Conflict, Hatred, and Anger-the Price of Inequality
Riots in France, terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, genocidal wars in Africa, all of which makes one wonder about just what kind of beings humans are. Yet, when asked recently to express my opinion on the rioting in France, I merely said, "Well, what do you expect?"
This world is rife with conflict, hatred, and anger. People don't seem to know what to do about it except respond with more conflict, hatred, and anger; yet, the cause of these and the means of eliminating them are not hard to pinpoint.
Thomas Jefferson understood it well when he writes, in the Declaration of Independence, that "mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right them. . . . But when a long train of abuses . . . evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government. . . . : And an abuse, it seems, is practiced world-wide, viz., the abuse of second-class citizenship.
Although we all know that, in practice, governments are usually imposed upon people, no philosophical theory of just government has ever attempted to justify this practice. And the theory most recognized as a justifying governments is the social compact which holds that people voluntarily give up certain of their natural rights in order to have others protected.
A method of justifying governmental practices follows from this theory. When some action is proposed, one needs only ask if reasonable people would have been willing to accept it in the social compact if made aware of it. But it is extremely doubtful that a person, when asked to join a society being formed by compact, would have been willing to join if it meant that he could thereafter be treated as second-class, having fewer rights and opportunities than other first-class citizens. Yet this is exactly what has happened in human societies throughout history. Governments, no matter how established, gravitate toward ruling to benefit one class of citizen at the expense of others. All such societies are unjust by nature, and the people have not only a right, but a duty to rise up against them. And although riots and terrorism may not equal a full blown revolution, their aim is revolutionary since they are the cries, if not the demands, for justice, and the only just response to such acts is to make the changes desired. Conflict, hatred, and anger will continue to exist as long as one group of human beings make a practice out of treating other groups of human beings as second-class people, unworthy and undeserving of equality. And although such groups of second-class citizens may for generations tolerate such abuse, sooner or later the anger and hatred will overcome and the violence of conflict will begin. Although it seems astounding, there will be some people who will wonder why. (11/11/2005)