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What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

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What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  Skep tickle on Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:25 pm

Quote below is reposted from http://secularsocialjustice.4rumer.com/t15-what-is-atheism#99 where the discussion went down a different path than this:

I'm interested in hearing what "social justice" means to people here, and what you would feel are the key social issues you do, or would like to, work on.

I know many people (in general) use it to at least include "countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry", but do some people have a different understanding of its meaning? Narrower or broader, or different in some way?

As good ol' Wikipedia says, "The [term] has taken on a very controverted and variable meaning, depending on who is using it."

I ask because my understanding of "social justice" didn't seem to match what I saw at A+safe forum. The meaning I use is closer to this (from the Wikipedia Social Justice page):
Social justice is also a concept that is used to describe the movement towards a socially just world, i.e., the Global Justice Movement. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality, and can be defined as "the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society".[30]

A number of movements are working to achieve social justice in society.[31][32] These movements are working towards the realization of a world where all members of a society, regardless of background or procedural justice, have basic human rights and equal access to the benefits of their society.

I also ask what's most important because it seemed over at A+safe that eradicating "privilege" and installing gender-neutral pronouns were felt by some people to be the most pressing areas for change in the world. I don't see it that way. But people's take on this will vary, and I'm interested in how varied it is, and where one's view on this comes from.

My personal take on it is: I had a chance to examine my priorities >5 years ago at a Christian-atheist discussion site, when one of the admins asked people to post what three things they would change - out of anything/everything - if they could. Several Christians posted things like "I would wish to be a better husband" or "I would like to have more patience". Those seemed small-minded to me; I decided that my 3 would be (a) adequate food and clean water, (b) basic housing, and (c) relief from chronic infection (like TB, malaria, & HIV) for people who lacked any of these things (and wanted them). Since then, I have really focused my charitable giving on clean water, food relief, and medical relief work (Doctors without Borders and Partners in Health) in developing countries. (I decided the Gates Foundation was doing so much in the area of prevention and eradication of chronic infection that I haven't emphasized it.) Not that I don't give to a couple of other causes, including some in the US, but these key areas are the ones that mean the most to me. There are so many causes, so many areas where one could put time, money, & effort, but for me contributing to preventing premature death and (hopefully) reducing suffering form my bailiwick. (I work in health care, in the US, so preventing premature death & reducing suffering in the first world, mostly but not exclusively among people with health insurance, is also part of what I do.)

Your turn, if you will: What does "social justice" mean to you, and what do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  rEvolutionist on Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:00 pm

I'm not well versed on the more philosophical or technical meanings of the term. I've just always used it in the sense of fighting inequality. For me that means aiming for equality of opportunity, but I don't know if that is a tenet of the concept; it's a tenet of my own personal political philosophy. I've tend to focus my thoughts and activities on reducing the inequality around issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, and wealth/opportunity inequality.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  AliRadicali on Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:53 pm

Well, I guess the right to health, food and water and housing are human rights which would fall under social justice (although try explaining to a conservative/libertarian how health is a human right), it seems to me that most people when using the term mean the more abstract legal rights, things like freedom of speech, freedom of/from religion, equal rights for all races, religions, sexes and sexualities.


Personally, of the two, I consider helping developing countries develop in a responsible manner to be a much, much greater priority than perfect gender parity, but that may just be my privilege speaking. It helps that I live in the Netherlands, where gay people have been allowed to marry for some time now, and where there aren't that many glaring social injustices around, other than that smudge of latent racism that seems inevitable in any society with people of mixed ethinicities. Of course this doesn't mean that I consider discrimination based on race or sexuality to be "first world problems" per se, but I do give them less urgence than children dying from malnourishment or bad water.
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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  Skep tickle on Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:12 pm

Yeah, I have figured that I'm willing to pull drowning children from the river rather than feeling compelled to go upstream & keep them from falling in...or getting pushed in...in the first place.

I figure if people have access to clean water, not only would fewer kids die diarrheal illnesses but also the whole community might have more of an opportunity to focus on higher-level issues.

