Thursday, January 26, 2017

Justice comes in many flavors

Since the election many of us have been in a funk. What's happened to the notion expressed by MLK that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice"? We all have our own concepts regarding what constitutes "justice", and to many of us the general mood since November is that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Not so fast. Nicholas Kristof poses this little test ...

On any given day, the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty:
  1. Rises by 5,000, because of climate change, food shortages and endemic corruption.
  2. Stays about the same.
  3. Drops by 250,000.
Polls show that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same. But in fact, the correct answer is #3. Every day, an average of about a quarter-million people worldwide graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures.

Or if you need more of a blast of good news, consider this: Just since 1990, more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhea treatment and more. If just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that’s only half as likely today as in 1990.

When I began writing about global poverty in the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10 percent are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3 or 4 percent will be. (Extreme poverty is defined as less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for inflation.)

For nearly all of human history, extreme poverty has been the default condition of our species, and now, on our watch, we are pretty much wiping it out. That’s a stunning transformation that I believe is the most important thing happening in the world today — whatever the news from Washington.

So let's keep our rants in perspective. Yes, some of our own pet justice issues have suffered a setback. Yes, this matters. But when Jesus talked about justice he generally talked in terms of feeding the hungry and helping the poor. So let's try to be open minded and receptive to those whose justice issues may be a bit more basic than our own justice goals. There's plenty of justice work to be done in the world, and those doing good justice work aren't all of the same political stripe.

Nicholas Kristof's article in New York Times, Jan. 21