Sunday, March 11, 2007

Just Post for Social Justice

One thing that amazes me about the blogosphere is how I managed to find, out of the millions of blogs, really great ones, written by amazing people doing amazing things.

Two of these bloggers---Jen and Mad---created Just Post.

The Just Posts, put up monthly, are a collection of Social Justice posts. (Also hosted on The Whole

Social justice is a philosophy, as well as a Catholic principle. In Catholicism, it is based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, and developed by a Jesuit named Luigi Taparelli D'Azeglio. Taparelli was motivated by, "human costs of industrialization and urbanization." He felt dissatisfied with the private response of charity and the public, economic response:

The problem arose out of what he calls the “heterodox spirit” which, by attributing complete liberty to individual conscience, undermined the unity of law in society.

As a consequence of this split between ethics and law, Taparelli argued, temporal rulers no longer concerned themselves with issues of moral philosophy nor with questions of public or private virtue. The people themselves reacted in kind, elevating private interests over public morality. In this way, Taparelli suggests, discourse about rights and obligations became reduced, as a logical consequence and in practice, to the mere exercise of sovereign will and calculations of self-interest.

Taparelli did propose a solution in his Epilogo Raggionato, which outlines his, "body of principles for evaluating, in concrete circumstances, the proper relationship between authority and liberty, order and freedom, on the social level, and underpins his definition of social justice in the arrangement and perfection of civil society, political society, and international society."

(The principles are discussed in detail in the article referenced below.)

Source and for more information, see: Acton Institute (for the study of religion and liberty), Journal of Markets and Morality, Volume 6, Number 1 • Spring 2003, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, S.J. (1793–1862) and the Development of Scholastic Natural-Law Thought As a Science of Society and Politics*, by Thomas C. Behr, Assistant Professor of History, University of Houston.

In an attempt to summarize: the world is full of different, competitive, and even conflicting economic theories, most of which are the foundation for modern laws, and cultural and societal leanings; Thomistic and Taparelli social justice followers believe these rival theories and basis for politics prevent the world from working together cooperatively. To wit:

Pope Leo XIII, who studied under Taparelli, published in 1891 the encyclical, Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of the Working Classes), rejecting both socialism and capitalism, while defending labor unions and private property. He stated that society should be based on cooperation and not class conflict and competition. The encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (On the Restoration of Social Order) of 1931 by Pope Pius XI, encourages a living wage, subsidiarity, and teaches that social justice is a personal virtue: society can be just only if individuals are just.

Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) of 2006 teaches that social justice is the central concern of politics, and not of the church, which has charity as its central social concern. The laity has the specific responsibility of pursuing social justice in civil society. The church's active role in social justice should be to inform the debate, using reason and natural law, and also by providing moral and spiritual formation for those involved in politics.

The official Catholic doctrine on social justice can be found in the book Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published in 2004 and updated in 2006, by the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax.

Source and to learn a little more: Wikipedia Social Justice and Wikipedia Catholic Social Teaching

This principle is of constant concern to me as I continually hear of economics as the basis for neglect. In fact, I frequently find that many immoral acts are rationalized through a subconscious acceptance that some people deserve their bad situation (or the converse, people have earned their good situation).

Ironically, this is the business twist on the positive psychology/new ageism currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity (to my immense chagrin). Chani at Thailand Gal recently wrote about this---and I plan to in the near future---in her post, "What's so Secret about 'The Secret'?"

In February, many news stories and issues floated to the surface, for me, and seemingly for our society. I wrote what I thought and what I could about issues that I believe mattered, such as how people in our country are treated inhumanely.

At the heart of each of these stories---all of which are deeply disturbing to me---is the principle of economics at work. More concerning still is that it all masquerades under the guise of What's Really Good For You (and we know better than you do). In truth, although the language is updated to reflect a desire for public benefit, it's moral atavism, and I don't mean in a good way.

We're being manipulated to a desired opinion through fear.

We're still competing. We're still involved in class conflict. We're so worried about our own position that we are willing to treat others inhumanely to protect our cultural and economic turf. We are willing to undermine the fabric of our society with immoral and unjust acts all in the name of economics and protection.

