“For want of a description of what I mean I found that in my country (of New Zealand) Social Justice is seen as Equal Distribution, Tolerance, Equal Treatment, Criminal Justice, Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Legislative, Responsibility, Democratic, Collectivism and Individualism. (1.) While I feel strongly about all of these, to tackle them all will be more than a mouthful. So please excuse me for concentrating on equality in distribution, treatment, opportunities and rights.”
I could take an academic approach to this topic (like I implied I would) but that just isn’t me. Rather, social justice to me is simply about treating people the way I would want to be treated myself. Simple. I don’t want to be hurt, judged, segregated, refused my rights, denied opportunity. I want to be treated in exactly the way I want you to treat me. I want you to put yourself in my shoes, live my life for a day, week, year or however long it takes, to understand my reality and appreciate my need for compassion and acceptance regardless of my beliefs, preferences, income, health, skin colour, religion. Getting the picture?
It’s actually a much easier way to live. There’s no having to think “does this person share my… religion, skin colour, sexual preference, income status, etc?” None of that matters. It is simply that they have the same rights as I do. No exceptions. And I am passionate to see the world adopt this way of treating each other.
So where did I develop this way of looking at the world?
Actually I learnt this from my Dad. He was a good man, and a great example. While my father was a Baptist Church minister for most of my life, he also had a strong sense of compassion for others, regardless of who, or what they might be. He always opened our home to a wide range of people, and while a couple of times that left a young Cate feeling a little fearful, I could always see that Dad was just treating these people as he would want to be treated himself. My fear came out of the unknown, probably caused by youth. Sometimes these people were very different from what I knew, and sometimes they acted in ways to different to me. Everything about them was different, yet Dad opened our home to them, and showed me how I could do the same, if that is what I chose.
Dad also taught me something else. As a Christian he used the principle of What would Jesus do? to determine his actions. This was Christian philosophy that built in the 1990’s (but I think Dad adopted it much earlier than that) and was a moral imperative to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus through action. Regardless of your religious belief I think this isn’t a bad way to work. Maybe it suits to take ‘Jesus’ out and supplement it with something from your own faith. One thing I like about a variety of religions is that they give a guide of how to live and how to treat others. I mention Dad’s belief not so much for its religious significance but because it is something he lived day to day. It was something that he used to determine how he acted towards others, and for him, it worked. For me, watching him was a 45 year lesson in compassion and how to treat other people.
As a result of Dad’s influence on how I live I ended up in a wide range of situations for which now, I am very grateful. It lead me into jobs where I could show compassion and then lead me into study (I have a degree in Sociology and Social Work) where I could hopefully make more use of those skills. Because of my physical health I am not currently able to work but it is still the way I live, by putting myself in another’s shoes.
I strongly believe that it is not my place to judge another person. I also strongly believe that I should stand up for what I believe in and support people who are unable to stand up for themselves. I am not some ardent activist, at every protest going, although at 16 I joined a large portion of my country to protest against apartheid at the time when our national rugby team wanted the national team from South Africa (the Springboks) to play here in 1981. In New Zealand it was a big thing at the time and many people first chose to stand up for what they believed in. In hindsight I’m not exactly sure that this is something dad wanted me to be involved in but I think he would have appreciated my sense of wanting to do the right thing. I admit though that at 16, while I felt strongly about the issue of apartheid in South Africa, there was also an element of excitement in being rebellious and doing what my friends were doing. To be honest, I’m not sure what was the over-riding factor at the time..
Something that I’ve noticed is that s/he who shouts the loudest gets the action, and for some reason that often seems to be that the loudest is the one with the resources (even if that is just the microphone). This makes me sad because it means that s/he who does not have the resources, maybe does not have the language skills, does not have the confidence… (there are lots of things they may not have) are the ones who miss out. Time and time again. For five years, in an earlier life, I worked for New Zealand’s social security system and I saw this all the time. People who were confident, English speakers, who knew how a government organisation worked… were much more likely to get the help they needed than those for whom English was not a first language and possibly had some type of health issue (including mental health). And it will be the same anywhere. In your country and in mine. It pays to know how to work ;the system’ and shout loudly.
This is what breaks my heart and really does my head in. The people who really need the help, aren’t always able to make themselves heard, and to access what is available.
Maybe that’s slightly veering off track but Dad taught me to walk in those people’s shoes, to experience their pain, and not to judge. He taught me to make a difference. Dad died suddenly just over a year ago, but this is something that I am very glad he left me.
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
– Mother Teresa
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
- The Passions Profile Challenge (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Peace Not War (Passion Profile Challenge #1) (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Deserving of Our Care… Animals (Passions Profile Challenge #2) (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- A Late Entry… Music (Passions Profile Challenge #3) (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Dancing with Dad (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Week 2: Compassion (alternateeconomy.wordpress.com)
- Culture Series: PASSION (lightwalkers.wordpress.com)
- I Thank God for The Mentors Who Have Influenced Me! (benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com)