So on my last post, Draconusmajor was kind enough to leave a comment. I was initially going to respond there, but I think it actually deserves more of a response so I’m going to give it a post instead.
You know, I’ve followed your blog for a while and I’ve noticed something, you feel so helpless in your own life that you have turned to the letter of the law instead of the spirit of justice to compensate. Its a bit of a backward step in personal evolution. I think America needs a revolution. If this happens to be the catalyst then so be it. The laws in this country are unjustly skewed in favor of those who can pay to have Law written just for them.
First off I will note what I consider the astuteness of this comment. I suppose I have, without realizing it, had a helpless feeling infused in my life as of late. Part of the reason I haven’t posted as much, lately. But I don’t think it’s because I feel helpless in my own life. My own life is fairly stable and if not as happy as I would like, at least not as terrible as it has been. But still, there is a helpless feeling.
But it’s more about the state of affairs the world at large. I am, as much as I sometimes wish I weren’t, but one man here, physically. As much as Hel has raised me to sit at her right hand in love and matrimony, I do lack power here on Midgard. I am no king or senator, I cannot make laws of enforce my will upon others. The only place I have to smite those which engage my ire are in world of warcraft or smite, and even there i am not the best skilled of my fellows. And, events in my life have led me to what I feel are certain realizations about not just myself, but the nature of the world at large and why things sometimes work the way that they do.
And this has led to me turning to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of justice.
There are three things I ken to in my divine magics. Justice, Law, and Retribution. I do this by request of Hel, to best aid her in the way that she desires, and because growing up to the person I am today I began as a Spirit of Retribution, but eventually came to see that Vengeance is not enough, there must indeed be Justice, and the best way to decide what is just is by Law. Law most clearly states what is and is not permitted, and as much as people might think of Viking Sagas and think of swords and sorcery…very much so (perhaps even half of them) involved legal disputes. IF there was bloodshed in the beginning of a saga, you could bet that by the end there was going to be a court case.
Proving that humans have been addicted to Law and Order since time began.
And I’ve talked about this a bit before. People, inherently, want justice for wrong done to them. Many would think this a good thing, but end the end it tends to just be bloody, violent, and often counter productive. If your neighbor steals one of your sheep, you want justice, but it’s not enough to take back the sheep, you have to take one of his. But what if the reason he took your sheep was because you refused to sell him some grain, and his taking the sheep was him seeking justice for you denying him food? And so in taking one of his sheep, you invite him, feeling doubly wronged now, goes and kills your horse? Well then you have to go and get justice for your horse.
An Eye for an Eye is indeed justice. But it doesn’t do so hot building a society. And that is where Law comes in. If there is a law stating that “a man does not have to sell his grain to anyone he does not want to,” then the above sheep-thief would not have stolen the sheep, because while the merchant was indeed perhaps an asshole for not selling, he had not broken the law and thus no Wrong had been committed which then needs Justice. And then, because there is a law against the stealing of sheep, if that man did steal a sheep as payback for the Merchant lawfully not selling him grain, the merchant has just cause for, well, Justice upon the thief.
And this, for me, is the seed of the issue.
At the root of the Spirit of Justice, is the idea not that justice need be served, but that a wrong must be righted. Someone feels that, for whatever reason, they have been wronged and that emotion fills them so much that they must have payback against the person who wronged them.
Often enough, even if no Wrong was intended.
Now, if there is Law, then even if a person is Wronged they and the rest of society can look at what happened and say “according to the agreement of our peoples, a wrong has or has not occurred.” And if it is judged that something illegal did not happen, then the worst case is that people say “well, the other guy was an asshole, but that’s life.” Without that, however, the wronged person is compelled to seek retribution against the person who they judged to have wronged them. And the cycle of vengeance can begin anew.
Often enough, in my experience, the Spirit of Justice is as often petty as it is noble.
“Marsha said something snide about my dress! I’ll make that bitch Pay!”
“No man should live in bondage, so I will slay those who put man into bondage.”
I could go on with thousands of examples, but there you go. We’ve all seen it. The catty remarks, the spiteful glares, the rumors whispered behind backs, the attacks on twitter and facebook. Someone did a wrong, and now they must be punished.