I throw to these defenders, the anti-social justice people, a question. It's the same one I throw to those who call themselves Faithful but who are quick to anger when questioned or debated:

If you are strong within yourself, in your own personal beliefs about who you are and how you think you should live, who you are can be immutable...therefore, what risk, what threat does Other pose to you?

The problem, of course, is that based on our own, independent philosophies, we all have different ideas of what is just, socially. Should income be re-distributed through mandates, such as high taxation in countries that provide public healthcare (for example)? Or is that, in itself, against the ideal because it is the embodiment of an economic principle? Is it better, then, to have an open society in which people each determine their own idea of just, and proceed accordingly? Or is that too democratic, and also based on an economic principle? Share the wealth? Or is that communism?

Each of these concepts does, I believe, confuse "just" with "fair."

If you consider the Catholic principle, then each economically driven concept ignores moral philosophy.

Citizen are caught somewhere between the public politics of social justice and the private concern of charity.

Obviously, for each of the points I argued in February, against what I perceived as issues of injustice, there are counterpoints, and clearly people---powerful people---support those counterpoints.

So how do we balance, manage, solve? I don't know who has the right of it. Taparelli's ideas are intriguing, but my mind is torn with the concept of practicality as well. We are immured in the economic principle that rules us, as well as in the private concerns, and public philosophy.

Then, what?

It brings us back, once again, to conscious and mindful living.

I think the key is to "inform the debate."

That's what I endeavored to do in February.

So, following is a brief list of the Social Justice posts from February, with a short synopsis of each. I hope you caught these already---I got so many great comments and such wonderful discussion---but if you missed one, I hope you have the time to peruse it. If you have something to say, add it on. I'll be reading.

Thank you!

The crime and prison series

Are parents who aren't involved at the school criminals? Texas State Representative Smith (R-Baytown) says YES!---how obligated should parents be to participate in school? I explain my opinion about Texas state Rep. Wayne Smith's, R-Baytown, proposal that parents who miss a scheduled meeting with their child's teacher receive a Class C misdemeanor citation and a fine of up to $500.

Spain started a unique family prison where inmates live together as families, including the children. Should prisons and society support parent-child relationships between inmates and their children through family-friendly prisons and programs? See what I think in The Parenting Prison.

Imprisoned children: Has the war on terror gone too far?
Learn about children and their families being detained in prisons right here in the USA, and the conditions that should shock you even more.

Money and society posts

How important is it that we tithe and donate our money to worthy and needy causes? I explore that responsibility and making decisions about how and where we spend money in Dirty little secrets about money: Frivolous versus conscious spending.

Is gentrification always in the best interests of the community and its residents? I share my concerns about it in my post about increasing the cost of living and decreasing the family-friendliness some developers seem to plan in my small town.

How skewed is the lens through which we view beauty? Puhleeze...Tyra Banks is NOT FAT! and Chandra Wilson knows what really matters.

SUPPORT MUSIC EDUCATION! We all should know how valuable it is for every single person. We all have something we can gain from music. My post about the Grammy's contains links to Neil Portnow's speech and links to a venue to support music education.


More matter, less art! In Can the US elect a black president? I request that we stop labeling by gender and color and start talking about the real issues.

The HPV and HPV vaccine series

Texas Gov Rick Perry buckles to Merck; Executive Order Requires Gardasil vaccine for all girls
---in a much criticized move, Texas Gov Perry bypasses all available avenues of democracy and issues an executive order that all girls receive the HPV-vaccine prior to sixth grade.

I elaborated my opinion about the above order, and the growing pressure about the HPV-vaccine, as well as having medical choices removed from me in Think it's your body, your choice? Think again...

Cure cancer with a single shot?!? 1 in 4 infected?!? ACK ACK ACK! provides bullet list straight facts about HPV, the vaccines,a nd cervical cancer, as well as links to reputable sources of information. (Remember, I'll be doing a link list post about this next week to resources and other bloggers and opinions. There's still time to send me a link---March 9 is the deadline---and check back to see all the information. It's already a really awe-inspiring list.)

