20 January 2013


To be honest, this post was meant to be about a different topic, but then I started reading a new book and I just had to change the theme.

J is for Justice

I wanted to write about justice because of the book I'm reading, but thought I would struggle to think of something 'real' to go with it. I haven't had any run-ins with the police (except for when my car got broken into many years ago), and I haven't ever really felt that I've suffered an injustice. But something that keeps coming up with these posts is that life isn't made up of big events. It’s made up of a series of little things. And these little things can often weigh on us as much as the big things.

The other night I was awoken at 1am by shouting and banging. Being a nosy neighbour I had to look out the window. I saw a man jump into a van and race off down the street. No big deal. Except I'm pretty sure I saw the van bump another car. Okay, so I didn't have my glasses on, but yeah he scratched it. But I keep telling myself it may or may not have happened, because I felt bad about not doing anything with the information. I figured there was no point in finding this other neighbour and saying some van bumped your car, but I can't tell you the license plate of the van or what the man looked like. So I did nothing. But I feel very guilty, firstly because I feel like some sort of accomplice. But also because I know the car-owner is unable to get any justice for the wrong that has happened to them.

Whilst this may seem like a silly thing, having done a little research on the concept of justice, it seems that fairness and justice may be 'wired' into our brains and might go someway to explaining my feelings of guilt.

I also discovered there are different types of justice including distributive justice (where someone gets what they deserve) and retributive justice (punishment for a wrong doing), which is what my neighbour will never get. Immediately these concepts struck a chord with what I was reading about in Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne and what the main character Emily was trying to achieve.

The story is absolutely captivating, and is unlike a lot of other books in the YA market. Emily is the bad girl that everyone is scared of. She’s in prison and she is by no means the archetypal protagonist. She’s obviously done some very bad things. But as I read more and more, I started questioning just how bad her actions were. Were they justified to any degree? To Emily, her actions were based on exacting justice; evening an injustice.
But that’s not why I did it. You must know that, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking. So, okay, you want to know why? This is why: you stabbed my father. That’s it. What don’t you understand? China shop rules, Juliet: you break it, you pay for it, and you broke me. You got what you deserved.
What I love about the story is that it isn’t a black/white answer of whether Emily was wrong, or whether she’s bad. Life doesn’t work like that. And whilst legal justice might be more black and white than grey, distributive and retributive justice come in varying shades of grey.

1 comment:

Book Angel Emma said...

Ohh thanks for the definitions. I love these posts. Articulate and thought provoking THANKS xxx