That, truly, is the spirit of justice. The desire to right wrongs and avenge sins.
But, like most things, sin is in the eye of the beholder. Insult is never given, but it is taken, as Sargon says. These days, being denied something you want (regardless of the reason) is seen as a humongous injustice that must be righted at all costs, and if you litter the field with the bodies and reputations of “Bigots, misogynists, homophobes, etc” well the, so much the better. For you were acting in the Cause of Justice, and there can be no more noble a motivation. And if justice looks like rioting and looting, burning down businesses and homes to strike back at a “society that hates and fears you,” then so be it. Let the fires rage and livelihoods be lost, Justice is on your side. Purge the land of sin and the sinners who commit it, and never let their humanity become an issue, for the are the cause of injustice, and we must have Justice.
So, then, is it truly a backwards step in my personal evolution that I am not driven by the Spirit of Justice?
Perhaps. I mean, Justice is supposed to be this wonderful thing. I act as a force for Justice with my divine magics. But when it comes down to it, everyone feels that they’re Justified in their actions, and that Justice is on their side. As for those who do not agree with them or have in their possession something the Justified group wants, well…we just need to right that wrong.
And yes, all to often the Laws are written by those who have the money to make what they want Law. Law isn’t perfect by any means. But what law does, at it’s heart, is limit power. Even those who pay for a law may find one day that the law works against them, yet they are now bound to obey it. Often enough, the law stands in the way of people getting what they want. From pauper to King, the Law limits our actions. It hinders us from wantonly attacking our neighbors, or embezzling from our companies, or waging wars over the smallest slights.
So in a way, yes, going by the Letter of the Law is a step backwards. It physically holds us back. And really, that’s okay.
Because when we bind ourselves with the law, when we hold to the oaths we take to each other and society, then we can get along relatively peacefully. Crimes will still happen, yes, but they will be clearly defined as crimes and it will be clear that a wrong has been done, so that justice can be meted out fairly. Without a ruler, everyone would have a different definition for an inch. By having a ruler, we all agree on what an inch is. So too is it with actions and the Law.
The Spirit of Justice is the Spirit of Revenge. Unchecked, it burns all and consumes everything. Now, perhaps it is the best evolution to have unchecked violence, a situation of survival of the fittest. Darwin and nature certainly seemed to think so. And perhaps it would be best if I did embrace unreservedly the Spirit of Justice that lies within me. Certainly, that would be truer to the personal evolution I started with, all those years ago as a Demon.
But I will leave you with this.
In Rome there are two Goddesses who embody Justice. Iustitia and Nemesis. Iustitia was the Goddess for whom we get the word Justice, but she was in fact a Goddess of Law and Courts. She personified the moral force of the judicial system. A moral Force which was guided by Law. The other Goddess, Nemesis, is more inline with what one thinks about with a spirit of Justice. She brought to you what you justly deserved, good or bad, unhindered by legal codes. She was also known as the Goddess of Vengeance, and was also known as Adrasteia, meaning “the inescapable.” And people were happy to meet Iustitia, but they feared to meet Nemesis.
So while Daconusmajor’s words are shrewd, and perhaps the call for a revolution in America is not wrong, this is my council to them, to others, and really, just to myself. It is easy to say the Law is bad. It is even easy to say that the Law is often unjust or at least, unjustly written. And these things, while easy to say, are also fair to say. Perhaps it is better to act by a Spirit of Justice, rather than live by the Letter of agreed upon Law.
But the world is never a truly just place and the attempt to make it so has often led to greater horrors than were thought possible.
The Nazi’s sought to obtain Justice for the German People. In turn, they butchered millions. The North sought Justice for the Slaves, and in turn butchered thousands, burned a once beautiful and vibrant part of their own nation to ashes and left even more millions to starve. The Communists sought to bring Justice to the economies of their nations, and in turn hundreds of millions died. The French had a Revolution in the name of Justice, and in the end, most of those that started that Revolution lost their own heads to it.
So maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to take a step backwards.