Justice is Protecting the Rights of All

Justice is Protecting the Rights of All“There is enough to serve everyone’s need, but not enough to cater to everyone’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Human Justice = Human Rights for All. It could also be labeled as Social Justice.

Earth Justice = Preserving Nature and the Environment. It could also be labeled as Environmental Justice.

Global Justice = Human Justice + Earth Justice.

Universal Justice = Global Justice + preserving all elements of our universe including outer space, other planets and our celestial neighbors distant or close.

Eternal Justice = Universal Justice + the final account of all human actions in relations to one’s self, to other people, to the environment, and to the universe; all in the context of one’s belief system.

This simplified hierarchy of the concept of Justice is meant as an attempt to present a holistic view of Justice. Please feel free to express your views, accepting, rejecting or modifying this view in your comments.

Two of the catch words or much talked about subjects in today’s world are “justice” and “human rights” (often used interchangeably). The assumption often is that if one is assured then the other happens automatically.

In some ways we tend to suppose that a world organization like the United Nations can muster the courage of conviction among all its member States to spread awareness of the importance of justice, not just for their people but extend the same principle to all the supportive elements in nature (viz. the air we breathe, the space we occupy, the earth we live on, water, plants and animals to support live on the planet, and the energy (fire) we consume, then the human survival and evolution can be assured. Is it so?!

The next assumption is that “human rights” are somewhat superior and therefore inviolable, and these have to be protected and preserved at any cost. One need not blame any leaders and governments for this assumption, but we all are locked into this power mindset.

But thinking a little bit deeper, we come to realize that the fundamental basic needs for survival and also, to some extent, protection are already “given” (by God if one believes, or just call it as “nature” for the secular-rationalists). These are the air to breath, the earth to hold, the space to occupy, water and fire (to produce energy). The self-regulating nature also tells us that not only human beings inhabit the planet, but other forms of live – animals and plants – have similar rights to protection and preservation. The belief that human beings are superior to others and have the power over renewable and non-renewable resources that nature holds in its environment, has fortunately been questioned and debated quite some time now.

Thanks to human intelligence and experience through ages we have understood that human rights in all its dimensions can never be absolute and taken for granted; their importance cannot remain superior to the “rights” of other elements in the environment in which we live though they may not be going to fight for these rights the way we human beings do. Then, a realization comes out that “rights” and “responsibilities” are just two sides of the same coin.

I believe that the United Nations has done a tremendous job in bringing about the awareness that human beings are not the sole “owner” of this earth kingdom, and their capacity and ability to “enjoy” the best living standards are closely linked to our fulfilling the corollary duties and responsibilities inherent in the self-regulating nature’s rights. Evidence is already available that failure to comply with the responsibilities toward environment can be quite expensive, counter-productive and may even be irreparable.

So, our goal should be not just the achievement of “human rights”, but also to ensure the “rights of the environment” though they may not come to the UN General Assembly to deliver speeches and fight for their “rights”. It is therefore in our own self-interest that we do things that facilitate what one may term as “sense of fairness” in the treatment of nature and the environment. Here, nature has been quite benign and considerate to us in telling that there are not many things human beings can do, in fact they should just NOT be doing the wrong and damaging activities, e.g. polluting air and water resources; overuse and depletion of renewable resources; indiscriminate destruction and depletion of fertile earth, plants, trees and other forms of life; unequal treatment in all forms among human species themselves; uninhibited consumption engendered by greed, pride, vanity; etc.

Then the question is how we can manage to control ourselves from doing these wrong deeds. Here, the principles of justice and fairness can be thought as rules of “fair play” not only for issues of social justice but also applying to whole gamut of environment in which we live. Whether they turn out to be grounded in universal laws or ones that are more limited and context-bound, these principles determine the way in which the various types of justice are carried out. For example, principles of distributive justice determine what counts as a “fair share” of the human rights to be enjoyed, while principles of restorative justice shape our response to activity that violates the “rights” of others and perhaps also nature and the environment. Therefore, a broader understanding of social and environmental justice should emerge as that which embraces not just human beings, but also both nature and the environment.

