It is important to think about what we do in the name of justice and not to assume that the desire for justice of itself guarentees anything about our actions or the impact they have.
There’s nothing like righteous indignation for making a person feel powerful and important as they lash out. That can be alluring and addictive. It’s important to be sure at the very least that you’re lashing out at the right person – someone who has the scope to fix a problem. All too often the person who gets lashed out at is the one who happens to be nearest and easiest to hit. Shouting at a low paid employee over decisions other people have made regarding the company they work for, is not a just action.
The internet gives us a steady supply of opportunities to lash out at other people in the name of justice. Online it’s easy to hit people who are vulnerable. It’s also easy to pick on people who are actually doing good work and care about getting things right but do not meet your standards in every imaginable way. By this means we can end up knocking down the people who were genuinely trying to fix and improve things while ignoring the people who are causing the actual problems.
If you’re in a fight and enjoying it, there’s a lot to be said for pausing to look at that. Are you really helping anything or anyone, or are you just enjoying your own feelings of power? Might you be playing at being a white knight? Are you making yourself feel good and important at someone else’s expense? Who are you talking over? Is there anything important you might have overlooked? What’s the real power balance between you and the person you’re fighting?
People are seldom persuaded by aggression. There are times when a show of force gets things done and there are times when that may well be the right choice, but it shouldn’t be our first port of call. People are depressingly averse to reasoned arguments and evidence when that goes against beliefs they have invested in. Getting angry with them doesn’t turn them into better people, usually.
If you can’t fix a problem, or challenge someone who can then often the best choice is example, not engagement. Put your truth into the world. Show your values through your actions. Do something restorative, because that’s often the best form justice can take anyway. If you can’t fix a problem, draw attention to it, try to offset it in some way. Anger is not a direct path to justice. We have to take our anger and turn it into something useful that helps people, otherwise we’re just being self indulgent.
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