Justice for whom?

12:04 AM May 08, 2017

Perhaps it is a grave sin to say that we make history. Michel Foucault says that history has known many “invasions, struggles, disguises, ploys.” History is not a collection of monotonous achievements. Eternal recurrence is an illusion. The archaeology of knowledge enunciates events as ruptures and epiphanies. Monuments, which are a testament to human greatness, can always be plundered by time and by those men who seek to control everything about our lives.

Indeed, an Absolute Being can’t be responsible for all the evil in the world. But we can’t also rely on what hides beneath a mask. For many among us, a Messiah is born out of chance. Yet, no glory is permanent and no human can live forever because “defeat is unpalatable and victories are unsteady.” The meaning of being human is rooted in a world that is in constant conflict. Thus, the man on the street who struggles to find a living cannot be insulated from the ills of petty politics.


For Nietzsche, the idea of freedom is “an invention of the ruling class.” Oligarchs have controlled the lives of millions among us, including the destiny of this nation. The state and its massive bureaucracy, our schools, the mass media, including some influential religious leaders, have conspired with the elite to exploit the powerless. The poor majority continue to toil in this forsaken land, and then the elite divides the spoils.

Truth is an error, Nietzsche argues in “The Gay Science.” Many of our bright young men and women perpetuate the historical domination of those in the margins. Our youth, with their sense of idealism, are hired and will serve the establishment. But sooner or later, they, too, will discover that the interest of the masses is never really part of a neoliberal capitalist economic agenda.


But what is the reason behind our willful subjugation to the elite? Foucault says that power cannot be imposed on human subjects; rather, people readily yield themselves to it. The state, as an apparatus of power, has become the antithesis to human freedom by way of ideology and technical manipulation. In fact, more than the sincere desire for change or social transformation, what hides beneath everything political is a cult of personality.

Foucault also notes that power “does not mean having the authority to govern others.” For the French thinker, people willingly surrender themselves to it by means of training and practice. The mode of power relations, for instance, between doctors and patients requires that the latter must, almost blindly, submit themselves to the former. Thus, systems and institutions in which we all belong herd people into specimens of a disciplinary society.

Women, for instance, have long suffered from the fact that a patriarchal culture dictates how things and their lives must
become. Iris Marion Young argues that the society “in which the female person dwells defines woman as other, as the inessential correlate to man, as mere object and immanence.” Ruthless tyrants in the not so distant past have made thousands of powerless men and women the principal victims in the “massification” of unknown graves.
Power determines what is to become of human existence. In this hybrid world of man and machine, there is no such thing as “the art of living.” People have forgotten how to live. There are those among us who have exchanged freedom for the impermanence of being viral. Our ultimate emancipation can only come from what is true, beautiful, and just.

We should ask, according to Zosimo Lee, “Is justice possible in this world?” It is a bold question, and perhaps the only question that matters in political philosophy. Yet, it is not the brilliance of one’s reply on which the decency of humankind ultimately depends. Rather, it is in the commitment and sense of solidarity of a people who recognize whom justice must truly serve.

Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University and author of “Ethics and Human Dignity.”

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