Why Sanity and Social Justice?
Why Sanity and Social Justice?
By Albert J. Schorsch, III
This website represents my continuing effort spanning the past forty-five years to seek a path to social justice that is based 1) upon clearly-stated moral foundations and 2) upon refutable statements supported by social and physical evidence, and by sound reasoning.
Refutable, or falsifiable statements can be re-examined in light of new evidence, so that we can be proven wrong and improve the approaches we take over time. Such an approach to social justice, while grounded in religious and moral values that stand outside science when stating the rights and responsibilities of all human beings, can also be based more upon science than upon ideologies, which are surrounded by propaganda and by devotees, and are rarely falsifiable. When an ideology is not connected to a science, it is often incapable of improvement.
In a way, I have been writing a book entitled “Sanity and Social Justice” my entire life. As a young man, I worked in many settings for social justice, and have continued doing so. In each case I learned that physical limitations, lack of conclusive evidence, social and economic forces, bureaucracy, blind commitment to ideology, and social and political corruption stood in the way of a simple and direct path to social justice.
While the path to personal goodness and charity may appear relatively direct and simple, such as living the “Corporal Works of Mercy” of Matthew 25, and the “Spiritual Works of Mercy” of I Thessalonians 5, the path to social justice is complex, and requires extensive study, experience, expertise, and access to information, to resources, and to organization building trust and cooperation through effective communication.
There are no simple paths to social justice. Accepting that social justice is complex is one of the first steps in maintaining sanity while seeking social justice.
My choice of the word “sanity” goes back to a writer I admire, the late Frank J. Sheed, who considered the topic of sanity in several of his books. Sanity, for Sheed, in part implied that we live in a “real world,” not one of our imaginings.
Sanity is strengthened when we accept the evidence around us, and learn to live with this evidence while working to change our environment. A person committed to seeking social justice based solely upon ideology—without accepting the refutations of science, without systematically expanding their knowledge of their environment, without accepting information from all credible sources, and without challenging themselves to learn new skills and to take new approaches appropriate to the evidence—in the end regresses more toward a form of social insanity than he or she does toward social justice.
Every quest for social justice, like any major endeavor, must include a method for proving oneself wrong—through some sort of science, including history—or else this quest can simply become an echo-chamber of identity maintenance. Today’s world is filled with these clamoring echo chambers. Their shouting drowns out the real world. This real world is much more complex than the comic book world of ideology. This real world can be served by commitment and love based upon sound and transparent moral foundations. This commitment can be informed by sciences that can prove us wrong, teach us new lessons, show us how to master new skills, and to move away from our mistakes toward continuous improvement of our selves and our society.
My approach to sanity also draws from one of the more sane of human traditions, that of St. Benedict of Nursia, who based his religious societies in part upon the motto of “Ora et labora,” of prayer and work. Freud, as attributed by a disputed quote from Erik Erikson, may have echoed this tradition which defined a sane person as someone who could both love and work, Lieben und Arbeiten. Other humanistic traditions added the notion of play, stating that the simultaneous capacity for love, work, and play denoted a sane person.
My life’s work has focused upon the conjoined quest for sanity and for social justice. My quest for sanity begins with attention to love, to work, and to play. My quest for social justice is morally based in the social doctrine of Roman Catholicism, which has much to say about the dignity of the human person, based upon a continuing search to love others as the living presence of Jesus Christ. As a curious person who has never stopped trying to learn new things and to gain new skills, I have worked on many jobs within several professions in business, non-profits, academia, government, and the Catholic Church, volunteered in many settings, and have studied and mastered many things only to learn that there is much more to learn. With my spouse I have raised a family and become a grandparent. I thus attempt to see the world around me from several vantage points simultaneously, not only from the eyes of others, but from the perspectives of scientific and scholarly inquiry, and of practical wisdom and common sense—this latter topic I have studied formally.
I have discovered that my complete viewpoint really does not fit into anyone else’s school or clique. In this sense I see the world differently from just about everyone I have met.
So it is now time for me, as my lifetime of work and study and of love and play approaches its conclusion, to share with you some insights gained over my years of love, work, and play.
As I add in links for essays I have written, and add more new essays, I hope you find some of my writings useful.
Albert J. Schorsch, III
© Copyright 2009, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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