Season 1: What is Justice?

On the Concept of Justice

Dan Boscaljon

As a writer, I’ve often enjoyed exploring paradoxical tensions as they unfold over the course of a narrative. This becomes especially true as characters take on lives of their own and find themselves in situations that I did not anticipate when beginning the story. Confrontations lodge in the details, emerging and resolving in unexpected ways as a story takes its course.

When beginning a podcast centered on the question of justice, I was aware of some of the basic tensions inherent within the concept that the various sites we chose would develop. I was aware that unlike a lecture or a novel, interacting with two others would definitely take the question along paths whose existence remained obscured to me. I had not, however, realized the extent to which the conversations would continue to surprise me.

I have an ongoing interest in the question of personal integrity that has become more nuanced as I have aged. My interest in matters of social justice has become more pronounced over the past decade, nourished by an increased access to events that seem exceptionally unjust and to thoughtful commentators whose reflections on the lack of justice in our fragile, fallible world have helped to answer the question as to how these things occur—and continue to occur.

My general tactic when confronted with the flagrant injustices that corrupt our social order—treatment of African Americans, treatment of Native Americans, economic inequality—has been to despair. Quietly. This has become an even more pronounced method as I have learned more about the structure of our society and the way that injustices are encouraged to become even more pronounced. An ability to spot the “invisible” flow of power in our culture, especially when those in power use it against the most vulnerable and marginal communities, does little to suggest suitable correctives. Our podcasts have reinforced my dislike of politics and the type of power that inheres within social systems. Restoring justice at a social level will require great changes within our social structure—improving the access to and quality of education and economic viability are only the beginnings. Even the best intentioned politicians seem ill-equipped to use the power invested by voters to achieve something resembling a common good. Too few politicians seem inclined toward such terms as “good” or “common.”

But bracketing larger questions of justice as they emerge at a social level, and stepping back from later questions of justice involving how individuals might act justly as parts of a larger whole, I have become more hopeful when discussing the possibility of acting justly as an individual. Although difficult on its own terms, especially given some of the larger issues surrounding characters we have discussed—Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne, Eddie Mannix—, the quest to become a person committed to justice has become more pronounced. Even if I cannot erase many of the inequalities that are sewn into the structure of the society, I feel more inspired to attain the sort of internal integrity that would allow me to inhabit—however sporadically and inconsistently—a just existence. Increasingly, as this virtue becomes more ingrained as habit, I hope to become more aware of those larger social issues that comprise the horizon of my actions. Doing so, and doing so in an intentional and explicit fashion, can help draw attention to the ways of creating just situations and safe spaces in my local world more conducive to the flourishing of myself and others.

…it remains to be seen, however, how the next four episodes might alter this hope.