“Peace is not only absence of violence, it is the presence of justice.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Peace is (or it should be) a desirable goal of every person and every country. We simply need it if we want to have economic and social stability. Peace, therefore, should be a primary political objective that responsible leaders and governments should not ignore. No matter where you go, in every corner of this beautiful planet, there are people who will tell you that they want to live in peace and prosperity, and you should believe they aren’t just saying it.
Despite all our flaws and combativeness, peace lies in the heart of humanity. However, peace has its conditions. Unless it doesn’t include social justice, fundamental peace is nothing more than wishful thinking. An equitable (international) order is unattainable without human dignity, non-discrimination, and social justice as prerequisites for sustainable economic and social development.
Where There is No Justice, There Can Be No Peace
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.” – Martin Luther King
The law of nature teaches us that everyone should do to others what they wish for themselves, and everyone is also required not to do to others what they do not want to be done to them. So, we can conclude that the natural law is the law of humanity and, as such, the basic order of peace between humans. Tomas Aquinas once wrote that justice originates from what applies to everyone, therefore, from nature’s law and our desire to live in peace.
Hence, we can define justice as recognizing the other person’s life and freedom and their right to be treated with humanity and respect. Because each and every one of us possesses dignity, people must never be objectified, enslaved, hurt, discriminated against, or marginalized in words or deeds. Human rights stem from these points of view. In fact, human rights, access, participation, and equity are four essential pillars on which social justice stands. Without them, peace and justice cannot be achieved.
However, justice cannot be obtained by one or few, it requires active participation from us all. We must become a part of social justice movements that aim for fundamental change and give voice to voiceless, oppressed, and marginalized economically, politically, ecologically, and socially. If we truly want peace, then we have to challenge the injustices that rob so many people of the peace they deserve.
Peace is not just the mere absence of conflict, violence, or war, it is an active and collaborative process. It starts and applies to our homes and communities, not just politics. Peace is never automatic, nor is it permanent or self-maintaining, but a long-lasting process of change for the better.
Social Justice and Happiness
“The cause of justice is the cause of humanity. Its advocates should overflow with universal goodwill. We should love this cause, for it conduces to the general happiness of mankind.” – William Godwin
While we can do a lot to ensure our own happiness and well-being, our social and political environment plays a vital role in our happiness, as well. Precisely, recent research proposes that supportive government policies like affordable childcare, health care coverage, environmental protection, or parental leave make a big difference in how we feel in our daily lives.
According to a 2020 ‘Happiness as fairness‘ study, people who live in countries that promote and support greater social justice tend to be happier. In the study, researchers Isaac Prilleltensky and Salvatore Di Martino used data from the EU Social Justice Index, which scores European countries on such indicators as educational and health care equity for poor and ethnic minorities, non-discrimination policies, gender representation in government, unemployment levels of native and non-native people, and intergenerational justice (low public debt, low greenhouse gas emissions per capita, good pension policies, etc.).
According to this research, not only does a country’s social justice contribute to people’s happiness, but it is, in fact, the second strongest predictor of people’s satisfaction. Only a country’s social capital matters more to people’s happiness and well-being (which is the level of trust in institutions, the strength of family and friend relationships, and the degree of civic participation).
However, we really don’t need official research to conclude that a well-ordered society that respects and supports freedom, justice, and peace for all directly correlates to people’s happiness. As Prilleltensky explains, when we have fairer welfare policies, we can spend less time worrying about meeting our basic needs like health care or education and have more time to pursue our goals and be more productive. When countries have greater social justice, they send a message to their citizens that they are valued and that they matter to their communities and their country, which is vital to our well-being.
Greater social justice also builds trust in communities and institutions, reduces prejudices, and improves relationships. On the other hand, when people live in countries with more inequality, they tend to take more risks to achieve the required level of satisfaction. For example, in one report, the USA has ranked at the bottom in social justice, which may explain why their happiness levels are dropping. Contrary to this, New Zealand, a country that moves towards greater social equity, is seeing increases in happiness. We can safely say that living in a country where the government prioritizes measures that support well-being affects the happiness of its citizens.
The purpose of the World Happiness Foundation and its World Happiness Fest is to provide a forum for dialogue, advocacy, strategic initiatives, and networking among thought leaders to give voice and address injustice and inequity and to advance the freedom, happiness, and empowerment of those who are oppressed and marginalized by society. If you are one of those thought provokers, change-makers, shapers, researchers, and practitioners, we invite you to join us and help us make the world the best it can be – together.
Start from the beginning of the series. Building Narratives to Rising. Social Justice for World Happiness