It is unlikely that many people would doubt the necessity of laws. Interestingly, there is no universally accepted definition, but that is no hindrance to the understanding of what laws are for. Generally, they are a system of rules that governs behaviors. Therefore everything that humans do or aspire to has its set of laws: Legal systems with civil law, criminal law, religious laws; or legal subjects laws such as international laws, contract laws, human rights laws, communal laws, constitutional and administrative laws etc. etc.; you name it, there are laws for everything. But as Cicero, the famous philosopher, political theorist and lawyer of the old Roman Empire stated: “More law, less justice”, so it is, law has nothing to do with justice. But let us start from the beginning:
Why do humans need and want laws, why having them in the first place? As always, nature has provided the concept, humans follow the footprint. The universe is governed by law, anything and everything is subject to the laws of nature and fundamental laws of physics. Law and Order! Nothing, as we know it, would exist if it was not for natural law. After all, lawlessness is chaos, isn’t it? Therefore, any transgression must be punished, or so it seems, even with annihilation meaning, justice is done, regardless what or who broke the law. Humans, still in blindness and ignorance conclude therefore that laws are unavoidable and justice, logically, is part of the deal. Of course that is not the case.
All nature including the universe, as we see and experience it, is the result of functions according to the conditions that fundamentally are the propensity of matter. Matter is the guideline, the matrix, the ruler and the ruled. Though one can call it natural law or, laws of nature, it is function and has no moral value. Of course nature will respond to the attempt of eroding its systems, but that is not a moral action of judgment as humans like to interpret it. It is only the logical consequence, inherent to matter and unchangeable.
Nature is creation, ongoing and conditional but without the dictate of law. We would otherwise not have the diversity because laws do not accommodate aberrations, only amendments. Laws are the creation of the mind, inspired by nature and as usual, an imitation of everything that matter does. But, mind puts a moral value to it and in this case, embellishes it with power. It then becomes the rigid law that shows no mercy and has little to do with justice. Imitating nature is all humans do without fully understanding the why and without fully comprehending creation’s complexity. However, to speak of nature’s law is a useful analogy and law as a construct of reason has its purpose. Natural law is part of the human psyche simply because we are matter. Morals and judgment, though rooted in our biological origin, is a product of the mind. Considering evolutionary time for humans the mind is still young and therefore flawed. Every human knows what is life affirming and what is not. The basic human awareness is hardwired for life, as good as it is for all other creatures too. It is our nature, it is nature itself, and life is the ‘Gold Standard’ by which all is measured. Human conscience knows instinctively the difference of the right and wrong action. It has to be as it ensures survival, but it does not necessarily know self-limitation. That comes with maturity.
Conditions regulate the evolutionary process; rules become tools imprinted in animal and man alike, instinctively as the repetition of fact propagates, and as elaborate as human intelligence is proof of. However, there is nothing to suggest man’s intelligence has shed its ‘primitive’ roots. The opposite is more to the point. Rules governing his behavior are only necessary because he cannot or has not yet considered that he could and can self-regulate his behavior. Laws instead have to be installed for that matter to ensure his personal and species survival, within his herd and after all the society he lives in. His lack to self-regulate enforces law as the basic insurance against chaos and anarchy. He believes he would have to fear for his life every single moment of his existence, if there were no laws. So far he is not wrong. He knows he cannot trust himself, how could he trust others? It is indeed a sorry state of his level of achievement as far as his evolutionary progress as an intelligent species is concerned. Looking at the evidence, humans are the worst offenders. Despite all the laws, killing, ravaging, destroying, torturing, disregarding all life, including his own, continues. His laws neither protect nor prevent. But they allow power, and he wants power more than anything else even assuming it by self-proclaimed dominance. Not stopping there he fervently seeks to control nature itself. To his dismay he cannot, his attempts being futile, destructive and counterproductive. He seeks ultimate power to be the ultimate survivor who has conquered it all. The human race is in fact proof of an evolutionary dead end road, having gained sophisticated intelligence that terminates life instead of propagating or maintaining it.
So, man needs laws and he creates them. He needs even laws that govern the laws and he needs the body of law enforcement, courts and all their lawyers and judges that serve the law, but not justice. An offender, even the worst, can get away with murder, because the law protects the perpetrator who finds the loophole for a defense.
