What is justice?
“The quality of mercy is not strained — it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…” may be poetic but it is not definitive. It does, however, demonstrate that even in Shakespeare's time men were adrift on the subject of justice, injustice, severity and mercy.
People speak of an action as unjust, or an action as just. What do they mean? 'ii et unless we can understand exactly what is meant by these terms, we certainly cannot undertake to evaluate the actions of individuals, communities and nations. For the lack of an ability to so evaluate, misunderstandings come about, which have in the past led to combative personal relationships and on the international scene to war. An individual or a nation fails or refuses to understand the measures taken by another or fails to fall within the agreement of the pattern to which others are accustomed and chaos results.
In Scientology the following definitions now exist:
JUSTICE — The impartial administration of the laws of the land in accordance with the extant level of the severity-mercy ratio of the people.
LAWS — The codified agreements of the people crystallizing their customs and representing their believed-in necessities of conduct.
MERCY — A lessening away from the public's acceptance of discipline necessary to guarantee their mutual security.
SEVERITY — An increase in that discipline believed necessary by the people to guarantee their security.
INJUSTICE — Failure to administer existing law.
EQUITY — Any civil procedure holding citizens responsible to citizens which delivers decision to persons in accordance with the general expectancy in such cases.
RIGHTS — The franchises of citizenship according to existing codes.
When laws are not derived from custom or when a new law contravenes an uncancelled old law, exact law becomes confused and injustice is then inevitable.
Basic justice can occur only when codified law or a majority-held custom exists.
Observing these definitions, jurisprudence only then becomes possible. Law courts, legislatures and legislation become confused, as nothing is possible in the absence of an understanding of such principles.
Laws which do not derive from agreement amongst the society which we call custom, are unenforceable unless there is then a widespread agreement that this is customary in the society. No matter how many police are hired, no matter the purity of prose with which the legislation is written, no matter the signatures occurring on the enforcing document, the public will not obey that law. Similarly, when a government acts to ignore certain basic customs amongst the people and refuses to enforce them, that government then finds itself in a state of civil turmoil with its people on that subject. We can look at any public-government battle and discover that it stems exactly from a violation of these principles.
An understanding on the part of a nation of the difficulties of another is necessary to a continued peace. When one nation begins to misunderstand the motives and justices conceived necessary by another nation, stress sets up which eventually leads to war, all too often. For example, there is an existing upset in the world whereby the people of the United States and Great Britain are highly critical of the Government of the Union of South Africa for their “treatment of native peoples.” It is considered in England and the United States that the Government of South Africa is altogether too harsh with its native peoples. It is sadly humorous to notice that the native in South Africa, however, holds an exactly reverse opinion and the fault he finds with the South African Government is that it is far too lenient in its administration of laws throughout the native populace. As an example, an African guilty of cattle theft according to tribal law would probably be beaten over a considerable period in time and then buried in an anthill. The South African Government gives such a crime a punishment of a short period in jail, which is not at all adequate to guarantee the security of the remaining natives who own cattle. The most flagrant example is the white nurse, Quilan, who was torn to pieces and eaten by three men and a woman during recent riots in South Africa. The African tribal punishment would have decreed that these people themselves be killed and eaten. The South African Government incurred a great deal of censure from its native population by giving these people only six months in jail. In other words, what is severe to an African and what is severe to an Englishman or an American are entirely different matters. What is merciful to an African, what is merciful to an Anglo- American is quite different. Thus what is justice to an African is quite different than what is justice to an Anglo-American.
Whenever there is an excessive commotion amongst a people against its government, the government is then invited to act as an opponent to the people. If a government is acting towards its people as though it were an opponent of the people and not a member of the team, it becomes obvious that many of these points which violate the customs of the people must exist in the law codes of the country. Wherever such a point exists turbulence results.
And that is justice.