Helping sustain access to food and medical care for treatable conditions for people in dire circumstances like natural disasters and war zones might have a similar effect, though there people need their energy & efforts to go to meeting the basic requirements of ekeing out a life & a living. The higher-level issues are not even on the table, in those situations, I'd imagine.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  Skep tickle on Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:36 pm

AliRadicali wrote:...I live in the Netherlands, where gay people have been allowed to marry for some time now, and where there aren't that many glaring social injustices around, other than that smudge of latent racism that seems inevitable in any society with people of mixed ethinicities.
Lucky! My state is one of 4, I think it is, in the US in which same-sex marriage is on the ballot this year. In my state, it'll be close but may not pass. Voters have rejected same sex marriage every time it's come up before them in the various states, so far. (I have both donated and done a little bit of work on the campaign to get this referendum passed, but as above it's not top of my priority list for places to spend time, money, & effort.)

AliRadicali wrote:...it seems to me that most people when using the term mean the more abstract legal rights, things like freedom of speech, freedom of/from religion, equal rights for all races, religions, sexes and sexualities.
rEvolutionist wrote:I'm not well versed on the more philosophical or technical meanings of the term. I've just always used it in the sense of fighting inequality. For me that means aiming for equality of opportunity, but I don't know if that is a tenet of the concept; it's a tenet of my own personal political philosophy. I've tend to focus my thoughts and activities on reducing the inequality around issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, and wealth/opportunity inequality.
Okay, great. So, for those of you with your sights set higher up on Maslow's hierarchy than me, what does that look like in action? What would you focus on (or support others in their focus), where would you put your efforts?

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  rEvolutionist on Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:09 pm

I was heavily involved in the occupy movement. The ethos of that whole movement is about systemic change. The sorts of change that will benefit both the developing world and the underprivileged (fuck, that word is so loaded to me now...) in the developed world. My main part in that movement was attacking neoliberalism, which is the prime ideological cause of most of the worlds big ills, IMO.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  Chart#3 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:18 pm

rEvolutionist wrote:I was heavily involved in the occupy movement. The ethos of that whole movement is about systemic change. The sorts of change that will benefit both the developing world and the underprivileged (fuck, that word is so loaded to me now...) in the developed world. My main part in that movement was attacking neoliberalism, which is the prime ideological cause of most of the worlds big ills, IMO.

This is what I thought too.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:19 pm

TBH I think social justice is an oxymoron. All societies are inherently unjust to at least some of the members. For when all is said and done we aer just apes that fell out of the trees and got lost on the savanna. Suspect

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  nullnvoid on Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:21 pm

arpie wrote:TBH I think social justice is an oxymoron. All societies are inherently unjust to at least some of the members. For when all is said and done we aer just apes that fell out of the trees and got lost on the savanna. Suspect

Do you think that means that we're incapable of minimizing the effect of those differences?

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:14 am

nullnvoid wrote:
arpie wrote:TBH I think social justice is an oxymoron. All societies are inherently unjust to at least some of the members. For when all is said and done we aer just apes that fell out of the trees and got lost on the savanna. Suspect

Do you think that means that we're incapable of minimizing the effect of those differences?

No. In the short term we can minimize the effect among select groups, but always at the cost of the majority. Thus in the west the social justice we continue to seek and in many ways have achieved is at the cost of a much larger group in the south and east.

It reminds me of entropy. You can create islands in the flow into chaos, but it is always at the cost of the larger environment. This principle is manifested in many ways, including the effects of human technology on the planet. Our achievement of higher organization only accelerates the descent into chaos of the Gaia.


Last edited by arpie on Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:46 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  scott1328 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:24 am

arpie wrote:
nullnvoid wrote:
arpie wrote:TBH I think social justice is an oxymoron. All societies are inherently unjust to at least some of the members. For when all is said and done we aer just apes that fell out of the trees and got lost on the savanna. Suspect

Do you think that means that we're incapable of minimizing the effect of those differences?

No. In the short term we can minimize the effect among select groups, but always at the cost of the majority. Thus in the west the social justice we continue to seek and in many ways have achieved is at the cost of a much larger group in the south and east.

t reminds me of entropy. You can create islands in the flow into chaos, but it is always at the cost of the larger environment. This principle is manifested in many ways, including the effects of human technology on the planet. Our achievement of higher organization only accelerates the descent into chaos in the Gaia.

Social Justice is not a zero sum game.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:51 am

scott1328 wrote:Social Justice is not a zero sum game.

Looking at the planet as a whole, what evidence do you have that supports this claim?

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  scott1328 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:52 am

arpie wrote:
scott1328 wrote:Social Justice is not a zero sum game.

