Essay number 2 of 4
(C) Order – Natural or Created?
Yuval Noah Harari, in his brilliant book, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, talks about two kinds of order: Natural Order is how the universe behaves, no exceptions e.g., gravity doesn’t play favorites; but all civilizations are built on what he calls, “Imaginary Orders” e.g., money, religions, empires. Imaginary orders differ from culture to culture and from era to era but belief in them and allegiance to them is so strong that it can unite vast throngs of otherwise disparate peoples. I love his thesis but I would prefer the phrase, “Creative Orders” to “Imaginary Orders” because we human beings are also an expression of nature, so whatever we invent is also a form of natural order. It is a very powerful order created by a branch of nature called, “humans.”
These two kinds of order are the foundations on which the moral development of the planet can be gauged and built. Christ consciousness and Buddha nature weave these plaits together. These two, and other great teachers, were way ahead of their times.
The trick is to embrace a long term – even an eternal – timeline. The really important evolutionary trends and the truly significant shifts can only be perceived from that lofty perspective. And this shift in perspective is vitally important when we come to tackle the issue of justice and compassion.
(D) A Brief History of Justice
Justice is one of those creative/imaginary orders, because it has varied widely and swung violently like a pendulum under the hand of a playful child. Here is a very brief look at some of the forms it has taken: crusades, inquisitions, torture, witch trials, executions – in a bewildering variety of really sick and grotesque forms – and honor killings in which the males of a family murdered their own daughters and sisters for shaming the family by being raped. Each “order” was formulated and administered by teachers who managed to convince the populace that the order was revealed by divine decree.
Within those larger, “revealed” orders, individuals and groups fashioned their own sub-orders to bless vigilante justice, revenge and vendettas – where they took the law into their own hands.
Wiser heads enacted the “innocent until proven guilty” principle and afforded the defendant the resources to prove his innocence. Of course, any system can be corrupted, so even this form can and has descended into “the best justice money can buy.” If justice is meant to be blind, it appears to be a very selective blindness. I will quote here from a previous blog of mine published on February 23, 2016:
According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, by the end of 2013, the USA had the highest incarceration rate in the world – 716 per 100,000 of its citizens – or 2.3 million people. We are only 4.4% of the world’s population but account for 22% of the world’s prisoners. By 2007, it was already a $74 billion industry – and I do mean industry.
From the 1920’s to 1980 the figure was less than half a million, but that number had doubled by 1990 and redoubled by 2000. Between prison, probation and parole there are now 7.5 million Americans under some kind of criminal justice control. And, of course, Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately represented in this rise. If you’re Latino, you’re almost three times more likely to be imprisoned than if you’re White; and if you’re Black, you’re almost seven times more likely.
Three factors have led to this meteoric increase. The first was Nixon’s “war on drugs” beginning in 1970. The second was Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1980 which led to mandated longer sentences. And the third salvo was the emergence of the Prison-Industrial complex. In 1980, private prisons did not exist in the USA; now, as an example, Louisiana – which has the highest incarceration rates in the world – “houses” most of its prisoners in private, for-profit facilities. A 2013 Bloomberg Report states that in the previous decade the number of inmates in the for-profit prisons had grown by 44%. These corporations – such as the Correction Corporation of America – negotiate deals whereby the states guarantee to fill at least 90% of the prison beds or else reimburse the companies for the short fall.
The final indignity is that these corporations then use their profits to lobby at state and federal level to introduce legislation such as “three strikes”, longer sentences and expanded definitions of “crime” to ensure a steady supply of client-inmates. For the lawbreaker crime may not pay but for the jail masters it pays handsomely.
(E) True Justice
If you believe that Laws are a revelation form a superhuman source, entrusted to a chosen elite, then justice is one kind of animal. When, however, you review the history and consequences of these competing and sometimes mutually exclusive systems, you realize that no taxonomy can explain their differences.
But what if true justice is not about assuaging the bruised ego of either a person or a tribe but rather the effort to align behavior with soul’s purpose? What if it’s about adding a piece of the jigsaw puzzle so as to unveil the deepest order of all – Unity Consciousness? What if its true destination is choreographing human interactions under the baton of “the better angels of our nature”?
Ipso facto, justice can never be midwifed by anger, rather it is equal parts protection of society and compassion by society.