Comment on “The Latest in False Advertisement: Social Justice”

Maria,

This was a great post.  Your commentary on the nature of justice in society being inherently unequal was compelling, and the photos from the exhibition really drove home the point.

Though it was well argued, I have to say I disagree with your conclusion.  To me our society is based on preserving the freedom to act, and equality of respect in the eyes of the law.  It seems like the exorbitant wealth of the upper class you speak about extends beyond “justice” and impinges on the members of the “mudsill” class’ rights to respect.

I am not one to say that this is true in today’s society, but I think that it is possible moving forward for us to curtail the exorbitant riches of the few and use the profits to curb the injustices naturally present in lower circumstances.  Opportunity, and the right to a fair trial in society, are at stake here.

I agree that those at the top of society have difficulty feeling the heat from the bottom of the iron, and may find it hard to act in the best interests of those at the bottom, but I question whether the best solution is to ask more empathy of those at the top.  I would propose giving more autonomy and opportunity to those at the bottom, and let them rise to the top by their own volition, unencumbered by the unfair wealth of the few.

Comment on “Where to Invade Next”

Ethan,

What an amazing post.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research on this subject!

Your post really connected with me – especially because I spent a good deal of time traveling last year, and I was exposed both to efficiencies in other systems that weren’t present in our own, and to the anti-American sentiment that is present in a lot of cultures around the world.  I experienced the disillusionment you warn against in your concluding sentences, and I think I’ve come to realize why our country is special, even in light of its obvious flaws.

 

Comment on “Democratic, Christian America”

Anna, I first want to say that I’m posting my comment here because I couldn’t leave a comment on your post.  I implemented Ethan’s solution— hopefully it works!

I’d also like to say that I loved your post.  The idea of Islamophobia as a reincarnation of our tendency to exclude certain people from the rights we hold dear because of prejudice, racism, xenophobia or religious intolerance is a compelling one.  It seems that if we continue to narrow our definition of who an “American” is, i.e. who is entitled to the rights we espouse, we will find ourselves with the smallest subset of the least diverse cross section of our population.  Thinking in logical extremes like that helps me see that such a vision of an American would be absurd.

We’re a country of immigrants, and immigration is central both to our identity and our progress. Obstacles like xenophobia and racism are big ones, and I agree that it is critical for us to attack them at their logically bankrupt foundations if we are to succeed in annulling their effects.

The Latest in False Advertisement: Social Justice

I don’t believe in “social justice”—at least not the all-inclusive, clear-cut meaning the phrase has adopted thus far in 2016.  Don’t hate me, I’m all for pursuing legitimate social justice, but I think the present understanding of the phrase represents a hoax, a fraud; an illusion like those for which Karl Marx held such disdain. Let me explain why.

As a student in Professor Lisa Disch’s Introduction to Political Theory this winter, I’ve been intrigued by the lively in-class discussions about readings by authors whose views are in direct opposition. Typically, each side’s argument appears sound when examined independently; however, when juxtaposed, there is a clear disparity in how each party has been affected by the other’s decision-making. 

With that said, let me draw your attention to The ‘Mudsill’ Theory, brought to you by James Hammond. Hammond insists that society must have a lower class (“mudsills”) to perform the menial labor that supports the upper class.

Since I was just as curious as you are, I Googled the reasoning behind his use of the word “mudsill,” which resulted in the following:

 

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think this sentiment has vanished along with the use of the word mudsill. From wealthy politicians praising the efforts of the “hardworking, everyday Americans,” (as opposed to the “weekday Americans”) to the dangerous, often undesirable jobs reserved for undocumented immigrants, it’s clear that those at the top justify their positions through some watered-down version of this argument. Even if it’s tempting, we can’t fully blame Hammond for corrupting America with this idea. He simply broadcasted his thought process more explicitly than many before him had chosen to do.

Think about it–justice for one group almost always implies a degree of injustice for another. I found myself coming to this realization while strolling through “Social (In)Justice,” a cleverly titled art exhibit. In particular, one piece stood out as a powerful commentary on the American Settlement. “Men of Iron,” by Willie Cole, beautifully depicts the paradox that is social justice. It illustrates a simple truth of human interaction: there are two sides to every story. 

By imagining the settlement from a Native American’s perspective, a degree of depth is added to Willie Cole’s depiction of irons. Irons are used to make a clothing item’s texture even or homogeneous. However, irons are extremely hot, and heterogeneity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The white settlers metaphorically ironed over Native American communities and culture, and they didn’t feel how that might burn because they were holding the safe, cool part of the iron. 

So if society’s current understanding of social justice is just an illusion, what should we do about it?  Ultimately, it comes down learning to look at the world from another person’s perspective. If we have any hope of achieving social justice in a non-utopian society, it must start with decisions founded on mutual benefit, respect, and understanding