An Idea of Justice
Taryn Ward
Taryn Ward • Jul 15

An Idea of Justice

by Taryn Ward

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Like millions of other grade school children in the United States, most of my school days began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Hand over my heart, facing the flag, I remember making the connection between the word “justice” and the intuitive understanding I had developed on my own.

Over the years my conception of justice changed, hollowed out, restructured, evolved, and circled back to where I started.  I’ve thought and argued about the origin of the concept and the origin of the word, its application, limits, importance, and meaning.  From ordinance violations to federal regulations to organisational considerations to federalism concerns to university codes of conduct to international arbitration institutions to departmental priority documents to human rights questions to privacy concerns, questions about how to define and how to ensure justice have played an important role in my professional and personal development.  I imagine that’s true for most people, whether they use the word justice or not.

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Rarely, though, does a conversation about social media turn to justice.

When we think about social media and values, generally we're talking about the values that people express on the network.  Sometimes we mean the values of the company behind the network, and whether their values line up with our own -- simplicity v. privacy, connection v. reliability.  Rarely, though, does the conversation turn to justice.

Although we normally talk about justice in terms of governments or large-scale social movements, the idea of justice has much deeper, and more individualistic roots.  Without going into too much Ancient Greek (no matter how much I’d like to), the concept of justice comes from the word "dikē" (dee-kay), which was both the term for customs and good conduct generally and the name of the goddess who represented those concepts in particular.  Custom is important here because it means that justice is rooted in community: what we all do and, more importantly, how we do it, shapes what it means to have justice.  The Greeks didn't think that only judges or lawgivers could access justice, as if it were some kind of hidden knowledge.  Instead, they saw that justice has to be something familiar to all of us, something that predates us and continues after us.  That's why it is represented by a goddess: if it was just something that came from humans, it would be impermanent, fleeting.  But godly things (read: good things) are supposed to be eternal.

We want Bright to be a place where justice, at least as far as we can create it, is a value that we live and share with each other.

There’s no way for me to say more about this without saying a lot more about this and modern readers don't need to make an offering to Dikē to understand what I mean.  There's power in the idea of justice, especially for people who are denied their rights to it.  Yet, while it's easy to diagnose injustice in society or in government, it's less likely to be called out in our daily lives.  But if real justice is, truly, about what we all do and how we do it, then the fight for justice has to include making the right choices in those interactions, too.

For us, we think that justice means building a community that makes those choices, every day.  The choice to forge connection, to create open spaces for dialogue, to hear and listen to others, to hold each other accountable.  We want Bright to be a place where justice, at least as far as we can create it, is a value that we live and share with each other.

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