It may seem an odd inquiry to make, one that may seem entitled. Why would we be owed anything from society? Is it not our responsibility to take care of ourselves? Why should anyone owe us anything?
Happiness has been an elusive life that humans have been trying to catch for thousands of years; whilst also struggling to find meaning in the search. Whole philosophical systems have been built on the pursuit of ways in which happiness can be achieved. Individual misery can manifest itself when we misunderstand how collective happiness operates.
There have been many different definitions of justice and understandings of the concept. Social justice is but one. This is explicitly practical for everyday life. Justice is about fairness, what we owe to one another is to be fair. Social justice can create a sense of collective happiness in our society. As opposed to institutionalised forms like the criminal justice system, social justice is grassroots action.
Now, it’s a strange question to lead and its one I would like to attempt to answer. Virtuous acts are vital to the testament of our character. Its definitive to be kind. You are in a bar; your friend sits across from you with no drink and no money to change that. Is this fair? A table full of mates conversing, who each have a drink. Fairness would be buying them a drink.
I once saw a homeless person hold a sign which said, “I may be homeless but I exist.” That has been drilled into my thoughts, in which I revisit daily. In the vast motion of life, it can be too easy to not recognise the injustice that remains in society, that some experience every day. Some social problems completely need attainment from our collective understanding. If we owe each other our basic contentment or a version of it, we owe each material happiness. We live in a society where there are homeless people all over our cities. In winter, just before Christmas, a homeless person died sleeping outside the Houses of Parliament. We need social justice.
Students play a role; young people are expressing forms of social action steered in the motivation of justice and ethical reasoning. Veganism; a lifestyle that operates as a critique of cruel treatment of animals through the methodology of mass farming for animal products and slaughter. The meat contributes massively against the struggle against climate change due to its contribution of Carbon emissions. We are the generation that were shown Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. The disaster of the Anthropocene is a completely ethical situation. The perspective of social justice and its application are still vital to the remedy of climate change.
When the 2010s came to an end, movements such as the #MeToo movement arose, showcasing the feminist struggle against misogynist sexual harassment by powerful men. Women are equal to men and deserve the same wage and respect. Once upon a time this would have been a controversial statement. It could have remained so, without the collective social action of women who questioned the norms of culture and society. Giving women equality is a battle that is not over. One which must be fought with the spirit of equal opportunity, respect and compassion.
If happiness is gender equality, a warm bed to sleep at night or just having a pint with your mates; justice is the path to the good life. It is important to discuss the principal nature of this meaning and why it needs to be talked about. Once it is understood by all, we can work towards a collective eudaimonia.
By James Evans