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


jen said...

julie, you did such an amazing job of putting different truths out there for us to think about in February..and also, March.

You write with an eloquence i can't muster. this post is terrific.

Thailand Gal said...

This is absolutely a wonderful post. You've delineated everything that I would like to have said ~ and couldn't put the words together right. You are a clear thinker and need to be heard.

I am probably at least 20 years older than you. I'm not all that healthy. I'm gonna croak before you.

If you do not write a book in your lifetime, I promise to come back and haunt you. :)




Rachel Briggs said...

another great post, as always..

Agree with your comments, Chani!

kim said...

I wrote a post on sticky notes about the secret at Chuck E. Cheese Friday evening as my kids played.

This post connected many issues that are so closely interwoven. Great post.

Bones said...

that's really weird. Down the street from the flowerpot, while studying at Gordon, I thought I being sooooo obscure and fancy when I wrote a paper on the principle of subsitiarity, quoting heavily from rerum novarum and quadragesimo anno.

Sometimes I still wonder why I'm not catholic. If social thought and activity were as good a measure of religion as thological dogma is, I suppose I would be.

By the way, when John Kennedy ran for president, some reporter asked him if he thought that because he was catholic, a papal encyclical would change domestic policy. Kennedys response" what the hell is an encyclical?

Mary-LUE said...

Well, you were busy in February, weren't you?

I don't really know what else to say. My thoughts are too unformed right now. I keep typing things about the vanguard of the Proletariat (the proclaimers of all things good for you) and the dangers of trying to inform a debate (people don't always respond well)and then erasing them. I don't think my thoughts are cohesive inasmuch as I have a response to your post.

I can tell you, however, that I do believe in social justice. For years now, I've used some material for spiritual formation from a group called Renovare'. One area of spiritual formation is service. They call it social justice. I love that they tie both ideas together. In the material, you are encouraged to consider weekly what you are doing to bring justice to the world. It might be as small as refusing to participate in unkind words being said about another or something on a much larger scale. When you start to think about it that way, day in and day out, it does affect your view of the world.

The need for social justice has been stirred up much lately in my life. First, in our church where we have been undergoing a renewal of sorts and next, in the movie Amazing Grace. William Wilberforce's mission to end the slave trade in Britain is so inspiring. I found myself, at the end of that movie, a little melancholy. I was envious of the call that Wilberforce felt upon his life to end the slave trade. (Along the way, he also founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, etc.)

So, while, as of the time I write this, I am still wistful for an obvious and great call to some just purpose, I also know that every day I have opportunities to have an impact on the world around me and that I can best do that by being aware of and informed about this world.

Julie Pippert said...

Jen, thanks!

Chani, and thanks to you too! Now that's a haunting I'd be cool with. I still am noodling on the secret stuff for a post.

Rachel, thanks!

Kim, I am totally LMAO but with you, really. Blog post on sticky notes at Chuck E Cheese about the secret. I love it. Is it up yet?

Bones, that's really weird. When I was living just up the street from the flower pot I had totally forgotten every single philosophical principle ever. ;) As far as your Catholic comments, welcome to my weird world.

Mary-Lue, you know what? it was sanity saving. The kids hit this "it better be string theory you accomplish when you're done with this one" phase.

As for your unformed thoughts about the debate and the Proletariat...
I can't wait until your thoughts are formed to hear your opinion.

One time, this coworker of mine said (and this guy was a Ranger), "I'd like you beside me in a war. I know you'd take fire to haul my ass back if I took a hit." I accept potential consequences of informing the debate.

What you've written is what I am talking about.

Greatness. A great call. I've personally seen the consequence of someone answering a great call. It involves great sacrifice, usually on the part of others around, most of whom don't even get mentioned in the movie, except maybe as "crying woman" or "forlorn child." Kim at After the Ball recently wrote a great post about this.

Your last paragraph sums it up perfectly.

Alice said...

amen. amen. amen. I am speechless.