Monday, June 30, 2014

Building a City of Justice

We're somewhere between chaos and perfection.

In the future, poverty will be a memory. War and soldiers will be as lost to the distant past as knights and kings in castles are to our time. Polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink will seem as barbaric and pointless as sacrificing children to appease an angry god. 

It's easier to see social progress over the long-term. A millennia ago, almost no one could read. Most successful societies were slave-based (feudal at best). Even the wealthiest lived in worse filth than a middle-class American does today - no running water, no toilets, no electricity and nothing to keep the bacteria, bugs and animals out. The social improvement in the last 1000 years is amazing. 

At every step along the way, some people worked to improve society. Some actively opposed those improvements. And most weren't involved in the effort. They didn't care. Some people decided that god didn't give certain families the right to rule over everyone and instead insisted that the rulers were accountable to the people. Some people insisted that a government of the people. by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth. Some people decided that the government will build and operate thousands of common schools that anyone can send their children to for free. Some people decided that the government would lay pipes underground to every house, delivering fresh water and removing sewage for a reasonable fee. None of this was inevitable. There is no script laying out this progress. Instead, regular people just decided they would take ownership over a particular improvement and pushed it forward into being. 

Think of it like a city. A long time ago, there wasn't anything there -- just nature. Someone started with a hut, or a trading post or a settlement. Someone else joined them with a second structure. When there were enough people building their own structures, they built a street. And then another. More people built their own houses or stores. 

And today, think of a city. There are those people who are actively improving it. Cranes are up and new high-rises are sprouting from the ground. But only a relatively few people are actually working to improve the city. Most people just live in it. And some people spend their energy trying to stop people from building something better. There are only a few real estate developers who bring people and resources together to create something new and shape the city.  

That's like social progress. Most people just live in the society they inherited. They accept the economic and social constraints and opportunities presented to them and don't try to improve them. Only some people are actively building a better society. They are the ones bringing hammer to nail, one at a time, creating something better, that the next generation will simply accept as somewhat inevitable. The builders are the ones who imagine something that doesn't exist and despite criticism and eye-rolling and opposition from those who like things the way they are, forge ahead, drawing up plans, laying foundations and on exciting days, raising steel beams high in the sky, collecting attention to their years of work on a few flashy days. 

The City of Justice is not complete. There are slums of poverty still teeming with people who deserve far better. Much of the City is build on foundations laid decades ago, unsteady now, and in need of a more modern renovation. The work seems overwhelming to those who can see what our City of Justice should be. How many lift a hammer or a broom or a paintbrush to improve their city? Do you?

Every vote swings a hammer. Every call to an elected official swings that hammer. Every conversation about politics swings that hammer. 

We bring hammer to nail, again and again, a thousand million times over, to raise a new City of Justice. And to join, all you need to do is start. 

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