Justice (part 2): Beyond the Golden Rule

So where is justice when people “get away” with crimes, or when one community profits at the expense of another? Obviously there is none from the individual point of view: some individuals and communities/tribes/countries win, and some lose. As a whole, however, we lose. How? Because neither the winners nor the losers are well placed to carry the grand experiment of life forward.

Those who take advantage of others are acting for self-interest, even if their “self” has expanded to include family/community/country. Blind and stumbling, they are going backwards. They cannot evolve, which at the conscious level absolutely requires identification with the whole of life. On the other hand, those who receive less than their fair share are unable to contribute what they otherwise could.

You might think this is a wave of the hand that absolves individuals of blame, but only if you ignore the consequences. This concept of justice is both impartial and inflexible. I don’t really know how to convey the gravity of a situation in which we could make the final act in billions of years of evolution a fantastic show of self-inspired greed. This is not a practice round that really doesn’t count. There is no second chance, no appeals court to sort it out for us. In the words of a nursery rhyme, “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

So a self-less sense of justice leads to a collective sense of responsibility. Everything counts, and nothing can be ignored or undone. What eventually matters is what we all do. There may always be people who act in unreasonable and unpredictable ways, but we need to cultivate a strong sense that we are responsible for one another, since we will all suffer the consequences of what one or another of us does.

Perhaps it is obvious, but we need to keep in mind that intentions do not count in the end. If we destroy the environment without intending to do so, it does not revive as though it had been playing dead in a game. It doesn’t even matter if we are pawns in the designs of others – whether identifiable, as with Hitler, or anonymous, as with the current “free-market” capitalism and “communist” systems. These anonymously brutal contemporary systems cause huge numbers of people to suffer because of a minority who think too little of the long-term consequences, let alone of people in need.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it takes a lot for one person to impact the progress of life as a whole, but it does not take so much on an individual level for a large number of people to have a cumulative impact, perhaps critically. Since this cumulative impact could be positive as well as negative, there can be no shrinking from our responsibility. We must do whatever is necessary to get everyone moving in a mutually advantageous direction.

Our concept of justice, with no judgmental or enforcement mechanism, leads to a double imperative. We cannot take advantage of another, because in doing so we hurt our self and hinder our evolution. But to foster evolution, to take things forward, we also must ensure that everyone has what he or she needs to participate fully in life. And this springs not from some liberal or charitable ideal but from true self-interest.

I realize that this all tends toward the utilitarian, that one could argue it leaves the way open, in the interest of life in general, to remove “flawed” instances of consciousness – people who won’t or can’t cooperate, who insist on harming others or place great burdens on available resources. I’ll have to leave this hanging for now, because we first need to fill out the concept of self and look at what love means in this context.

3 thoughts on “Justice (part 2): Beyond the Golden Rule

  1. Bob

    I share your concern for a utilitarian conclusion. Removing “flawed” consciousnesses doesn’t seem to follow logically with our unifying identity anyway (what helps you helps me and what hurts you hurts me). Besides, when I was in Taiwan, there was a strong belief that harmful individuals do not just go away even if killed and removed physically, rather, they tend to hang around as mischievous and hungry ghosts!
    Utilitarianism is just another form of domination. Love and compassion, although slow, seem to be more effective at awakening consciousness. For example, Abe Lincoln was severly criticized for being too lenient in forgiving the South after the Civil War. A northern senator exclaimed, “Mr. President, I believe my enemy should be destroyed!” Lincoln replied, “Mr. Senator, isn’t my enemy destroyed when I make him my friend?”
    Finally, this community of evolved consciousness appears to herald the Jewish notion of the coming messiah: a new era of living and being. Bruteau acknowledges that Jesus may be the archetypal example of love and compassion, but the messiah isn’t necessarily one individual. Instead, the messiah is more a community, a Body of Christ that unites us all as one.

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