Justice Without Universal Applicability Is an Empty Slogan
– Vine DeLoria Jr.1
Social justice advocates and activists consider social injustices to be anathema. That a segment of humanity should suffer injustices is morally reprehensible, and few would deny that the longer the injustices continue, the more reprehensible the injustice becomes. Social justice is a matter of immediacy; people are suffering, and one moment longer is another moment too long.
A while back I posed a question to a Canadian2 advocacy journalist for Palestinian rights, citing a moral precept as espoused by anarchist professor Noam Chomsky–namely that people should focus criticism firstly on the crimes of their own states.3
For the record, I realize that Chomsky’s remark could be misconstrued as restrictive in that he calls for concentration on the crimes of one’s own state before venturing into the wider arena of crimes committed by other states. However, if such an argument were used to shut down criticism, for example, of Israel’s occupation and the oppression of Palestinians, then this would be a morally untenable argument. Social justice knows no borders. Humanity transcends borders; humans are humans wherever they might be. Primary concern for the violence and terrorism committed by one’s own state must not be interpreted as precluding or excluding concern for violence wreaked by others outside one’s borders. After all, progressives the world over think globally when confronted with issues of racism, oppression, colonialism, and imperialism.
I discussed this with fellow writer B.J. Sabri who responded,
To argue this point, even if Chomsky’s statement is acceptable on its announced merit, it ignores one essential fact of analysis: can we treat two issues with different magnitude and historical significance with the same yardstick and differing grades of political focus?
For instance, which is more important: the entity with the greater magnitude in terms of immediacy or that with lesser immediacy although its historical resonance is such that relegating it to second tier is a moral travesty? No doubt, to answer such a dilemma, people would refer to their political, humanistic, and intellectual agenda to devise a scale of priority. Above all, committed progressives acknowledge the impossibility to formulate universal parameters fitting all disparate situations requiring intervention.
I intend to examine the validity of Chomsky’s precept as well as the antithetical validity of opposing views.
From the moral perspective of focusing on the social injustices of one’s own state, I asked the pro-Palestinian author why he did not, therefore, write more frequently about colonialist crimes against Canada’s Original Peoples, given that non-Indigenous Canadians (similarly to Ashkenazi Jews) live on a land gained through war crimes and dispossession?
The response: Read more…
from → Opinion