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The world needs inclusive justice for all

2019-02-20 05:00

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Inclusive justice implies that we seek justice in the framework of intersectionality. That means that we acknowledge the interwovenness of various injustices: racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, even ecocide, writes Nico Koopman.

On 20 February we celebrate World Day of Social Justice. On this day, citizens of the world remember and celebrate our commitment to inclusive justice and reaffirm our quest for social justice.

Decades ago Dr Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that an injury to justice anywhere is an injury to justice everywhere. Justice is required in local and global contexts. Local decisions in powerful nations of the world have an impact globally, especially upon the more vulnerable countries of the world.

The inadequate ecological policies and practices of some powerful nations cause ecological destruction in countries far away. For example, the rising water levels in the South Sea Islands are a result of ecological malpractices in countries in the North.

READ: Mandy Wiener - After years of failure, 2019 is the year for justice

We celebrate justice in the different spheres of life. Justice is our quest in political, economic and ecological life; in civil society with all its institutions, as well as in the sphere of public discussions, public debate, public deliberation and the formation of public opinion.

We celebrate our commitment to inclusive justice in the most intimate circles as well as the most public and cosmic circles of life. Especially feminist and womanist thinkers remind us that the personal is public. Life in the most personal and intimate relationships, as in marriage, is impacted upon by the most public prejudices, policies and practices. What happens in these intimate spaces, on the other hand, also impacts upon the type of societies we really are. If injustice and oppression is tolerated in intimate circles, there can be no talk about justice and freedom in broader society.

Inclusive justice implies that we seek justice in the framework of intersectionality. Intersectionality means that we acknowledge the interwovenness of various injustices. Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, even ecocide.

We cannot be champions for a non-racial society, and simultaneously discriminate against people from other socio-economic groups, other sexes, genders and sexual orientations, people with disabilities, people from other age groups, and even animals, plants and nature. Parochial justice is elitist justice, and therefore no justice at all.

Justice does not come alone. It is part of a family. The Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution places justice in the family circle of dignity, healing of the manifold wounds of people, freedom and equality. Inclusive justice implies that justice takes shape where dignity, healing, freedom and equality for all is advanced.

On World Day of Social Justice we also remember and celebrate our commitment to justice, which is simultaneously a vision, a value, a virtue and an action. We dream of a society where justice is fully experienced by all.

We measure all our policies, decisions, practices and actions against our values, against what weigh the heaviest for us – in this case justice for all. We are committed to adhere to justice as dream and value, but also to embody the vision and the value ourselves, that is to acquire the virtue of justice. Virtue means we live with the predisposition, tendency, inclination, intuition, programmedness for justice.

We strive to be people of justice – just people, fair people. And this vision, value and virtue of justice is to be manifested in concrete and tangible decisions and policies, actions and practices of justice.

The quest for inclusive justice also implies that we learn from various theories of justice. And whilst doing this theoretical work, we remember Immanuel Kant's idea that there is nothing as practical as a good theory.

American feminist scholar, Karin Lebacqz analyses various theories of justice by famous social theorists. She demonstrates that adequate theories of justice can only be developed where there is an emphasis on the least advantaged (John Rawls); where freedom is valued (Robert Nozick); where the poor enjoy priority (the 1986 pastoral letter on economic justice of the North American Catholic Bishops Conference); where the so-called epistemological privilege of the poor is emphasised, i.e. God is only known and true knowledge can only be accessed in the doing of justice (liberation theologian José Miranda).

In his book Justice, American philosopher Michael Sandel discusses, in a remarkable and highly accessible manner, the lessons that we can learn from various theories of justice that were developed over millennia.  

When we celebrate a day like World Day of Social Justice, we remember justice, and we re-commit ourselves in fresh ways to seek inclusive justice for everyone in all walks of life locally and globally.

- Prof Nico Koopman is vice-rector for social impact, transformation and personnel at Stellenbosch University.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    martin luther king jnr  |  justice
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