Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.
The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.
The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.
The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.
How did Social Justice start?
With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.
Are we aware of it?
Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.
True, but it is a long road. . .
In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.
How do we contribute?
So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.
Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?