“…By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. …”
Justice and thinking independently
Reading the well-known quote from Baha’u’llah regarding Justice while reflecting on this subject focused my thoughts on the phenomenon of “thinking for oneself” and what it means to be an “independent thinker”.
I remember when I was young thinking that this Hidden Word was about not cheating. Like, “keep your eyes on your own paper”! What fresh meaning I derived from these words when I began to understand Baha’u’llah’s imagery of a person who has formed her opinions by herself. I wonder whether this illustrates a cause-and-effect relationship between independent thinkers and a just society. Implicit in this independence is the imperative to investigate reality and the inability to blindly imitate others. Imagine if there were no cultural hegemony, no media campaigns and no weekly sermons to shape the way someone sees and knows… If we truly believe that justice is a quality of the human soul, than it is highly possible that without these influences—in the absence of these non-coercive forces which we have seen to be unjust—then the outcome may be an increasing number of just and fair-minded individuals working towards building a just world. How exciting!
Using her innate sense of Justice as her guiding light and a test of every truth she encounters, this person will be unaffected by past generations’ religious prejudices and intolerances, unconvinced by a purely scientific view of the world and confused by the inequalities in others’ treatment of their fellow human beings. Such beliefs cannot resonate with her mind and heart, which have been awakened to the truth.
If we become independent thinkers—seeing through our own eyes and knowing through our own knowledge—we begin to discern the true qualities, roles and interconnectedness of Justice in the world of existence. With this consciousness, we can no longer lie to ourselves about reality, or merely go through the motions of our parents’ traditions, or be deceived by clergy and ideology, or tolerate inequality and bigotry, and we cannot be “unbiased” and “objective” scientists to the detriment of peoples, creatures or the environment. Others will soon notice the fairness that characterizes our behaviour, but it is in fact the outward expression of our newfound ability to distinguish truth from falsehood.
Justice and Equality
John Rawls does indeed have a clever way of establishing the fundamental links that connect the concepts of justice and equality. One element of this relationship that may often be overlooked in human discourses is the consideration that the sense of justice is eternal while the definition of what is equal evolves to accommodate the changing conditions of the world and its inhabitants. This is why I believe there must be a better way to determine the principles of justice than to make them contingent on a condition of equality. In fact, it seems more logical to me that the measure of what’s equal would be determined by a sense of justice, and of course, oneness.