Looking at the planet as a whole, what evidence do you have that supports this claim?

I suspect you are conflating economics with social justice.

One simple example of a non-zero sum game issue: Marriage Equality costs the majority nothing, but grants a huge benefit to those currently excluded.
Another example: Bodily rights: it costs the majority nothing to allow women to control their bodies, a woman with an unwanted pregnancy faces 18 years of the personal and economic costs of child rearing (which if she can't manage falls to the state)

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:21 pm

scott1328 wrote:
arpie wrote:
scott1328 wrote:Social Justice is not a zero sum game.
Looking at the planet as a whole, what evidence do you have that supports this claim?
I suspect you are conflating economics with social justice.
One simple example of a non-zero sum game issue: Marriage Equality costs the majority nothing, but grants a huge benefit to those currently excluded.
While I definitely support marriage equality, it isn't free, especially at a time when most western governments are spending at an unsustainable rate. The money lost to social security claims by married partners and other such entitlements will have to be acquired elsewhere. It will more likely come from say funds earmarked for improving the dismal public education in large cities than defense or taxing billionaires more, so we're back to zero sum.
Another example: Bodily rights: it costs the majority nothing to allow women to control their bodies, a woman with an unwanted pregnancy faces 18 years of the personal and economic costs of child rearing (which if she can't manage falls to the state)
Here you're getting close, but still no cigar. Because of our Ponzi-like continued growth model for our economy, with fewer young workers to support the retired ones social security and medicare-to name just to examples-will go broke even sooner without the unwanted children to bolster the declining birth rate.

I don't see how we can separate social justice from the economy. For while money can't buy happiness, it can sure help keep a world of woe off your back yard. Ask those who for the first time now find themselves broke.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  mood2 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:52 pm

The money lost to social security claims by married partners and other such entitlements will have to be acquired elsewhere.

dunno about the US, but in the UK the social security system treats gay and straight couples living together the same as married couples. In fact it saves money to pay social security to a couple rather than two individual claimants.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:43 pm

mood2 wrote:
The money lost to social security claims by married partners and other such entitlements will have to be acquired elsewhere.

dunno about the US, but in the UK the social security system treats gay and straight couples living together the same as married couples. In fact it saves money to pay social security to a couple rather than two individual claimants.

Hi mood2. I assume you realize your parliamentary government has countless advantages on our antiquated system in the US, based on a document written in the sixteenth century? Anyway, here your spouse can collect your SS or at least part of it if she/he has their own after one dies. And there are other factors I will refrain from mentioning as I can't recall the details. But I'm fairly certain there is a financial cost in allowing gays to legally marry.

Of course the right wing clothes this tart in biblical and moral phraseology, but I suspect a big part of it is simply the financial aspect. There is no free lunch and never has been. It's always a case of taking from Peter to give Paul. Food first, then morality. (Bretch) But please understand I voted yes for same sex marriage and consider it outrageous it has yet to become recognized nation wide. Even the UK hasn't done so yet, though they have eliminated any financial penalties.

I would have to look into the way the laws apply in the UK to know if in fact at least there social justice could be achieved at no cost to the larger society. I'm a bit skeptical, but would like to believe I'm wrong in this case. Perhaps a non zero sum win may in fact be possible in some cases. But these small victories are drops in the ocean of our global problems fueled by a lack of social justice of any kind for so many. Sad

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  nullnvoid on Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:01 pm

There's a number of issues here.

Gay Marriage is a separate issue to the provision of financial benefits conferred on couples. Civil unions with the same rights as marriage already confer many of the benefits you are talking about. Speaking for Australia, some of these rights are revenue neutral, such as the right to be recognised as next of kin in hospitals. Some will be revenue negative - in the sense of benefits of certain pension holders at the death of a partner. Some will actually be revenue positive - such as the fact that couples are paid at roughly 80-90% the rate of two single people while both partners are still alive.

