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

Alex—

Thanks for commenting on my piece. I did not intend to subject the upper class to an unfair trial, so my apologies if it came across as such! Similarly, I agree with your belief in freedom to act and the equality of respect, and I was not attempting to suggest that the government should encroach on either of those liberties. Although empathy is not the only solution to social injustice, overcoming power imbalances caused by socioeconomic differences puts the odds in favor of the wealthier or more powerful party. For a situation to be considered “socially just,” both parties must view the outcome as justice, which is where my idea of mutual benefit, respect, and understanding comes into play. I do appreciate you challenging my reasoning, though, because it makes for a more thought-provoking Like Mill, I think that debate is the best way to ensure one is firm in his or her beliefs!

Comment on “Democratic, Christian America”

Anna, I really appreciated your post because I felt as though it nearly mirrored my own thoughts on the topic. Coming from a rather privileged identity, I never felt like I could fully understand religious oppression or its effects. More so, I was confused about how religious oppression could be an issue in a country that was founded on the idea of freedom of religion. I agree when you say that for those of us (i.e. me) who buy into the concrete idea of American freedom of religion, it is extremely hard to notice these violations. As I’ve looked into the issue more, I have begun to understand how religious oppression can manifest in ways that are hard to identify for those who are not directly affected, with “in God we trust” plastered across the federal currency as a prime example. Thank you for taking the time to write on this subject, because I think it’s important to try to ensure those of us who don’t regularly face oppression based on our religion develop a sensitivity to the subject. I think this is a great first step to ensuring more American citizens use their religious privilege to step up and say something when they see another person or group’s liberties in danger.

Comment on “Where to Invade Next”

Ethan, I really enjoyed this post! I agree that it often is hard to maintain the thought that America is “the greatest country in the world,” when we overlook many of the effects of that “greatness” in our everyday lives. To be honest, I was tempted to throw a fit when I heard what those French fourth-graders eat for lunch—at that age, my day would have been made if I had heard chicken nuggets were on the menu. I think your post excellently highlights something far more important than school lunch disparities or Icelandic feminism (even though feminism is not something I would call irrelevant by any means). America is a country that has granted its citizens the liberty to have a diversity of opinions. Additionally, America protects its citizens’ freedoms with democratic elections and one of the most advanced armed services in the world. It’s easy to get caught up in the ways in which America has “failed” when you’re doing homework that your Finnish pen-pal will never have, but stopping to realize that American are offered a lifestyle that is unparalleled by many can help to put things into perspective. I think you did a great job reminding us of that, so thank you!

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