Compassion and Justice
Compassion and justice are issues well understood by the minority and the marginalized communities in the world. The understanding of these terms varies depending on a person’s position in the society. To the marginalized, justice is showing compassion and fairness to people who are of low status. Additionally, justice means punishment for the wrongdoers. The powerful see justice from a different point of view. For instance, some traditional theories of justice argue that the interest of the strong represents justice in the society (Rawls 79). In other words, the personal interest of the ruling group determines how justice is exercised in the society. A different theory argues that justice is depicted by doing well to the friendly and harm to the enemies. The latter approach of justice was highly valid during the colonial periods and the slavery era. The powerful nations enslaved members of the enemy nation and their actions were justified by the latter definition of justice.
However, the idea of justice has transformed over the years and the current generation has varied views. Further, the process through which justice should be served and the process of judging wrong doers vary across the divide. Levi, a former slave uses his story to bring out a new idea of compassion and justice, as he understands it. Plato, on the other hand, presents justice from a different position as an activist for the oppressed (Rawls 160). The arguments from both writers vary because of the positions from which they argue their points. However, a few similarities and differences arise from their definition of justice and compassion. The contrasting opinions of both writers are systematically discussed throughout the paper.
Levi argues that justice and compassion varies depending on the environment in which one lives. During the slavery period, the special squad team killed and burned the bodies of their counterparts for varied reasons. Their compassion did not have a place in such kind of a society. The crematory team did not have self-will or the ability to decide right from wrong because their survival depended on their obedience to the masters (Brown 137). Therefore, it is wrong for people the current world to judge their actions based on the present understanding because situations today are different from what they were at the time.
In contrast to the Levi’s assertion, Plato argues that justice and compassion are constant aspects of human living, which do not change from time to time. An individual is expected to act justly and in a compassionate way, regardless of the surrounding environments. Plato’s assertion is meant to create a certain order in human activities to prevent people from misusing power and authority. The change in attitude towards justice and compassion contradicts the wholesome purpose of justice. Plato argues that justice should serve the whole person and create a connection between a person and the society (Rawls 41). In other words, justice should influence the society, not the other way round. The environment in which people live cannot dictate justice because it is the bond that joins one to the society.
Both Plato and Levi agree that justice and compassion are non-interference acts. In other words, just acts and compassion acts should not interfere with the normal order of the society. The societal approach urges people to consider both personal and societal impacts of their decisions. For instance, in Levi’s views, the possession of power should not deter one from seeking public justice in favor of personal interests. Additionally, the SS squad team during the slavery period should have considered the impacts of their favorable position for the rest of the group (Levi 43). Plato, on the other hand, asserts that justice and compassion are inherent attributes whose purpose is to unite the society and not create power boundaries.
Both of the writers condemn the acts of coercion and the use of power to intimidate justice. Coercion can hinder justice in many ways. For instance, judging the SS crew based on their actions during the slavery period is unjust because they did not act out of own will (Levi 53). On the other hand, compassion should have prevailed while making the decisions to follow the masters’ rules thus making them compliant. Plato argues that political selfishness and excessive individualism are the sources of injustice in the society. Individualism forces people to make selfish decisions that do not benefit the society. Therefore, power should not be used to coerce people to do things that they would not do willingly and neither should it be used to deter the process of judgment.
In conclusion, human understanding of justice varies from one person to another and depending on the context of the argument. However, a few aspects remain constant including the wholesomeness justice and the non-interference aspect of the same. True justice does interfere with the normal functioning of the society. Further, justice and compassion serve both the individual’s interest and the social interest, thus creating a wholesome effect.
Brown, Adam. Judging “privileged” Jews: Holocaust Ethics, Representation, and the “Gray Zone. New York: Berghahn, 2013. Print.
Levi, Primo. The drowned and the saved. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.
Rawls, John. A theory of justice. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.