Sunday, July 14, 2013

Justice for all?


All or none

Today’s news is so full of important, unresolved and seemingly unrelated issues that it’s difficult to restrict my comments to the undercurrent, and perhaps broader, matters of substance. Everyday we are witnesses to the emerging tips of the iceberg of injustice and what I have always been intrigued by is what lies beneath that percolates to the surface in various shapes and forms. The essential question is whether there is a common root beneath the surface that pokes its ugly head up into plain view?

One of the most puzzling questions that has continued to perplex me (and others) is the assumed illogic expressed by many policy makers that they alone remain exempt from their decisions. It almost appears they live on one planet that has no connection to another planet where other people live impacted by their decisions. Why does this myth seem to be perpetually impenetrable? And how can others who are impacted, continue to support their madness? This latter was succinctly expressed this morning by a question I noticed in Facebook. The question was this: “How is it that a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations can get a bunch of broken middle-class people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street?”

But as perplexing as this conundrum appears to be, it isn’t anything new. As far back as 1882, Henrik Ibsen wrote his now famous play An Enemy of the People. In the play, a small coastal town in Norway (that was economically depressed) seems for a brief moment to be spared further hardship when the Mayor promotes the development of public baths. The town is thus expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value, and as such, the baths will be a source of great local pride. On the eve of the opening, a popular citizen (Doctor Thomas Stockmann—a curious coincidence with Edward Snowden, another who revealed harmful secrets) discovers that waste products from the town’s tannery are contaminating the waters, and will cause serious illness amongst the tourists.

In the lingo of our world today, Stockmann “blows the whistle.” He expects this important discovery to be among his greatest achievements, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor (Stockmann’s brother), which includes a proposed solution, that would come at a considerable cost to the town. Quite to his amazement, Stockmann soon discovers, that rather than being seen as a savior he is attacked as an enemy of the town’s people and brings both himself and his family into great jeopardy.

So to return to the original conundrum, …how can others who are impacted, continue to support the madness of those who orchestrate mayhem against themselves? And what is that commonly shared root that may lurk beneath the surface, which compels such self-destructive action? There are so many variations on this theme, it’s hard to stay focused. One such variation is now being expressed by Nebraskan, Mary Pipher in her book The Green Boat, Reviving Ourselves in our Capsized Culture. Her book addresses the contradictions between the publically expressed concern by Obama for the environment and the signing of legislation that authorizes building the Keystone Pipeline that will deliver the dirtiest crude oil known to mankind for processing and distribution throughout the world. Will Mary, like Doctor Thomas Stockmann and Edward Snowden, now be seen as the enemy? There are many who hate anyone who looks beyond the moment of quick riches to the far-reaching affects of decisions fueled (pun intended) by vested interests of a few at the expense of many. According to Mary, “The psychological twist in the case of climate change is that we inflict the disaster ourselves. Hurricane Sandy was not simply one more instance of nature unleashing its fearsome powers, just as it has done for millions of years on this planet. Humans are now helping to stir the pot.”

I fear (appropriately so) that we are killing far too many messengers who announce warnings to a curiously quiet society who seem all too willing to join forces with those who are eager to bring us all harm for the immoral benefit of a few. One primary message of An Enemy of the People is that the individual, who stands alone, is more often right than the mass of people, who are portrayed as ignorant and sheep-like. Society’s belief in Ibsen’s time was that the community was a noble institution that could be trusted, a notion Ibsen challenged. In An Enemy of the People, Ibsen chastised not only the conservatism of his society, but also the liberalism of the time. He illustrated how people on both sides of the social and political spectrum could be equally self-serving.

The proof of Iben’s contention seems to thrive continuously, and more than likely will until each and every one of us realizes what Martin Luther King Jr. said (and many others)  that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Quite contrary to deluded notions of some, we only have one shared earth, one shared existence and one shared justice for all, or none.
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