The belief in Karma, in whatever form, creates an interesting dynamic that leads to a deep and maybe unsolvable dilemma. Namely the fact that if we are responsible for our fate through our actions thanks to some kind of cosmic, unknowable and arguably all-knowing balance sheet, then we are also responsible for what befalls us even if that fate appears to be unjust.
This leads to the interesting question of whether justice, as well as being blind, is also an illusion created by our mind in order to quell the uncertainty we would constantly face in a world deemed to be hostile. In case you’re inclined to dismiss the question (and, obviously, its answers) over at Quora on the basis that this is the opinion of people who perhaps have nothing better to do than engage in academic questions that deal with hypotheticals, consider that no less an authoritative publication than the Pace Law Review also mined the same territory, asking its legal audience to consider the same topic.
Justice, our sense of right and wrong, is tied into the narrative we create about reality, our sense of self and the world. Our illusion of justice, and the way we choose to approach it has certainly created significant social problems. The fact that justice can be subjective is also at the root of healing of the injustice caused by our selective application of justice.
Our sense of justice, illusory or otherwise however, has a much deeper and much-more needed effect. It allows us to encode fairness (which is something that appears to be universal) avoid inequality, engender trust (without which nothing else is even remotely possible) and reduce the cognitive load we experience sufficiently to increase our chances of long-term survival.
Justice motivation then is hardwired in us. The result of thousands of years of evolution. As a result it plays a pivotal role in the establishment and maintenance of social norms without which many of our societal constructs wouldn’t function.
We certainly feel the effects of injustice, which is why we’re so highly motivated to take action to right them. What if justice was also something we felt? What if we wanted the world to be truly fair as opposed to just a little fair as Dan Ariely’s research shows. What if we created the social and community conditions for this to actually happen?
Wouldn’t things change then? Wouldn’t moral judgement and social decision-making be different? Possibly better? I know these are heavy questions to hit you with this Sunday. They play against the backdrop of social unrest because of climate change and socio-political demands and the general anxiety we are all feeling now for the future.
You might even be tempted to think that it is the kind of discussion we no longer have the luxury of time for as more urgent concerns press us. This is where I can unequivocally say you’re wrong. Out of our sense of justice and our sense of fairness emerge the fragile social ties that enable us to work together when our basic instinct is to cut and run, to look our for number one.
Our future, if it is to ever exist, requires us to think globally. Expand more energy and find ways to truly justify it by broadening our thinking and changing our approach. In truth we are now more than just each other’s keeper. We’re also custodians of the world. And none of this just happens. We all now have to act.
So, you’ve already taken action. You have coffee brewing and croissants at the ready. Some donuts maybe. Chocolate cake and ice-cream as it’s still warm in The Med. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.