There is no point to argue that laws are meant to protect the people, or the way of life a community has chosen to live by, and that law should be applied equally to all within a community. How that is done depends on the distribution of power a society has and what values. A community with a central point of power is less likely to have laws that serve or have the consensus of the broad population. Even in a democracy, where power lies with the folk, laws may be far from being morally sound. Laws give a false sense of security and do not necessarily protect the innocent. Besides, every law gets broken and bent; and they can only be as good as the powers will have it.
Justice? What justice! No society can ever justify laws that serve the perpetrator not the innocent. But such laws exist and are truly executed with or without the consent or knowledge of the general population. To emphasize this some examples may help to make the point:
How come that a society has laws that punish the victim? Women can be raped with little consequence to the rapist, and then are killed by their brothers or fathers, because they brought dishonor to the family! The murderer has little to fear from the law. Honor killings are not a thing of the past. Customary laws? Neither rape nor murder can truly be justified by either.
How come that animals are mistreated to bring profit to the trader as if they were no living creatures and had no value in their own right? No matter what cruel conditions they already have to endure, still new laws are made to add to their misery, e.g.: lessen their space in their cages, barns etc., despite having none to even stretch their legs to start with? Who asks the consumer? Who makes these laws? How can that be justified in a ‘humane society’?
How come that public servants of a government can make mistakes, without having to admit it and the law protecting them from having to pay for the financial loss they incurred, forcing the innocent employee or the public (tax-payer), who worked hard for their money pay for it? How can such a law escape the public scrutiny or worse, have consent, helping the politicians and insiders who know about hide behind it? No wonder that governments and politicians are mistrusted and that governmental services remain as irresponsible as ever.
How come that laws permit the destruction of the environment because profits are rich but only truly serving a powerful few? The beneficial spillover effect does not reflect a just distribution of the wealth that is accumulated by the few, nor does the short term gain benefit anyone’s future to justify the destruction.
Ethnic cleansing, cultural and religious war, slavery, - supported by human made laws, not natural laws or of any God’s. Supremacy? Inquisition of the middle ages? Conquest of “primitive tribes” to give them the achievements of modern times? One but, which culture for all? This is what intelligence with all the laws does. Nothing to be proud of, or is it?
Laws made by humans are a reflection on and of their society. If it is a democratic one, the population is responsible for its governance, but constant vigilance is needed to keep the power with the people. It is every citizen’s duty to ensure this power is not diluted by the government and its politicians, lawyers, or priests. It is of course far more convenient to hand over responsibilities. But that means handing over power.
Mature intelligence is inclined to self-governance. It is the only hope for the human race to recognize it as a necessary process before it is too late. Guidelines are enough to work within and along natural conditions, and in consensus with fellow-man for the benefit of all. Clearly that step may be difficult for humans at this point in time. But unachievable because too idealistic? Idealistic, yes. Unachievable, no. It only needs zero tolerance to the transgression on ‘natural law’. A mature intelligence has no need for man-made laws, no need for religious law, which is basically natural law with some tweaking by humans to serve communal or elitist agenda.
These are not unique or new ideas. Philosophers, of old and throughout times have referred to nature as the basic and legitimate governing body for all; and dissecting various religious commandments, all propagate the same basic ideas: Honor life, don’t kill, don’t steal, love thy neighbor, do good to all and everything, give rather than take and be grateful for your food. The hunter and gatherer or the nomad is more in tune with nature than the farmer and city dweller. The need for law inflates with the sedentary life style, and taking possession of the land and finally, living disconnected from nature.
Sozieternas have no need for laws and they are critical of human made laws because whoever makes them may be irrational, immoral and ignorant. But if laws have to be, law or justice should never be seen as a separate or externalized issue of man or his society. Laws don’t punish, guns don’t kill. Humans do. Giving abstract items an own status and their own momentum takes the responsibility away from where it belongs. So, no need to respect law as such, or fear law in itself. Just to respect life in all its forms is enough. But be truly cautious of the intelligent beast that needs the law to be tamed.
