The Fourteenth Meeting of the Mariposa UROSJ League, or MUROSJL, devoted to the capture, taming, and putting to work of the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, recorded this 25th day of June, 2019, ended quickly, due to the brevity of the walk. Ring 7-20 is the shortest in the labyrinth, walked countre as the fifth ring and clockre as the eleventh this week, with four to go, all of them longer and thus better suited to the weight of issues raised in last week’s six questions.
In case you are just joining the Walking Saga of the MUROSJLists, to save you reading back, and because this is a short walk, the group decided to repeat them with brief, tentative answers rendered without explanation:
Question One: Stephen Leacock’s Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice centred around poverty in the midst of plenty. One hundred years later, do we still have poverty in the midst of plenty, and if so, is it the same kind of poverty? We do, and it both is and is not.
Question Two: If we smooth out grotesque inequalities in wealth, purchasing power, and economic security, do we thus automatically achieve an adequate equality of Opportunity, or even fairness in that realm? We do not. Inequality of opportunity has cultural, demographic and geographic dimensions that transcend economics.
Question Three: What social injustices can we see nowadays, of which even Stephen Leacock, who was well ahead of his time, could not see? Would it be appropriate, and sufficient, to focus on two, one having to do with our Environments, both natural and created, and one having to do with Culture? Yes, it would, and we will.
Question Four: If we decide that now, one hundred years after Stephen Leacock, Social Justice requires constant attention to Economic Justice (wealth, purchasing power, and security), Opportunity Justice, Environmental Justice (natural and built), and Cultural Justice, then what kind of a policy monster have we created? Is it possible that each of these realms is an Unsolved Riddle in its own right? We have created the policy monster that is contemporary social-economic-environmental-cultural-political life. We should add Constitutional Justice and Rights Justice as parts of Social Justice, all with their own Unsolved Riddles, thereby complicating matters still further.
Question Five: It is difficult enough to think clearly and positively about one Unsolved Riddle at a time, each requiring its own kinds of Creative Doublethink and Bi- or Multi-Polar Action. Do we have the tools to think about, let alone deal with a compound Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, compounded of Unsolved Riddles of Prosperity, Security, Opportunity, Stewardship (including Preservation, Cultivation, and what do do with the garbage), Pluralism, and all the rest? Considering the present situation, we either do not have the tools, or we have but don’t know how to use them, or we do know how but don’t trust them.
Question Six: Are the ideas previously articulated of any use? These being:
DAUNTLESSLY, STEP-BY-STEP, BOTH ONE AT A TIME AND ALL TOGETHER!
KNOWLEDGE! IMAGINATION! COMPASSION! HUMOUR!
What are these slogans saying? They are suggesting, first of all, that we must act with courage, incrementally, both individually and collectively. Stephen Leacock, at the end of his life, wanted to turn the job over to people “of good will whose hearts are in the cause.” That’s a pretty good slogan in its own right, The Four Fields are derived from his ideas about Education, which is surely crucial. As William Blake said, “Man (meaning human kind) has no notion of moral fitness but from Education. Naturally he is only a natural organ subject to sense.” He goes on to say that we are not bounded by our organs of perception, that we perceive “more than sense (tho’ ever so acute) can discover.”
So yes, they are useful, but need elaboration.
At this point someone pointed out the parallel between the word “slogan” and the “slug-horn” which Childe Roland blew at the Dark Tower.
Deanna Drone, that mighty reader, then reminded the group of two ideas that might well have something useful to say, unusual though they may seem in this context:
William Blake: “The Poetic Genius is the true Human.” That is, the Spirit of Poetry, which is “every where call’d the Spirit of Prophecy” in the Biblical sense. Also: “What we have already known is not the same that it shall be when we know more.” A useful reminder, that.
Northrop Frye: The poet’s “job is not to describe nature, but to show you a world completely absorbed and possessed by the human mind.”
That, offered Deanna, is the kind of world we are talking about when we talk about Social Justice: a poet’s world, understood from poetry’s kind of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour. This is not to exclude other kinds, many or most of which we may need, but which by themselves remain fragmented, incomplete and inconclusive, as Mariposa itself was once described. Through faith in the Poetic Genius we can at least form a coherent, complete, and conclusive vision.
This triggered a lively conversation that spilled over into the pub and continued until it closed without becoming anything more than fragmented, incomplete, and inconclusive. Much walking remains, however, so there is hope.