Heterosexual marriage already incurs such costs to the state without a reason other than tradition. If the argument is made that the cost is too great to allow same sex couples to benefit then the argument would hold true for heterosexual couples. Should all marriage benefits be reviewed? Sounds like what you're saying. I don't think any country really has social security completely nailed.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  scott1328 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:11 pm

arpie wrote:
scott1328 wrote:
arpie wrote:
scott1328 wrote:Social Justice is not a zero sum game.
Looking at the planet as a whole, what evidence do you have that supports this claim?
I suspect you are conflating economics with social justice.
One simple example of a non-zero sum game issue: Marriage Equality costs the majority nothing, but grants a huge benefit to those currently excluded.
While I definitely support marriage equality, it isn't free, especially at a time when most western governments are spending at an unsustainable rate. The money lost to social security claims by married partners and other such entitlements will have to be acquired elsewhere. It will more likely come from say funds earmarked for improving the dismal public education in large cities than defense or taxing billionaires more, so we're back to zero sum.
Another example: Bodily rights: it costs the majority nothing to allow women to control their bodies, a woman with an unwanted pregnancy faces 18 years of the personal and economic costs of child rearing (which if she can't manage falls to the state)
Here you're getting close, but still no cigar. Because of our Ponzi-like continued growth model for our economy, with fewer young workers to support the retired ones social security and medicare-to name just to examples-will go broke even sooner without the unwanted children to bolster the declining birth rate.

I don't see how we can separate social justice from the economy. For while money can't buy happiness, it can sure help keep a world of woe off your back yard. Ask those who for the first time now find themselves broke.

Well then you are conflating Social Justice with Economics.

And since you believe Social Justice is an oxymoron, it makes me wonder why on earth would you join a forum entitled Secular Social Justice.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:52 pm

scott1328 wrote:Well then you are conflating Social Justice with Economics.

And since you believe Social Justice is an oxymoron, it makes me wonder why on earth would you join a forum entitled Secular Social Justice.
For the lulz? Because it wasn't called that when I joined? Twisted Evil No, not really. I think social justice is a worthy cause. I was just pointing out why I think it IS a zero sum dilemma. As to conflating it with economics, as I stated earlier itt I don't see how you can separate the two.

@Null: Actually I don't think it would be a bad idea for all the economic benefits of marriage to be eliminated. The money to pay off the debts the west has incurred have to come from somewhere, and at least then gay couples would no longer be at an economic disadvantage to the straight ones. Wink

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  mood2 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:12 am

arpie wrote:
mood2 wrote:
The money lost to social security claims by married partners and other such entitlements will have to be acquired elsewhere.

dunno about the US, but in the UK the social security system treats gay and straight couples living together the same as married couples. In fact it saves money to pay social security to a couple rather than two individual claimants.

Hi mood2. I assume you realize your parliamentary government has countless advantages on our antiquated system in the US, based on a document written in the sixteenth century? Anyway, here your spouse can collect your SS or at least part of it if she/he has their own after one dies. And there are other factors I will refrain from mentioning as I can't recall the details. But I'm fairly certain there is a financial cost in allowing gays to legally marry.

Of course the right wing clothes this tart in biblical and moral phraseology, but I suspect a big part of it is simply the financial aspect. There is no free lunch and never has been. It's always a case of taking from Peter to give Paul. Food first, then morality. (Bretch) But please understand I voted yes for same sex marriage and consider it outrageous it has yet to become recognized nation wide. Even the UK hasn't done so yet, though they have eliminated any financial penalties.

I would have to look into the way the laws apply in the UK to know if in fact at least there social justice could be achieved at no cost to the larger society. I'm a bit skeptical, but would like to believe I'm wrong in this case. Perhaps a non zero sum win may in fact be possible in some cases. But these small victories are drops in the ocean of our global problems fueled by a lack of social justice of any kind for so many. Sad
Oops need to correct myself actually arpie. For the unemployed it's as I said, but I'm p sure for pensioners a same sex couple would have to be Civil Partners to get the same pension rights as married couples. Sorry bout that. Swings and roundabouts financially, but I'd guess on balance it costs government more overall. (Not sure about now, but there used to be social security officers who'd visit unmarried unemployed adults living together who claimed as individuals and got more money that way. The inspector would check sleeping arrangements, how bills are divvied, if the food in the fridge has separate names on it and all sorts of weird intrusive shit. There is a UK tradition of hastily setting up separate beds when An Inspector Calls, but did you think to label your baked beans... ha gotcha!)


More generally I don't see how the argument that it's much much worse elsewhere in the world equates to a reason that we shouldn't bother, if you're including that in your zero sum calculations. No-one anywhere would make progress if we looked at it like that. And it's good for people where it's worse to see it doesn't have to be that way. It seems a bit perverse to imply that some people making progress are somehow holding others down, when it's the people oppressing them who are responsible.