Sozieterna does not ignore victimization or tolerate offenders. They do not look away or shut up, law or not. This is to the benefit of both. But they accept the law of the society they live in as part of their given or chosen circumstances. That means that they may go to court to fight for what is right despite knowing that there is no guarantee that right will be given or that justice will be done. What can really be expected of Lady Justice with the symbols of blindfoldedness, scales, and sword! She is blind! She cannot see who seeks the help of the law, she cannot wield the sword without the risk of hitting the wrong party, nor can she evaluate the dipping scales. The symbol of Lady Justice itself is obsolete. If symbols at all then the scales would suffice.
So what is justice then? According to the textbooks, it may be defined as a principle that upholds what is morally fair in action or attitude. Obviously, talking about morals, it is a creation of the mind. But with this definition no universal standards are applicable. The philosophers and theorists have not reached a consensus either. It would be out of the scope of this article to reference to anyone specifically but the literature makes for interesting reading; Plato, John Locke, John Stewart Mill just to name some, maybe difficult to read but are never the less worth the while. However, as there are many theories about justice and, depending from which corner they come from, the conclusions are as varied. And intellectuals can battle fiercely as they vie for acceptance; the naturalists opposing the theologians, they in turn opposing the evolutionary ethicists and the scientist may oppose the philosopher who may oppose all; - all have but contributed to the mind’s evolution, and societal development. But only the minority can live with the obvious and simple but never the less true conclusion, - the essence of justice has not been established, only its application. Theories are too often just self-serving mind games. Particularly the scientists love to play. And why not, they got the brains and they have indeed achieved a lot because of it. But they also get stuck in the laws of science, quite for the wrong reasons too. It is a tedious business and wasteful of timely progress.
Looking through available literature and research, two findings should be mentioned:
Research on Capuchin monkeys indicate that fairness is “hardwired in the brain”, as there is an instinctual “inequity aversion” demonstrated by these monkeys at least, suggesting that fairness may not be unique to humans.
The other is a quote by Anatole France, journalist, poet and novelist: ‘In its majestic equality the law forbids rich and poor to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steel loafs of bread.’
Indeed! Justice, where are you? Though justice has a lot to do with fairness and equality. But it is not justice, isn’t it? Then again, everybody can be fair, or live just. In that case justice is lived and not applied. And that is really the goal.
One theory of justice deserves however a special attention, collectively called metaphysical justice as in the concept of fate, reincarnation, divine providence, or in the concept of cardinal values such as benevolence, charity, prudence, mercy, generosity and compassion.
Some readers may believe only God can be just, even being the ultimate justice. And what is with Karma, the law of cause and effect? Well, one can come up with many arguments for and against God’s justice, but this is not a discussion about what God is or is not. It is about human beings and their attitudes and behaviors. God has after all according to the Bible given man a free will; so, God is not responsible for man’s failures. Man is.
Karmic law on the other hand reflects the law of physics. Every action has a re-action, every force has a two way effect, and every action has its cause. Having a universe that never loses energy, but is affected by it, Karma may well serve as a symbol of cosmic justice, reincarnation or not. It means, every single person’s action has a universal effect, no matter to what extent, but it sure matters of what intent.
Sozieterna believes in man’s free will and that he has a choice. Though some people may not agree with that, one can hardly object the notion that a person can choose to live destructively, or choose to live life in the most life affirming way. It does not require God or Karma or manmade laws; life is, if man likes it or not. What he does, can or wants to do, - it is his decision. Of course, the question of ‘good and evil’ arises in this context as a necessary and important one, but is too complex a topic. Its exploration has to be deferred to another time.
The connection between law and justice stems from the hope or the expectation that justice is applied to judgment after a transgression of law. That is unfortunate, because justice becomes then associated with punishment, or revenge and righteousness. Emotional judgment is therefore not necessarily just, but neither is judgment based on logic as to the letter of the law. None of it makes the world a better place. But if just and fair actions are habitual, peace is maintained and life can prosper.
Sozieterna views fairness or justice as an integral condition of life. For them justice is not a concept though it has cardinal value; it is a biological tool, contributing to harmony, balance. It is in its essence part of the principle of peace. Being fair, living just, respecting life as the Gold Standard measure, means justice is alive, not separated from life. Though that is exactly where it belongs.
So what will it be for the human race in future? Law and justice? Or respect for life and being fair, living just? One assures a life of hell, the other life in peace.