Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Just Shall Inherit The Earth

Before we are Black or White or whatever other color... We are human beings. The thing that sets us apart and lifts us above the rest of the animals with whom we share this planet is our ability to reason, and to codify our reasonableness in order to create the kind of civility that allows us to generate civilizations. As humans we have the advantage therefore of developing and maintaining communities. We develop languages to articulate our reasonableness. We write things down to create a sense of history. We develop comparative perspectives on our ways of seeing and believing and remembering. We are able to reflect on our reflections. As a function of our common interest in creating and maintaining functional communal entities, we establish core values that are used to undergird the very foundations of our communal life. We further create mechanisms to force compliance with these core values. We do this out of our hard gained realization that in the absence of core values we cannot build sustainable communities.

Our experience in community building has taught us that we must prioritize the teaching of our core values in our education system as a part of its very foundation. From their earliest days, we must teach our young right from wrong. Before all else, every member of any community must come to know that all civility is a function not just of laws, but of the individual and communal pursuit of justice. The earliest systems of Justice, as early as the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon, recognized the necessity for a set of laws that had universal appeal. The old dictum "an eye for an eye" came out of this code. The Code of Hammurabi predates the Ten Commandments. Many scholars have concluded that Moses was familiar with this set of universal principles that came out of ancient Babylon. They further posit the view that these principles formed the basis of his work to provide the Hebrews with the set of laws we now know as the Ten Commandments as they emerged from a wilderness entity into the semblance of a settled community.

It is important for us to learn a language, history, science, mathematics, and all the other foundations of knowledge. Along with these however, and even before these, we must learn the fundamentals of community life. These fundamentals are stated in laws that forbid murder, stealing, lying on each other, and coveting that which belongs to your neighbor. One can survive and be successful without a knowledge of physics or chemistry; but you may not enjoy much of life if you are a thief, or if your neighbor finds you sleeping with his or her spouse, or if you shed the blood of the innocent. No one who understands much about the human experience trusts a murderer, or a liar, or a thief. We may be well versed in sociology and history and politics. We may know the history of race and class and caste in our societies, but we are not yet educated without a foundation in moral values.

Without individual adherence to a sustainable moral foundation, our communities suffer the kinds of behavioral deficits that lead to chaos and instability. The dysfunctions that plague us in our various communities have their origins in the blatant absence of a moral education. We suffer through the social dysfunctions that plague us because we have not prioritized compliance to a vitally uplifting set of core moral values. In the absence of these we revert to the default "law of the jungle" that characterizes the corrupted hearts and warped minds that eventually create the criminal cultures which are a prominent feature of many societies. It is for this reason that it has been duly noted that " at the heart of our education, is the education of our hearts". The definition of a state of social and spiritual equilibrium as "a healthy mind in a healthy body" is an appropriate articulation of this ideal.

The universal symbol of Justice is a balanced scale. When the scale of Justice is tilted in favor of any group or individual, what results is the prevalence of insecurity in the social environment. It is true that in its most primitive expression, the Law is skewed in favor of those who are privileged to be its custodians... the ruling class. Such laws are often designed to protect their interests against those who are "less privileged". It is a fact that the real history of many societies has its roots in a history of ruthless exploitation. To the extent that the Law is designed and written to protect a ruling class that has acquired its status from a history of exploiting the less privileged, what we end up with is a proliferation of moral contradictions. Simply put, those who have plundered and murdered to attain their place of prominence are now insisting on their right to tell everyone else to behave themselves. When we critically analyze such historical realities, we end up with commonsense declarations such as "when a thief steals from a thief God laughs". The challenge of establishing and maintaining an adhereable moral code in such situations is obvious. The ultimate question becomes... What is an appropriate response to the murderer who now insists: Thou shalt not kill?

And so we come full circle to the old Babylonian dictum: An eye for an eye. This is one of those instances where we are forced to reflect on our reflections. At certain critical junctures in our civilization we find it necessary to reevaluate our commitment not just to the development of law, but to is perfection... It's essential evolution. At some point we must agree with the teacher who says: "An eye for an eye leaves us all blind". A durable civil society must ultimately be the function of our real commitment to an 'oft reflected-on' moral ideal. It must not, and indeed cannot be based on our memory of and insistence on a temporarily satisfying "tit for tat". Such tendencies are based on our human propensity to live out our insecurities even when that means that we sacrifice the needs of others for our own selfish inclinations.

Justice in its truest form becomes its own reason for being. Human beings share an innate longing for happiness based on the satisfaction of their most basic needs...our security needs. The instinct for survival creates in us and among us an unqualified claim to the right to live and be secure in our lives. It illicits from us the primal cry: "I AM SOMEBODY...JUST LIKE YOU!". The compliant statement that "all men are created equal" will set in motion a certain socio-legal evolution despite the political and semantic intentions of its most vocal proponents. As such it will at some point necessarily indict even those whose intentions were to protect themselves from the just wrath of those against whom they have transgressed. It is this reality that has lead us to the observation that "the wheels of Justice grind slowly".  They do. But in their hearts and minds the Just believes and knows and declares that eventually right will overcome wrong. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled... And the Just shall inherit the earth. So Jah say...

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