New Liberal Vocabulary

If you read social justice works from the 1960s or 70s (or if you were around then) you’ll notice that the vocabulary of social justice has changed in the intervening decades. For example, privilege (with an emphasis on the benefits individuals derive from their position in the social hierarchy) is now used, instead of oppression (with an emphasis on the disadvantages accruing to large groups of people due to the system).

In general, the new vocabulary words emphasize the individual, as opposed to the old vocabulary emphasizing the collective and the group.

I highly recommend reading the entire article, The Rise of the Post-New Left Political Vocabulary on The Public Autonomy Project, a project of Stephen D’Arcy, a philosophy professor at Huron University College in London, Ontario.

The thing I have noticed is that both vocabularies stem from the particular way of thinking that goes along with a generation and the events that affect that generation. The old vocabulary comes from the Baby Boom generation, while the new vocabulary comes from the Millenial generation. As someone who doesn’t really fit in those generations (or any one, really, as a very young Gen Xer), I find that none of the vocabulary really speaks to me and the way I think, although I definitely feel more comfortable with the new vocabulary. How about you? Which vocabulary speaks to you more? Which one are you most comfortable with? Please share in the comments.


Immigration Reform

This country was built by immigrants (after they stole the land). But on their stolen land, the immigrants and their descendants built a great democracy, the likes of which the world had never seen before. Now, new immigrants are shut out of this country. If they do come, they are treated like pariahs. Is this the legacy we want to be remembered for? I know I don’t. Amidst the shutdown, a bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives for comprehensive immigration reform, HR 15. Sign this petition today to ask that the bill be brought to a vote.

Tomorrow is Election Day

The most important thing is to vote — we live in a democracy, let’s keep it that way by exercising our right and our privilege tomorrow.

If you aren’t sure about how to vote, the one place you should visit today or tomorrow is your local library — your local newspaper is there, listing all the candidates, and your local ballot is there, letting you know what to expect at the ballot box.

But the most important thing you can do tomorrow — VOTE!

Since I started writing this post, I learned that there is one group of adult citizens who cannot in many cases vote. This is disenfranchisement on a grand scale, and no one notices.

If you have been convicted of a felony, you are not able to vote until you have completed all the requirements of your sentencing (including prison time, probation and parole). In some states, your voting rights are then automatically restored to you. In other states, you must petition to have them restored. If you have been convicted of a felony, please find out if you are eligible to vote. If you are able to do so, please vote. If you are not able to do so, please find out how you can become eligible again once your sentencing requirements are completed.

One more thing, if you are able to vote, Free Press, a media reform group, is asking people who can to record their experiences at their polling place. Read about it at Your Right to Record.

Social Justice Forum

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Richard, who attended the sermon & subsequent forum on social justice that we are reviewing here.

On Sunday, March 27 Reverend Lyn Cameron presented her homily on Justice, Social Justice and GD Social Justice. After the service we held a forum discussion on the subject of social justice in which church members had the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions on this very important and timely topic. We agreed that social justice is achieved when everyone regardless of background, wealth, social status, race, ethnicity, gender identity, etc is treated equally (in accordance with a single set of rules) on all social matters.

It should be obvious to all who pay even casual attention to the news that America, indeed the whole world, is in a major state of social, political and financial unrest. In such times social injustices of all manner and degrees become almost common place. It seems that many governments around the world and here among the 50 states have declared war on their own people. The combat is focused on social and financial matters. The financial crises, real and trumped up, are being used as justification to cut a wide swath through social programs such as public services, education, financial aid, medical aid and many others.

During our forum discussion the subject of causation in social problems came up. When government entities from local to national, design remedies to social problems they must make an effort to determine what is causing the problem to arise in the first place. At this stage officials must be on guard to determine if special interest groups are pushing a narrow issue agenda for their own benefit. Often the root cause is not readily discernable and a program is legislated that partially alleviates the problem and in some cases makes it worse. This latter outcome is the result of the “law of unintended consequences” coming into play. Unintended consequences can best be ameliorated but never totally avoided by transparency in policy making and execution at all levels of government and social organization. Transparency means open meetings, avoidance of conflicts of interest, encouraging public input, honoring successful practices, minimizing secrecy and striving for just outcomes.

The most glaring example of unintended consequences that comes to mind is the failure of the war on drugs to solve illegal drug trafficking which has grown into a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry. So Rule No. 1 in developing a social justice action plan is to get to the bottom of the injustice before setting an action plan and target goal.

We recognized that there are limits to solving social justice problems. The slavery issue is a good study in this regard. Ending slavery became an issue in the U.S. nearly 200 years ago. It has been nearly 150 years since slavery was abolished but the injustice did not end then. It has morphed into what we call ‘racism’ today in which various modes of social discrimination are directed at the descendents of the African slaves and other non-white groups in the U.S. Racism will not end until the golden rule becomes second nature to all humanity.

The question arose regarding the role of central planning in addressing social justice issues. Central planning works best when it sets the ground rules rather than mandating certain behaviors on social issues. Anti-discrimination statutes, especially the Civil Rights Act, are a good example here. Some see the CRA as a government mandate and resent it accordingly while the majority (one hopes) see this act as the rules of the game for all citizens to play by.

This writer thinks that the most effective social justice programs spring spontaneously from local self-organized groups such as churches, social clubs and communities in which the need is readily apparent. Although they may have only local impact on many issues a good idea can catch fire and spread nationwide. The internet has become the technological solution to sharing good ideas on social justice problems.

“Rags to riches” describes the dominant American success story. Recognition of success is granted to those who succeed in making lots of money and these are mostly limited to business executives, successful entrepreneurs, and movie and athletic stars. High achievers in the arts, sciences and humanitarian efforts are recognized with special awards but not often with wealth. How many Americans can name the U.S. poet laureate? I know I can’t. Why is this? In a nutshell a simple answer is; that in a materialistic consumerist society such as the U.S. money is king. Money buys influence and lots of nice stuff. Everyone wants more money. Aristotle Onassis (or was it George Soros?) was considered the wealthiest man in the world several decades ago and when asked if he thought he had enough money he responded “not quite yet”. Apparently the greed for money is insatiable. Enough said.

In our capitalistic democracy wealth is now and probably always has been a key factor in how social justice is administered. Some cynic once remarked to the effect that “America has the best justice money can buy”. The statue at the Supreme Court entrance of the blindfolded lady justice holding the scales is an ideal but not a reality here in the good ole U$A. America is well on the road to becoming a two-class society, the poorly paid working class and the wealthy elite. This can easily become the seed of revolution as it has in many historical as well as current circumstances. The Middle-East demonstrations against authoritarian governments are increasing in number and violence. Revolution has erupted in Libya. If the current trend in America continues there will likely be a violent revolt against corporate domination of our ruling bodies. Let’s hope that people come to their senses (a transformation in consciousness?) before it reaches this stage.

The quest for social justice is driven by the human desire for freedom and the opportunity to pursue a life of one’s choosing with a minimum of outside interference. It is likely a driving force in human evolution as well as we continue to seek the utopian dream of the best of all possible worlds.


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