As the years pass justice takes on a different shape or form by those who are affected by justice – or the lack of it. For example I could give you a very generic definition of justice, which would alter if they have never been a crime victim, then, if they do become a victim, justice becomes more personal. The rules, terms, and conditions change when circumstances change. Justice has a direct correlation with our basic needs, and, by definition, justice is a concept of moral rightness based on society, ethics, rationality, equity and religion too. It is also the act of being fair and just – as the Kiwi right to a fair go.
The concept of social justice and equality, so often a theme in Burns poetry, is a regular topic for discussion from his day to ours. I’ve become sentimental as I age, I cry when I hear ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes, I cry on New Year’s Eve at the sound of the midnight bells when everybody (tries) to sing ‘Auld Lang’s Syne’ and I cry when I hear the last verse of ‘A man's a man for a' that’ – quote:
‘Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that;
That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth,
May bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that and a' that,
It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man the warld o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that.’
This poem explores the need for a universal coming together of all people to create a better world, it’s an attack on systems of government and our tendency to make judgements of people based on wealth and it’s the importance of self-esteem and independence of mind however poor people may be. Its all about equality, equity, non-discrimination, etc then there is the old Burns favourite “freedom and whisky” – originally written about discriminatory taxation, but we all share the sentiment.
It’s thought provoking– but it helps others to understand why people invariably do not differ in their understanding of justice. After all, part of understanding justice (to a degree) is just the empathy or understanding of what it means to a victim who no longer has a voice.
Whatever all the facts and figures are about social injustice and inequalities, the electorate wants to be able to trust that these issues really matter to elected politicians. The voter shares the yearning for equity, honesty and loathing of hypocrisy which are underlying themes in Burns poetry. Politicians of all persuasions and hues might consider adopting the last verse of this poem as their pre-election theme.
‘O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
And ev'n devotion!’
Mirror, mirror on the wall.