Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Quote to Ponder

“The poor who walk on the roads and through the deserts and rough places of this world call me to humility – derived from the Latin word “humus,” which means earth or soil. I have to remain close to the soil, the earth. Often I look up into the clouds and daydream about a better world. But my dreams will never bear fruit unless I keep turning my eyes again and again back to the earth and to all those people walking their long, fatiguing walks and inviting me to accompany them. But what does it mean to walk with the poor? It means to recognize my own poverty: my deep inner brokenness, my fatigue, my powerlessness, my mortality. It is there that I am connected with the earth; there that I am truly humble. Yes, it is there that I enter into solidarity with all who walk the earth and discover that I, too, am loved as a very fragile, precious person.”
-Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quantifiable Justice

Can we count or weigh justice? For the purposes of this discussion, let’s first agree on what justice means. How about this: Justice is correcting something that’s not right. Alternatively, justice is giving something what it deserves. Yes?

Consider justice in context. Say you’re driving to office one morning and an elderly lady is crossing the street rather wobbly. (You're actually running late because your dog ate the project proposal that you were supposed to present that morning.) Your vehicle is approaching her but she’s still struggling. Suppose that granny wasn’t using a pedestrian crossing, how would you respond? (a driver’s rights may vary in different jurisdictions, but assume you have the right of way.)

Whatever your response may be, you’d have probably consulted with your beliefs and/or values. Whatever your response may be, it is what you’d consider as a just reaction. Can that reaction, a just act given the circumstances, be quantified in any way?

Perhaps your dorm is serving at one of the local agencies, or maybe you have participated in an ABSL class or have went on a S-LC spring break trip. Can your service -- an act, or a series of acts, of justice -- be quantified? If yes, in what terms?

Or consider from a public health policy angle: Is it just to spend a few million dollars of tax money on a nation-wide vaccination program if it could only save 10 lives?