Hence, we need a new rule of law that affirms both human and environment are related and should remain friendly. In fact the whole genesis of Eastern Ancient Wisdom rests on the fundamental truth about human beings and their relationship with the rest of the universe, and the dictum is that the whole universe is one, manifest in different forms and names. So far, human beings are clever enough in designing and continually developing the necessary infrastructure and supportive measures to ensure “human rights” to live safely and securely. Insofar as to what constitutes the “rights” and justice toward nature and the environment, we are still struggling to find the right balance.

In achieving “justice” to nature and the environment, we need to know how we relate to the universe. The basic tools bequeathed by nature to human beings are the tools of sense organs and the inner engineering of how these work. Our senses are basically perception based (by touching, smelling, feeling, seeing or hearing), but the inner engineering factory (the mind) can process information through inference, observations, past impressions and models of different kinds already recorded in the memory hardware. When we see and feel our reactions to a given situation, it is always based on the inflow of information through senses processed in the inner factory through its own internal referral system. We have the whole array of books, teachers, gurus and trainers of all kinds to help manage the inner engineering factory called the mind. But the fact is that we are still to become smart or best managers. We have not learned fully that a critical factor that I wish to call “universal intelligence” that govern all the “minds” in the universe – human minds and the mind of nature – exists and works according to its own universal law (Dharma) that never fails. Even so, we have certainly tried and to some extent succeeded in trying to understand the “rights” of other beings like animal and plants and also recognized the disturbance being caused in the environment due to human ways of living, behaviors and actions.

We still seem not fully grasping the idea of justice toward nature and the environment except what scientists and social-anthropologists have found by empirical evidences and deduced by their own observations and research process. The debates and arguments about climate change and its impact on the plant are among the examples of human beings quest for knowledge and understanding of nature. The good thing about these developments is the realization and acceptance of the inter-linkage of human systems and those of nature and environment. The challenges, known and not yet known, therefore, can be described in these words:

  • Acceptance of the laws and dynamics that govern nature and the environment.
  • Our ability to understand these laws and dynamics and their propensities.
  • Our capacity to organize the known invariables and variables, and also predict and organize those still unknown, but likely to be known if we persevere.
  • Our capacity to build and use intelligence that work beyond the mind-body complex.
  • Finally, a system of justice that is not only just for human beings but also and more importantly “just” for nature, the environment and the universe on which our human lives depend.

More than anything, I believe, understanding “justice” to nature and the environment should start with basic education to children and young people. Many countries have already been educating their children and young people on environmental issues vis-a-vis societal responsibilities to protect nature around us. It appears that they are generally around a kind of quid-pro-quo process. It is just a set of “do’s” and don’ts, and probably based on anxiety of the future and fear.

In order to be effective, it should be more of a collaborative process of caring and sharing. Nature itself teaches about this every day by wonderful examples: giving us free sun shine for light, growth and development; giving us rain to sustain life; giving us plants and trees to provide food, clean air to breath; giving us the ocean to ensure the eco-balance; giving us earth full of natural and renewable resources to be used wisely; giving us the day and night to understand the pairs of opposites, fairness and equity.

It is therefore imperative that our system of educating and bring up children as future leaders on this planet should be a holistic one – the role of human beings in managing the relationship between us, nature and the environment. The system should bring about a true understanding of this key relationship and our inherent duty to do “justice” to nature, the environment and the universe as much as to other human beings.

When this is possible, the democracy and human rights will gain new meaning not just for the inhabitants of this plant but the whole universe to which we are all related and connected. This is then the true meaning of human birth on earth.

V. Muthuswami, Chennai, India.
Joint Appellant to the Common Cause Appeal # UNAT 2009-001.

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