The Statue of Lady Justice is often placed in front of a courthouse. Lady Justice has often been described wearing a blindfold and holding a scale and a sword. The blindfold represents that justice is measured without favor or identity. The balance represents fairness and equality. The sword represents punishment. Lady Justice symbolizes that all people are equal in the eyes of the law. Some people wonder what is justice and who makes the laws of justice. People develop their concept of justice according to their cultural influences and personal experiences which help them to form their concepts on what is right and wrong.
In order to perform a just law everyone should be equal. In John Rawls “A Theory of Justice” he said that “The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. ” (pg 238) The fundamental element of justice is equality and fairness. The Statue of Lady Justice cannot see who is being justified; therefore, she is justifying everyone equally. In order to justify a person’s action, fairness and equality must be placed as the primary factors. Fairness is an element of justice but justice is not only fairness. Fairness is more like a rubric of what is right and wrong based on the situation.
For example, James brings a birthday cake to school to share with his 12 classmates. The teacher will divide the cake into 13 equal size pieces for each one of the students, including James. The way of dividing the cake into 13 equal pieces is a form of justice. The teacher is like wearing a blindfold and treating every student the same. On the other hand, the teacher can also slice on bigger piece first for James, since it is his birthday and then divide the cake into 12 equal size pieces for the other 12 classmates. The action of giving James a bigger piece is a way of fairness because James is the birthday boy.
Fairness justifies the situation with a different scale by favoring someone, but justice justifies the situation with equality among everyone. Fairness is less critical than justice and is staged in daily life. I think it is right to slice a bigger piece for James then divide the cake equally into 12 pieces for the classmates when everyone agrees that is right. In order to perform the law of justice, equality has to be added. Similarly in the judicial system in the United States, killing another human being is unlawful no matter what the person does to you.
The murderer will get punished. Justice is cruel, strict, and equal. Throughout the history, many changes were made on the law of justice. In the United States, women and African Americans have benefitted from these changes. They were treated as slaves back then. They had no rights to vote or even receive the most basic equivalences in daily life. For example, women or African Americans were not allowed to sit in certain sections of the bus. They had to give up their places in line to a white person or a man.
In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King pointed out that “A just law is a code that is majority compels a minority to follow and that is willing to follow itself. ” (219) King broke the so called just law because he thought the law was unjust and got arrested. I agree with King’s idea because I think people form a rubric for what is right and wrong which the majority of people approve of, and those minorities of people who are willing to stay in the society have to follow the majority in order to maintain the harmony of the society. But sometimes these laws can be unjust.
For example, most people agree that killing or hurting another person is wrong and not allowed, therefore, a law of justice then is created that anyone who kills and hurts another person will be punished. On the other hand, when a person hurts another person in self-defense he or she will not be punished as critical as the first example. But how do we know that killing another person intentionally is wrong? People have different scales of justice. We make our judgments based on our experiences and cultural influences. Infants have no idea of what is right and wrong.
They have been taught through the ages from what their parents have told us. For example, I did not know stealing was wrong at the age of four. My mother caught me stealing a small bag of candy in the supermarket and spanked me. From then on I knew that stealing is immoral and I would never steal again. As I got older, I learned that killing another person or even hurting another person is wrong through books, movies, and news; therefore, I agree with the law that one cannot kill or hurt another one. Culture plays an important role on our development of concepts of justice, too.
Culture influences a person’s judgments on what is right and wrong. For example, in China I have to agree with the government’s rule of justice, because during the Cultural Revolution many people were killed by acting against the government. I would not act against the government even though I thought the government might be wrong just to avoid of being murdered by the government. This is an example of unjust government. Similarly in India, many women were victims to “bride burning” for being insufficient dowries. It was a tradition that if a bride’s dowries were not enough, the bride then be burned to death.
This was certainly an unjust law. Nowadays, the unjust dowries law is banned, but the cultural influences on the people can never be eliminated. Many brides are still suffering this unjust treatment. Justice is formed by our personal experiences and cultural influences on what is right and wrong. One person’s rubric of justice can be unjust to another person. It is never equivalent, but in order to maintain a harmonic society the minority gives up their concepts of justice. As long as justice exists, unjust remain at the same time.