“Justice happens not when you know more, but when you feel more.”
– Peter Storey
Justice is all about feeling.
One has to feel for a cause, for the victims, for people other than themselves, before one chooses to act. One has to care. For those who already care about the cause and about the victims, it is their job to make other people care. It is their job to make those who are not touched by violence, discrimination, or injustice to feel something for those who are.
It quickly becomes the task of those who already do so much to do a little bit more.
So they do.
They write more emails, they have more meetings, and they punch more hours on their clocks, because it is only when people care about social justice issues, only when they feel some semblance of sadness or anger, that conditions begin to change.
So, the question becomes: How do you make people care?
As I sat in the office of Lawyers for Human Rights working on infographics for the Hate Crimes Working Group, I realized just how much of a feat it is to attempt to make others bother with your cause. I realized just how much time it takes to create simple and easy-to-read handouts. I realized that we were doing all of this work just in the hopes that someone might be intrigued by our font choice or our color scheme and choose to care.
As I sat trying to make an infographic that was the perfect balance of eye-catching and uncluttered, while our boss worked on mountains of her other cases, I realized just how little time most people have to dedicate to this work.
You have to wonder if there are even enough people working on issues related to prejudice and discrimination to fix the systems that are broken all over the world. You have wonder if there are enough people who care currently to expend the time and effort needed to make others care. You have to wonder if there are enough hours in the day for people to read an infographic, watch a video, or write a letter about why they think hate crime legislation is necessary for South Africa.
I wonder if it is even a problem of time at all, or if it is a problem of not making time for the issues that one is untouched by.
It makes sense, obviously, that one isn’t initially concerned with injustice that doesn’t affect them. To me, it is reasonable that people are only bothered, at least at first, by their own pain and the reasons for that pain.
Yet, it quickly becomes unreasonable.
People can only feign ignorance for so long. People can only claim to be ignorant to others’ suffering for a very short time before their ignorance becomes willful. At some point it is no longer a question of awareness and understanding, but of human decency.
People are quick to argue about time, that others don’t have enough of it to devote to causes that don’t affect them, but these same people are also quick to turn a blind eye to the statistics, to the reports on the news, and to the faces on the street masked in pain. These same people are quick to claim their own business and just as quick to justify their lack of action in their moments of downtime.
Downtime that we all have at some hour or another. The question becomes about what we choose to do with ourselves during that downtime. The question hones in on whether or not we will choose to care.
How do you make people care about issues that don’t affect them?
Maybe the problem is that we begin to care too late. Maybe the problem is that by the time we get enough people to say that something is wrong, lives have been lost and people bear scars that will last them a lifetime.
Maybe the problem is that we don’t care initially, that there is a basic flaw in our own humanity. Maybe the punched hours and the endless meetings are all to make up for this flaw.
The flaw that we don’t care, but we should.
The Holocaust Centre:
“Not to act is to act. Not to speak is to speak.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer