Are We A Just Society?

โ€œWhere justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.โ€

~Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was an African American social reformer, abolitionist, orator and statesman who worked tirelessly to eradicate slavery in the United States. He was born a slave and became the antithesis of white, slave owners’ propaganda that black people were inferior intellectually. His intellectual prowess and eloquence are readily apparent in his words quoted above.

In my first post during Black History Month, I deliberately turned to one of the giants in American history. I must also share the fact that as I waded through countless images of poverty and injustice, there are scores of pictures of Middle Eastern refugees and the poor in third world countries, but I had difficulty finding one that depicted this despicable human condition in a first world country. Why is that? It’s simple. We don’t want to see it or admit that it exists in our world where too many people have lots to eat, waste food by the tonne each year and are obsessed with weight loss.

Socially, I fear we have not progressed throughout history. We have always had societies organised by social class – more often than not – based upon wealthย or lack of it. Douglass zeroes in on this reality where poverty goes hand in hand with injustice and degradation. Some would say that this is the natural order of things. It is the order of things, but it is anything but “natural”. Nelson Mandela has this to say:

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Recently, I passed along a statistic that horrified me – that the combined wealth of the 8 wealthiest people in the world surpassed the combined wealth of the poorest 50% of the world’s population. Time and again, I read or hear the well-heeled rail against unions that have too much power. Unions were the natural outgrowth of the unbridled greed of the wealthy upper class that controlled the economy and governments. Today, in industrialised societies we have a constant atmosphere of conflict and mistrust between the working class and business owners. Both sides bemoan the disappearance of loyalty from this relationship. How can loyalty survive in a toxic environment? Nelson Mandela also echoes Douglass when he says:

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I believe the “Trump Phenomenon” is just the beginning of a restructuring of society. How ironic that it is a narcissistic billionaire who is leading the assault on ‘how things get done’ in America. Does he intend to financially enfranchise the poor in America? I doubt it, but as he goes about his business in the Oval Office like a bull in a china shop, he may put enough cracks in the economic and political infrastructure that a more equitable social organisation of American society can gradually emerge.

Both Douglass and Mandela agree that the current social order breeds discontent and desperation that inevitably leads to violence. Every day we are greeted by new atrocities committed by extremists or the mentally ill, forcing us to bury the innocent victims like the Muslims shot and killed in their Mosque in Quebec City a few days ago. When will the violent acts of the few morph into the insurrection of the many?

 

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

7 thoughts on “Are We A Just Society?”

    1. Thanks, John. It’s not a regular occurrence here in Canada, but it is not the first. You’re right, hatred knows no borders. The shooter is a 27-year-old student at Laval University and his social media shows him to be a Trump fan and other right-wing extremists.

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  1. Picking up on the sermon on the mount perspective, I think it depends on how broadly you look at poverty. Perhaps a better term is ‘less fortunate’ and, when applied to mental, emotional, socio-political or fiscal status, will cover a lot of bases where someone is significantly lacking in some respect. In fact, it could arguably apply to everyone, even those 8 billionaires (think of how hard it is to get that camel through the eye of a needle!). ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    But of course, true, undeniable poverty, in 3rd world terms, is when people cannot find the bare minimum to survive, because of loss of employment, war, or oppression of some kind. This is where the gap between the industrialised nations (I won’t say civilised), is most obvious. Even then there are increasing signs that ‘ordinary’ families living in the west, or in Australasia, are homeless, or almost starving and surviving hand to mouth on benefits and charity (in the UK some people regularly go to food banks for free, or heavily subsidised food on proof of social security or charitable vouchers).
    What worries me most is the way that state and institutional support is being systematically eroded for the severely physically and mentally disabled, whether it’s social and medical care, or on how they’re assessed for ‘capability’ on a ‘catch-all’ tick-box basis, and not holistically. People with ‘invisible’ disabilities are slipping through the cracks and drifting into abusive environments, homelessness, or relationships, preyed upon by the unscrupulous, or just simply neglected until they ‘disappear’ off the radar.

    And that’s before we even get onto the children and most vulnerable people… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I hope you’re right, John and that these trends we’re seeing are heralding a social revolution that will bring in a more equitable society, where everyone can reach their full potential and have a good shot at ‘the pursuit of happiness’, that’s not defined by a bank balance. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Lots of food for thought here. When we go back in history as far as Jesus – he said at one point. The poor will always be with us. I wonder what He meant by that. Great blog.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words! I know those words by Jesus have been interpreted many different ways – one of the most offensive I’ve heard is a religious person who claimed that Jesus meant that God put the poor here to teach us compassion and mercy, etc. I think that Jesus was just making a prediction about the fact that greed in a society produces poor people as a by-product. Entrepreneurs can create very successful businesses that will benefit the many, not just themselves if they so desire. If they did, there would be no unions, and the working class would be living more comfortably.

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