Aristotle was hardly an infallible guide to what was right in society. He did, after all, believe that slavery was a natural and acceptable phenomenon, and he showed nothing but contempt for the idea that women in general could do anything more significant than breed. But there is one particular idea of Aristotle's that, in my view, still holds up amazingly well: the idea that a society cannot reasonably be expected to be based on love, but that it can and must be based on justice.
I do not, for example, have the right to insist that you love me. Love is too profoundly personal and subjective to permit any such demand. (Besides, how can one demand that another love him? Love is granted freely, not bestowed under coercion. "The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.") But I do have the right to insist that you treat me fairly, with justice. By justice I mean the recognition that I am just as real as you are, that my needs are just as genuine as yours, that my moral status is equal to yours, and that I am as much a person in every sense of the word as you are. Given that set of criteria, how might justice be defined in contemporary America?
Justice means being given equal treatment under the law. It should not be dependent on how good a lawyer you can afford to hire.
Justice means being judged on personal merit and ability, not on such factors as "race", social class, gender, or sexuality. It means we do not judge others on such irrelevant bases.
Justice means that, as far as humanly possible, everyone is given the opportunity to succeed socially and economically. It means we provide such opportunities ourselves. It does not mean that everyone is entitled to the same reward, regardless of effort and accomplishment.
Justice means that everyone who is willing to help himself or herself is entitled to at least the minimal means of survival--food, shelter, clothing, and a certain minimum of medical care. All children are automatically entitled to these things.
Justice means that all people have the right to die with dignity. No person should be allowed to die in agony, regardless of his or her personal finances.
Justice means that no person may rightfully be made to suffer cruel, inhuman, or barbaric punishment. We may not justly inflict this on others.
Justice means that all people have the right to politeness and courtesy in their interpersonal relations. (This is not a minor consideration to me; I think it's fundamental.)
Justice means that we are entitled to the truth from our government, our employers, our associates, and our loved ones. Others are entitled to the truth from us.
Justice means that everyone is entitled to express opinions, even hateful ones, short of incitement to violence.
Justice means that we have the right to do anything in privacy as long as all those involved are consenting adults and no tangible harm is done to anyone outside of the person or persons involved. It means we must extend this right to privacy to everyone else.
Justice means being governed with our consent.
Justice means that we never attempt to impose our way of life on a foreign society without that society's consent. Exceptions may be made for tyrannous governments that have deliberately waged war on us (such as Germany and Japan in World War II) where justice demands a change.
Justice means we respect the religious rights of all people, including the right to believe nothing at all. It means we never impose our beliefs on others.
Justice means above all that we value the lives and well being of children, and that we make as our highest goal the elimination of all suffering among them and mistreatment of them. CHILDREN ARE SACRED.
So I just thought I'd let you know what I think about this. Yeshua (Jesus) commanded us to love one another, but that doesn't seem likely any time soon. Unless and until God intervenes personally on the physical plane of reality, therefore, I think we'll have to shoot for justice. It seems like a pretty big thing to ask all by itself.
Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!