Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Social Justice from the Ground Up

I took part in a social justice course that was offered as a small group through my church a number of months ago.  The thing that I found to be most interesting about this course, was the emphasis that it's creators placed on building relationships between people in communities as a way of enacting social justice.  A key moment in a series of videos that we watched was when the speaker said that often when you look at a difficult situation or poverty in an individual's life, that it's not just a problem of material resources, but that (in my own words) there is often a broken relationship beneath the surface. 

I live in Canada, which by all accounts is further to the socialist end of the spectrum than the United States.  I'm not an economist and I'm still trying to figure out how you balance a capitalist market with caring for the needs of vulnerable people, so I don't want to be seen as making broad statements here, but I will say that this idea of putting all responsibility on government to solve all our problems is ultimately very costly and unsustainable in the long term.  The thing that bothers me, is that I seldom if ever hear people talk about the connection between the breakdown of relationships and the end result that is so often a state price tag.  So often the attitude seems to be, throw money at it via a bureaucrat rather than asking, what could I, what could we do as a society to help my elderly neighbor get her groceries, to volunteer in a soup kitchen, to communicate with my spouse or seek counselling rather than call the divorce lawyer and so forth. 

And so I look around me and I see a tremendous lonliness, I see that lonliness and that disconnect in myself and in others.  I remember someone I respect once saying that we all seem to be made as pieces of a puzzle, needing the other parts for completion. Maybe that sounds corny I don't know, but what if rather than looking at societal issues and lonliness as a problem, that we begin to see an opportunity for relationship in those problems? That maybe that lonliness that may of us feel, is a reminder of a hunger that cannot be filled by a bureaucrat.

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