Justice, truth and peace
Justice is one of our most primal instincts (we are hard wired against an injustice) and our most fundamental cherished entitlement. Even as young children we have an instinctive sense of what is fair and just. We may not know anything about law, but we recognise an injustice immediately even if it doesn’t concern us directly. A layman’s definition of justice may be nothing more than us getting what we deserve. Learned people have tried to define it more specifically for yonks.
Esteemed by some philosophers as the highest virtue, the delivery of justice demands and rivets attention. And the opposite is true as well: the perceived miscarriage of justice commands attention, sparking outrage and condemnation.
Politicians are renown for being motivated by popular perceptions and will often pander to current fads of "law and order" or stoked fears of crime waves and make punitive laws to curry favour with voters - a politician was overheard to say,” Never mind about Justice; Law and Order is all that matters”. Statesmen (in short supply) have longer term visions and can draw up constitutions which can protect citizens from short sighted politicians. Yet breaches of judicial codes can only be held to account by current politicians whose short term interest sometimes cannot see past the next election.
This site offers wide ranging perspectives on Justice and how it has been used to organise societies throughout history.
The Side Bar Menu (above, left) offers the following titles:
Lawyers - What do they do and why do we need them?
Judges – What are the prerogatives of Judges, what are they commissioned to do, and what makes a good judge.
The Justice Game – a brief analysis of the book by Geoffrey Robertson, a leading Social Justice advocate.
Justice and Literature – Yeats said poetry (literature) does not make things happen, however a survey of literature through the ages might contest this and good writing can always appeal to the noble in us all.
Justice and Democracy - Looks at the question of equality and how Justice is connected to creating a consensual tranquil and productive society.
Justice and Power - The courts are endowed with tremendous discretionary powers. It is critical that this power is not abused because then people lose faith, confidence and trust in what should be a trustworthy institution.
Justice and Truth - One would assume that truth would be at the heart of our court system, however according to many of its critics, this is far from the truth.
Justice and History – Looks at the origins and surveys the various influences that have form the evolution of our Justice system.
Abuse of power - When power is abused, not only do we have an inherent, inalienable and inviolable right to speak out against it; we have a duty to do so.
Failure of Democracy - Our democratic system is profoundly struggling to maintain functionality and legitimacy in the West. A lot of people died as a result of the failure of European democracy in the 1930s. Democracy’s looking pretty ragged again these days, so we should be concerned about history repeating itself.
The Politics of Fear - Tyrannical politicians, also known as demagogues (as will religious zealots) use fear to control and manipulate the electorate, hoping to suspend their rational judgements. They then assure us that they alone can protect us.
The early civilisations of Greece, China and Sumeria laid the foundations for our concepts of a Just Society in the form of their codifications of laws. The statue of Lady Justice in Athens depicts justice as equipped with three symbols: a sword symbolizing the court's coercive power; a human scale weighing competing claims in each hand; and a blindfold indicating impartiality.
In one of the first Hebrew codes of laws, "Rabbi Shimon ben (son of) Gamliel asserts the three bedrock principles that underpin Western legal systems:
'The world stands upon three things: upon Truth, Justice and Peace. Without these three elements the world cannot be sustained - and further, like the pillars holding up the ceiling of a house, all three are essential - together: There can be no Truth in the absence of Justice and Peace; no Justice in the absence of Truth and Peace; no Peace in the absence of Truth and Justice.
Justice is essential in any fair minded productive society. Without a just society communities cannot reach their full potential. Without Art we cannot have a culture; without Laws, no society; without Justice, no peace.
However, laws do not necessarily equate to Justice, as Hammurabi’s Code of laws or the proscriptions of Leviticus illustrate. They merely list a series of implacable injunctions against certain acts considered taboo, leaving no room for mitigation.
The cornerstone of our system of democracy is the separation of our system of justice from the legislative and executive arms of government. Yet all three are needed to guard the public from abuse of office by the other two.
Like the three nymphs of the Hesperides, given the task of guarding the Golden Apples, had to watch each other. Not trusting them, Hera also placed in the garden a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon named Ladon as an additional safeguard. So too, the three bodies of government have to keep an eye on each other to make sure each one remains true to their calling. We the people have the onerous task of Ladon – vigilantly guarding our hard won freedoms.
Despite her vigilance, the Golden Apples were twice snaffled, once by Atlas for Achilles, and also by Discord, the goddess of strife, aka, Eris, the Greek goddess of mischief, to offer them to the fairest, igniting the Trojan War. Eris, (Eristic reasoning – Casuistry, Sophistry, Specious or Lawyer logic) is present in political debates, in court rooms and wherever people are talking, not to discover truth, but to win with whatever it takes.
The problem lies in the fact that Justice is administered by the judiciary while the laws are framed by parliamentarians who notionally reflect the attitudes of contemporary mores or values.
It was Bismarck’s lament:
"To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making."
“The ‘law’ is "no law at all, but rather a species of violence". Thomas Aquinas
"Be ye ever so high, the law is above you" is the great principle that embodies the rule of law.
I am indebted to a large number of scholars, writers, Judges, lawyers... for all my work. As Tennyson wrote: "I am a part of all that I met" and Colonel Schultz speaks for me when he says, "I know nussing!" Here are some, but not all of my main sources:
The Honourable Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, August 17th, 2013 at the Saskatoon conference of the Canadian Bar Association. Full story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/canada-s-top-judge-slams-inaccessible-justice-1.1306993
The Honourable Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004. She is the first Jewish woman appointed to the Court. These excerpts come from a Lecture, Justice and Literature (before 2006) Full transcript available: http://www.lsuc.on.ca/media/rosalie_abella_justice_and_literature.pdf
Retired Australian High Court (Canadian born) Judge Dyson Heydon ''The enemy within'', published in the Law Quarterly Review.
EVAN WHITT0N - Excerpts from: ‘Our Corrupt Legal System: Why Everyone is a Victim (Except Rich Criminals)’ by Evan Whitton (Book Pal, 2009)
Evan Whitton, an Australian legal historian, details the origins of the system used in England and its former colonies. Evan Whitton has been reporting on corruption for more than thirty years, received the Walkley Award for National Journalism five times and was Journalist of the Year 1983 for "courage and innovation" in reporting a corruption inquiry. He was editor of The National Times, Chief Reporter and European Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and Reader in Journalism at the University of Queensland. He is now a columnist on the online legal journal Justinian www.justinian.com.au More @ http://netk.net.au/WhittonCartel.asp
Richard Ackland: Publisher of Justinian, broadcaster, columnist, reconnoiter and entertainer.