Re the financial costs, if you take the social security example of giving perks to married couples then the vast bulk is going to m/f couples even after same sex couples are allowed to join the club. So financially speaking it makes much more sense to only give the perks to the minority Wink.

In reality marriage related financial perks are about social engineering, a government has a vested interest in promoting a way of life which it believes helps social stability and is a good model for raising stable (happier, more compliant and less expensive) kids. It's a financial investment.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  arpie on Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:07 am

Everybody knows the deal is rotten..
Old black Joe still... pickin cotton..
For your bibs and bows..
And everybody knows.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBQYWCw8n_k

Click on the link above and listen as you read this post. Always loved this song as it is so in line with my own sentiments. Here's a story I've often repeated from my past.

In my mid twenties I spent a couple months in Tangiers during a low budget but long tour of Europe. My girlfriend and I had a large room with a balcony on the second floor of an old hotel in the Casbah for .80 cents a night. It was near the bay, at the base of a steep hill going into the center.

All day women would be carrying enormous bales of kindling up that hill. So huge looking straight down you couldn't tell if there was a woman or donkey underneath. That hill tired me out just carrying my own weight.

I recalled these women during long debates about capitalism with my mother in years that followed, when she would say she had worked hard for everything she had. By American standards indeed she had, and done well. But she didn't work anywhere near as hard as these women, and a bare minimum survival was their only reward.

For me social justice begins with the structure of the economy. We are both among the privileged mood2. Ours was built on centuries of exploiting those beyond our borders in any way possible. It continues today, though far more nefarious. All gains achieved toward making the lives of our citizens better result in increased consumption by those already enjoying by far the biggest slice of the resources pie.

Look into the history of Kashmir for some insight into what will soon become the first water war. Given both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons it might even be the last. But it portends our future. Through the social media the worlds poor are now aware of the disparity between their lifestyle and ours, and also want cars and fridges. How do we convince them to just keep hauling those bales of firewood up the hill?

In my perception of social justice we are all going to have to scale back dramatically on our consumption. The rest of the world is on to us. Many have lives so dour just the promise a better one awaits them is enough to get them to sacrifice their lives to strike back at their oppressors.

I think we would likely agree on most justice issues, m2, from what I've read of your posts here and at SC. Yet I fear our views lack any relevance if what I see coming happens, and it scares me how accurate my predictions have been to date. We live in isolation from the needs of the majority worldwide. How many of the 15 million children who starve to death each year died just while you read this post? Thousands perhaps? Is it inevitable? Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Has mankind's population growth become a cancer on the very Gaia that made/makes our existence possible? What is justice, indeed. What a Face



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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  mood2 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:38 am

I do agree with a lot of that arpie. And it's frustrating how little we can do to change the big picture. Even more so when it seems like even the tiny things we can do often end up adding to the problem.

But it's also true that Old Black Joe would still be a slave if we just gave up. Women like me would still be treated like property. Gay men would still be criminalised. The mentally ill would still be locked away and treated like animals. People with severe disabilities would still be living (and dying) on the street begging. The poor would still be sent to work houses. There would be no Fair Trade, no NGOs, no truckloads of vaccines saving at least some of the children who would otherwise have died while you're reading this.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

Post  Ziggy on Fri Nov 15, 2013 3:28 am

Well I agree with Wikipedia, Social Justice to me is basically: the realization of a world where all members of a society, regardless of background or procedural justice, have basic human rights and equal access to the benefits of their society.

With a personal emphasis on equality of opportunity, and a social safety net to protect people from the inevitable inequality of outcomes.

Social justice is extremely broad, but I guess my main priorities globally would be tackling government corruption and organised crime (sex trafficking, drug cartels, etc), and also preventing war. It seems to me that unless you have political stability then you cannot get anywhere, and wars destroy huge amounts of infrastructure and traumatise entire generations (who also often can't get an education).

However, I think there are plenty of small things that can be done within any society to make it more equitable for the citizens.

In my own country, Australia, I think "closing the gap" should be the main priority. That means addressing the "gap" in health and education levels between rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and everyone else.

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Re: What does social justice mean to you? What do you feel are the most important areas to work on?

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