Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Brief Reflection on Justice & Deconstruction

To summarize what I've read about Derrida, deconstruction, and justice, just because I'm thinking about it right now (and this began for you, but is turning out to be more for me): Justice does not deconstruct. Jusitce is not law. Law should reach for justice, but being a thing written or spoken, it deconstructs. Justice is not giving someone what they deserve--those who have it coming--but rather giving to those who do not have (it coming, or do not have justice, or simply lack). And since it is a giving, justice becomes practicing or offering a/the gift. Some gifts--not true gifts--presume an economy. I give you a gift and I know you will eventually want to give me a gift in return, making the gift not so much a gift, but an exchange (even though we call them gifts in our culture). The true gift is one in which you cannot presume this economy. You give to those who do not have (it coming, or do not have justice, or simply lack). When you give a gift to them, you cannot receive in return because they do not have anything to exchange.

And that is justice--giving true gifts.

Because once someone is given a gift, they no longer lack what was given, justice changes. New gifts are given. And this is why laws deconstruct and lack justice, because they assume a singulairty, one "gift" given over and over again to the same person, like buying 25 of the same turtlenecks and giving one each year to the same person, beginning when the person is 17. The person moves to a warmer climate, styles change, and so does the person's body. Even if these things did not change, the turtleneck is not warn after a year and a re-gifting of the same gift is superfluous.

Justice, in another sense, is deconstruction, an opening up to future possibilities. It is, at least, tantamount to or in the same family as deconstruction.

I like this understanding, because it gives a different understanding to blind lady justice and her scales. If lady justice is blind, it is because she does not judge the person to whom she gives, but gives to all who need. And her scales weigh what one does not have, so she can give.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

War is Never Just War: a Peace Prize, Afghanistan, and Trevar's Musings

Obama Defends War as He Picks up Nobel Peace Prize:

When receiving his Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama was on the defense, since he only days ago decided to send 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. He said, "the use of force [was] not only necessary but morally justified."

Later he cited precedence: "A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms."

Just war. That's what people like Obama call this morally justified war. War is never just war--it is always more and it is never morally justified. Perhaps it is necessary at times, although I'm not fully convinced, but it is never morally justified. Sometimes "right" and "wrong" are not options and I imagine engaging in WWII could have been one of those times, only because "right" and "morally justified" options were continually passed over. The USA could have taken the Jewish people from harm. Diplomacy and non-violence does wonders when you don't wait until it is too late. And I imagine diplomacy and innovative non-violence could do amazing things if we tried.

Now those efforts would be Nobel worthy--innovative, non-violent interaction with al-Qaeda (not to mention they would actually reflect the reasons Obama received the award). Maybe it would produce martyrs on our side. I would rather see martyrs than "civilian casualties minimised." Perhaps al-Qaeda would understand us more if we sacrificed ourselves instead of the lives of US teenagers and innocent, Afghani civilians. Perhaps we would understand ourselves more.

War is never just war or a just war.

The War on Christmas: Happy Holidays, Readers

Watching The Colbert Report tonight, I was reminded of what some people in the media talking about a "war on Christmas," a term so prevalent it has its own wikipedia page.

Soldiers in the war against Christmas say, "Happy Holidays," don't want Christmas decorations in public places, and fight against Christmas parties, opting instead for "winter" parties, if anything. These holiday terrorists are sweeping the "reason for the season" under the carpet, marking out "Christ" with a big "X."

They win battles every year, these secular militants. Imagine what winter will be like if the other side wins the war. Christmas will not be the only one hurting; the economy will get quite the blow, too. Christmas decorations will become a thing of the past. Reacting against the change to political correctness, Christians will no longer hang lights on their house. Instead they will resort to reflecting the light of Christ. Good Christians would also stray from buying "Festivus" gifts (as Seinfeld would say), letting the world know their identity by their love, not their toys. In fact, their only gifts will be the gifts of the Spirit.

Advent might gain popularity in the church as Christians reflect on and live their faith in preparing for Christmas instead of jumping straight into Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and gaudy displays of electricity bills. God forbid we consider the feelings of others by separating church and economy in an act of love.

Christians might even stop being charitable only during Christmas. Perhaps the Salvation Army is part of the war on Christmas, as their kettles could be full without the silver bells on the city sidewalks. Instead of loving and being charitable around Christmas, Christians would embody agape year round.

This war only fights against the Christmas that hasn't reflected the reason for the season in years.

Happy Holidays, friends.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Drawing Lines & Finding Balance: Why I Won't Pursue a Philosophy Degree

Today I was reading a book, which may come as no surprise to you. However, I haven't been reading much lately, at least, not books in English. I've been translating Greek and Hebrew, reading blogs, and listening to music (which took the place of reading while I exercised, the largest, regular time I had been taking for reading). But today was cold and rainy, and I was too lazy to walk to the gym. So, I sat to read.

I am reading about ethics and deconstruction, which probably also doesn't come as much of a surprise. The author started going through a bunch of philosophers, summarizing a deconstructive aspect of their work with catchy phrases. I am familiar with all of the people on the list, although I have read very little from any of them, if anything. I felt impotent within the conversation. I cannot dialogue with people about Kant, Levinas, Hegel, and Kierkegaard, among others, when I have so little first-hand knowledge of them. And if the deconstructive conversation so often turns to them, how can I talk about deconstruction?

My solution was to seek a philosophy degree, because you cannot learn about anything without having a degree, right? I don't need the degree, but I could benefit from the classes, students, and professors for accountability and as dialogue partners. And I enjoy philosophy.

But I can't get a degree in everything. And I can't study everything, especially if I plan to be a socially active person--"social" connoting friendships and justice. Where do I draw the line between what is necessary and what is beyond my scope?

This line is a recurrent problem in my life. In order for the kingdom to come, so many things need to be done, just as there are so many things to study. Where do I draw the line between my areas of justice and areas I must leave to others? Where do I draw the line between taking care of myself and overindulging in leisure?

Maybe it is a God problem. I want to know everything, be everything, do everything. I want to go beyond all of my human limitations and be like God. Isn't that desire what all Christians want? To be like God? To be part of the Messiah, the body of Christ?

It is for me, at least. And I seek another line, this one between accepting my human limitations and pushing on, reaching to embody God's power--whether you call it Christ or Spirit.

How did Jesus manage it? According to John's Gospel, not so easily. He didn't want to settle for death on a cross. I think he wanted to establish justice in his lifetime, to rid the world of oppression, and foster love in the hearts of everyone. As the story goes, he prayed so hard against the cross that he sweat drops of blood.

He accepted his human limitations with just the cross and God gave him the resurrection. (Yes, I think Jesus went to the cross like Abraham went to sacrifice his son and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went to the fiery furnace--without knowing what would happen next, whether they would be delivered or not.) But how did Jesus go about finding his limitations? How did he decide to take a ministry to the cross instead of to Rome? (Yes, I am assuming Jesus did not have to die and God did not require Jesus' blood.)

I still don't have an answer. But I'm OK looking--or, I try to be, since I guess I have to be--no matter how aimless and anxious I might get in the process.