In Matters of Injustice & Persecution,
Do You Agree with Malcolm Muggeridge?
Getting angry about human affairs is as ridiculous as losing one’s temper in a traffic jam.
[C. S. Lewis taught as a fellow at Oxford from 1925 to 1954. Among those he tutored was the poet John Betjeman and the critic Kenneth Tynan.]
I had a pupil who was certainly a socialist, probably a Marxist. To him the ‘collective,’ the State, was everything, the individual nothing; freedom, a bourgeois delusion. Then he went down and became a schoolmaster. A couple of years later, happening to be in Oxford, he paid me a visit. He said he had given up socialism. He was completely disillusioned about state-control. The interferences of the Ministry of Education with schools and schoolmasters were, he had found, arrogant, ignorant, and intolerable: sheer tyranny. I could take lots of this and the conversation went on merrily. Then suddenly the real purpose of his visit was revealed. He was so ‘browned-off’ that he wanted to give up schoolmastering; and could I—had I any influence—would I pull any wires to get him a job—in the Ministry of Education?
There you have the new man. Like the psalmists he can hate, but he does not, like the psalmists, thirst for justice. Having decided that there is oppression he immediately asks: ‘How can I join the oppressors?’
Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.
Intellectuals, with many notable exceptions, are too often as reluctant to defy the intellectual fashions dominant in their milieu as social careerists the fashions of society. Consider, for instance, the reactions of the majority of intellectuals to persecution. It is right and fashionable to protest against the persecution of Jews. It is right and fashionable to protest against the persecution of Negroes. It is right and, unfortunately, increasingly unfashionable to protest against the persecution of Christians.
Arnold Lunn (from Unkilled For So Long, 1968)
Most logical positivists [the school of philosophy known as logical positivism was in vogue for a decade or two before and after the Second World War] have been vaguely leftist, not of course because they have any particular sympathy with the poor but because Conservatism in politics is associated in their minds with conservative morals. Because logical positivists are usually leftists they would not be embarrassed if challenged to reconcile their philosophy with such statements as “it is wrong for Communists to murder Catholic priests,” because in progressive circles there is a tendency to agree with the author of a book on the Civil War in Spain that “martyrdom is a professional risk for a Spanish priest,” and that “since civil war is a category of politics it is reasonable that a man should be liquidated for his opinions.” But the mere fact of being a Jew cannot be classified as a legitimate professional risk, and Professor A. J. Ayer, who, of course, feels strongly on anti-Semitism, was finally forced to revise his philosophy in order to allow for moral judgements condemning Hitler’s liquidation of the Jews.
Arnold Lunn (from And Yet So New, 1958)
People are easily moved to indignation by persecution of those of their own race, religion or political party, but the rarity of any but partisan protests against cruelty provokes an uneasy doubt. Is the hatred of injustice, as such, less common in the world today than in the world of our grandfathers?
The love of justice is, in most men, nothing more than the fear of suffering injustice.
de La Rochefoucauld
I believe that force, mitigated as far as may be by good manners, is the ultima ratio [final argument, last resort], and between two groups of men that want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force. . . It seems to me that every society rests on the death of men.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
David Ben-Gurion, one of Israel’s founders and its first prime minister, once told Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress: “If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: We have taken their country. . . We come from Israel, but 2000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
By making justice subjective and arbitrary, every citizen can be plausibly arrested and charged at any time, with the result that they live in a permanent state of incipient guilt and fear; really feeling themselves to be miserable offenders, not just in the eyes of God, but of their earthly rulers as well. Hence the so easily procured confessions [during Stalin’s show trials], which do not need to be invented or extorted, but truly come from the heart.
Nothing is law that is not reason.
The goal of affirmative action is employment equity. Employment equity means that no one is denied opportunities for reasons that have nothing to do with inherent ability. It means equal access free from arbitrary obstructions such as racial or gender discrimination. And yet this equal access is precisely what affirmative action legislates against. Affirmative action means creating injustice in the present in order to redress injustice in the past. But who’s to say that the resentment aroused by this fresh injustice won’t eventually lead to more and worse forms of injustice than the injustice being redressed? If two wrongs don’t make a right, then it’s especially true when the second wrong is not directed against those responsible for the first, but against an innocent third party.
We have to work to find where justice lies.
A vulgar philosophy laments the wickedness of the world, but when we come to think of it we realise that the confusion of life, the doubt and turmoil and bewildering responsibility of life, largely arises from the enormous amount of good in the world. There is much to be said for everybody; there are too many points of view; too many truths that contradict each other, too many loves which hate each other. Our earth is not, as Hamlet said, “an unweeded garden,” but a garden which is choked and disordered with neglected flowers. The eternal glory of Don Quixote in the literary world is that it holds perfectly even the two scales of the mysticism of the Knight and the rationalism of the Squire. Deep underneath all the superficial wit and palpable gaiety of the story there runs a far deeper kind of irony. . . that the battle of existence has always been like King Arthur’s last battle in the mist, one in which “friend slew friend not knowing whom he slew.”
G. K. Chesterton
We should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.
John Henry Newman
Thoughts about Injustice, Persecution & the Law
Every country’s record of injustice is long and shameful.
No nation is fit to sit in judgement upon any other nation.
Government comprises a large part of the organized injustice in any society, ancient or modern.
Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
H. L. Mencken
In Adam Smith’s view it is better to have social peace than economic justice.
Behind the abstraction known as “the markets” lurks a set of institutions designed to maximize the wealth and power of the most privileged group of people in the world, the creditor-rentier class of the First World and their junior partners in the Third.
Doug Henwood (from Wall Street: How it Works, and For Whom, 1998)
In England, justice is open to all—like the Ritz Hotel.
James Mathew (Irish jurist)
Everyone knows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. But no one accepts the implications of this, everyone takes for granted that the law, such as it is, will be respected, and feels a sense of outrage when it is not.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear: what stings is justice.
H. L. Mencken
It’s hard to forgive someone you’ve wronged.
Law and order is one of the steps taken to maintain injustice.
An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty . . . to arouse the conscience of the community over the injustice, is . . . expressing the very highest respect for law.
Martin Luther King
Social justice is one of easiest virtues to talk about and the most difficult to practise.
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson owned slaves)
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
The height of justice is the height of injustice.
The only true way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing to them in pretty plain terms the consequences of injustice.
People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.
John Kenneth Galbraith
The prisons are full of those who have grown up poor and abused.
One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalized by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime.
There is no doubt that people with money tend not to get charged, not to get investigated, not to get tried, and not to get convicted. All along the line, the discretions get exercised in their favour.
You get only the amount of justice you can afford, no more, no less.
We are condemned to rub shoulders with injustice all our lives, and we are often judged by our acceptance of this fact. The spirit in which we manage it can even be said to be a measure of our maturity.
It’s a sign of maturity not to be scandalized.
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