On Social Justice

Call it the underdog syndrome, but I can’t help but look at the other side of every argument… and sympathize with the loser. When the Republicans were in power, I couldn’t help but agree with the Democratic viewpoint. Now that the Democrats are in power, I can’t help but examine the arguments of the other guys. I can’t say that I’ll ever be aligning myself with the Religious Right – frankly, I think they’re insane. But upon closer examination, I have to give some merit to some of their thinking.
Part of the blame goes to Ayn Rand – whose philosophy I could never subscribe to, but who’s opinions are interesting. I make it a point in the summer to include on my reading list material I do not agree with. Her sizeable novel , Atlas Shrugged, finally made it onto my list this year. A small sampling of her viewpoint is that man’s noblest goals are found in producing, and that our worst evil is found in taking (or supplying) that which is unearned. She believes in unbridled capitalism, and in her book, illustrates causation between regulation and forced social justice and the downfall of her (somewhat) fictional society. The polar opposite of her beliefs is a kind of industrial communism, and every bad guy in her books is educated, soft, produces nothing, and instead manipulates the system to steal from the producing rich to give to the undeserving poor.
The essence of the Republican viewpoint on taxation and social justice, taken to the extreme in Rand’s writing, is that to enforce restriction and taxation on the job-producing, market-creating rich is to erode a civilization’s ability to be self-sustaining. But to be fair to the opposition, Rand’s philosophy leaves no room for evil outside of “looting” – she does not acknowledge greed or avarice on the part of the wealthy, painting them only as completely noble for their efforts. Her self-created religion does not allow for the fallen nature of man… But neither does the Democrat’s.
The part that starts to make sense to me is the opposition to social justice as a new form of religion. That large companies these days generally have an altruistic arm, that political platforms are built on a regulated social justice policy, does seem to take from the individual the personal decision to act within their own means both for the provision of themselves and their families and the ability to choose to help others out of a greater moral compunction than a party or company activity. If giving to the poor is a function of paying our taxes, than why would we personally feel challenged to act outside of the systems put in place by organizational decision?
In short, I think lately I’m putting new emphasis on the value of paying one’s own way – recognizing that in my own life, were I to stop working, I believe I might stop existing… and that indeed in the examples I’ve seen of those who do not work, and live with a sense of un-earned entitlement and damaged self-worth as a result, that there may be something to the notion that personal accountability cannot be forfeited in the face of the social justice movement. But I’ll couple that with the notion that there is a place for compassion and grace, and lending a hand to another human being in need, whether he deserves it or not – but it’s not the place of government or company side-effort, rather it should be a personal activity, within the context of relationship: sacrifice for others, not because it’s socially or politically encouraged, but out of an overflow of Christ-like love for our fellow, fallen brothers and sisters.

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