According to those genius-types over at Wiki, Justice is:
Justice is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness and equity. A conception of justice is one of the key features of society. Theories of justice vary greatly, but there is evidence that everyday views of justice can be reconciled with patterned moral preferences (Konow, 2003)..
Wiki then goes on to explain the origins of a variety of concepts of Justice, dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. About halfway through the reading, I decided that this was beginning to feel like a marathon of term papers and not a blog, which (at least in my experience) involves prose pulled straight from my posterior. It seemed, well, like homework. Huh. Can't have that. Distributorcap NY can do that research - he writes smart stuff all the time. Here, you get what I think, reality-based or otherwise.
Well, it turns out that there are lots of kinds of justice. Like the kind that says that justice means fairness and that everyone is treated the same. Then there is the one that says that justice is a natural law (think John Locke). Hobbes argued that justice was law that was imposed by an authority, and in an article called The Theory of Justice, John Rawls argued "you'll never find (bum bum ba bum) as long as you live, (bum bum bum) someone who loves you (bum!) like I dooooooo....." Oh wait, that's Lou Rawls. Damn. Thought this might be going somewhere fun. John Rawls said something about justice being a social contract that allowed for an impartial distribution of goods. See why I liked Lou better?
My favorite definition comes under the meritocratic version of justice and is attributed to Karl Marx: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Wiki says: "According to contribution-based theories, goods should be distributed to match an individual's contribution to the overall social good."
Now that makes sense to me. To me, justice is about fairness. It is about people who work hard should get rewards and people who slack should freeze outside with the grasshopper while the ants are warm and fed.
Justice seems almost like it is about karma. And natural consequences for our actions. Be nice to people and people will be nice to you. Help others and others will help you. Be a raging shit to others, and they'll probably return the favor. We can only hope something awful is headed toward Crawford, Texas for the next eight years.
Ah, but that is retribution. Is retribution justice or is it revenge? Revenge does not seem like it is terribly just, merely punitive.
Justice, somehow seems like it should not be dealt out by a human hand. It ought to be handed down by nature or the market or fate or whatever god one cares to believe in. On the other hand, I grew up hearing "God's gonna get you for that!" Again, it sounds punitive, not to mention petty.
I guess justice would be for a bad person to understand just what kind of damage they have done sometime before they die (remember, I am not an adherent to the concept or belief in an afterlife. What you get here is what you get.) I would like to know that just once, Dubya will comprehend the grave errors he has made and the lives he has ruined. I would like to know that Alan Greenspan feels guilty, if only for a moment, before he dies.
Justice eludes me sometimes. I would have liked to see my own version of justice for Ronald Reagan, whom I hold personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of my peers from AIDS. My own version of justice would have been for him to linger for another 20 years, coherent for seconds each day, during which time he is nursed and cared for by gay male nurses. Who treat him well. And for those 30-second bursts of lucidity each day, he feels absolutely horrible. I have often said "Dig him up, I'll kick him! I'm not done with that bastard yet!" And it is true. I saw a T-shirt once in Washington, DC. It said "all I want is a cure and all my friends back." Yeah. Justice missed the boat there as far as I can tell.
Who knows, though. He may have had some kind of moment of enlightenment and remorse before he died. It gives me some small comfort to consider it.
But that is the kind of justice that is punitive, and probably not entirely just. I'd like to think that justice is like that of Solomon - wise but merciful.
But nowhere in the descriptions and articles that I read did I see anything about mercy. Is justice its own thing devoid of mercy? Somehow that does not seem right. Justice, I guess is a combination of the golden rule, the old testament and the new testament all rolled into one. Reward for effort, punishment for crimes, and leniency for humanity.
I am glad I am not in charge of meting out justice. I fear I would be too heavy-handed with the retribution part and not kind enough with the dispensation of mercy. I am glad also that whatever powers that do mete out justice thus far have seemed to spare me much of the retribution I have probably earned while doling out some extra credits in the mercy department. Perhaps that is what justice is after all? That those who feel remorse are shown mercy, and those who are unable to recognize their own errors and thus feel remorse, well, I don't know what happens to them.
I thought I knew where I was going with this one when I started and all I have managed to do is talk myself in circles and get lost. So much for research.
Perhaps my conclusion here should be that a definition of justice, much like the concept itself, is elusive.