, comes the question of power and glory attributed to these grievances.
People embrace violent actions when they believe that there are no more feasible, nonviolent means to lessening grievances.
It is at a time when they recognize the nexus between high expectations that have been disappointed by the continued grievances over issues such as corruption, the lack of economic opportunity, and the equality of opportunities or equality of happiness.
Communities that experience a sense of injustice, real or perceived, resort to violence.
Actions strengthening the relationship between the state and society, and those addressing systemic corruption, weak administration of justice, or a lack of access to justice, all help to root society in the Rule of Law.
A society based on a fair, accountable, and functioning Rule of Law is a society better able to endure inner and outer distresses, including Violent Extremism.
Today, the rising effort of the Rule of Law reformers is promoting an updated approach based on the idea that the Rule of Law is an integral political activity; At its core is the relationship between the state and society.
A thorough understanding of the perceived and actual experiences of justice or injustice of people within the wider context of complex socio-political structures of a society is required.
Ted Gurr, in his famous book “Why Men Rebel,” highlights the importance of understanding grievances by examining where people stand in society, what good and bad they have experienced from political and social structures, how different people interpret similar situations, and why they act in different ways toward the same opportunities.
Gurr emphasizes individualism and highlights the gap in understanding group contexts and how identity shapes people’s hopes and grievances. Acknowledging people’s reference group, their source of collective injustice, and their susceptibility to appeal for political action helps apprehend how grievances and beliefs shape mobilization, as Gurr emphasizes.
Political and social structures need to address the source of injustice and grievances that motivate people to take political action that may lead to Violent Extremism. It is very important to explain where people’s feelings of justice and good life come from.
By researching anger, grievances, and violent actions sequences in societies, a balance of discontent and capacity to act could be maintained channeling anger into non-violent actions.
Perceived injustice and sorrow will lead to desperation witnessing a “more of the same” game of violence. To build more peaceful societies we need to look at minds and address desires and beliefs.