Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Social Justice

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Social Justice for the 21st Century

"Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard." Proverbs 21:13

What IS Social Justice and how are we to respond to it?
Many have debated this topic for hundreds if not thousands of years and now it is hashed between the partisan politics on Capitol Hill and still we must ask ourselves-- are we a Socially Just Society, Nation and People?

The topic of Social Justice is uniquely intertwined with faith for many. The bible speaks:

"The Lord hears the cry of the oppressed. He is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor the widow when she pours out her complaint. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest until it reaches its goal. Nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right." Sirach 35:13-18

The Book of Romans calls us to remember the Poor, to feed those who are hungry, give drink to those that are thirsty. Remember the widows, be kind to strangers.
Going on to say "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

So it is a topic that should indeed cross partisan lines and fall directly to the heart of all humanity.
"How do we care for the poor and needy? Am I a Socially Just person? Is the world I live in a Socially Just world?"

We live in a needy world.
There are those that live without the basic necessities of life in our world. There are those that live beneath the standards that we would ourselves deem fit and proper for our loved ones. There are those that have much and give little. There are those who have little yet give of what they have. There are those that are guiltless over-consumers and there are those that live simply so that others might simply live. These are the facts.

Here at Balance of Power, speaking of the needy in this nation has previously been a *VERY* hot topic of debate. It is not my intention to rehash the same debates that we've had before--who's responsibility is it? Where does my responsibility begin and another's responsibility end?
We've had the "bootstraps, bootstraps" conversation and we have all at one point or another had to take responsibility for our own situations and realize we were part of the problem in how we ended up where we were.
So, to begin, lets just establish.. yes we all bear personal responsibility for ourselves. YET... is that where our responsibility should end? What amount of giving is "too much giving"?

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, brought us all face to face with the emotion and reality of the poor, the impoverished, those that had lost it all and were waning in their hope of recovery.
For most of us we responded with our hearts first: prayer, condolences, giving, offering of ourselves and even our shelter. It brought out the best (and also the worst) in what America is made of. We were confronted and assailed by questions of why were the majority of those that remained in New Orleans, black and impoverished? What has our society done, what were the circumstances that made it so clearly demarcated as a "social issue" rather then just another "weather related catastrophe?"

Social Justice is not only about doing for the poor and the needy it is about LIVING justly. It is about wise consumerism and learning to live Sustainable and Just Lifestyles. The more this occurs in our own lives, then the more we can

A. share the methods of sustainability and justice
B. do more with our reserves and overflowing abundance
for those that are truly needy in this world.

There are numerous Social Justice organizations alive and working in the world such as The Catholic Workers Movement that was founded by Dorothy Day in 1933

These are common people that live for the purposes of helping others live the works of mercy, justice and peace.

There are numerous Self Sustaining communities that have become more active in this nation and others in the effort to live more simply, to use less so that those that are in need might have more to draw from.

There are some simple suggestions that we might make ourselves more socially just people in the effort to make our world as a whole more socially just. For example:

We can spend less money on unjust global corporate economy. We can learn to shop more locally and support our local farmers and small businesses.

We can consider how we work. Does our work and our life support peaceful existence or do we work for conglomerate empires that pollute the environment or make bombs to perpetuate the cycles of aggression and war?
We can change, with deliberate mindfulness.

We can choose to live debt free so as not to support national chains and finance companies that drive the rates of poverty, indebtedness and bankruptcy.

We can look at how we live. Do we have more then we need, could we pitch together with others in a co-housing effort. Could the notion of community take root and spring up in single persons taking shelter together with others that are of similar spiritual and just minded philosophy and "Become the change they wish to see in the world"?

We can look at how we use energy and minimize it so as to reduce the dependence on petroleum products. We can look at things like carpooling, solar and wind power.

We can grow more of what we need and barter it, sell it locally at friendly prices.

We can recycle, reuse, make-do. Support things like freecycle and remember that everything comes from somewhere and we are called upon to be good stewards of our resources.

Of such are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling towards living more Socially Just in the 21st Century.

Nariel of Ancient Eyes for Current Times

Nariel's suggestions got me to thinking about what I could do to be more socially just. Soon after Hurricane Katrina, many bloggers encouraged readers to donate to various organizations. I participated by posting something on my own blog and by donating money.

This was a worthy effort, however I was remiss in not responding similarly to a much greater disaster that hit the world last fall. In October, an earthquake struck southern Asia, killing at least 87,000 people. I can't think of any good reason why I all but ignored the southern Asian earthquake after having contributed to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. (No, the fact that the victims aren't American is not a good reason.)

Well, better late than never, I suppose. Now is a critical time for the south Asian earthquake survivors, with winter setting in. Pakistan Earthquake 2005 has more information. Here are a couple of relief agencies:
Mercy Corps.

In an effort to live more socially justly in 2006, I'm going to make financial contributions to agencies that are helping the survivors of the south Asian earthquake. If you haven't already done so, please join me. If you have already done so, you're a better person than I am.

Jason of Leave Us Alone!

Social Justice many times is a misapplied idea.

Nariel sights scripture to back up her argument, and I agree with her. "The Book of Romans calls us to remember the Poor, to feed those who are hungry, give drink to those that are thirsty. Remember the widows, be kind to strangers. Going on to say 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' "

Yes it does, and I am of the belief that that action must be chosen by each and every one of us, not forced by the government. We must choose to help the needy for it to truly be a selfless and good act. It is the responsibility of each one of us to act, to provide charity via whatever currency we see fit.

I also believe it is better to give tools than produce. There is a generally un-attributed truism out there that says, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." Giving people the tools to pull themselves us, and giving them the assistance to get up in the first place is what needs to occur. Your local soup kitchen and salvation army are good for that along with many faith based initiatives.

But to the Question… How much is enough? Enough is for each of us to look into our hearts and decide. Enough is as much as we CAN give. And that will be different for each person.

The biggest thing for me however is that this should not have anything to do with the government, it is not their role to be the nations charity. It is however our role, and we must all provide it.

Matthew of Liberty Just In Case
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