In the Name of Dike…

In the Name of Dike, Keeper of Justice…

Dike Astraea

An 1886 representation of Dike Astraea from the Vermont State House, thanks to Wikipedia.

First off, there seem to be a a few ways to pronounce this name. I prefer “DEE-kay”, solely because I have trouble not snickering pronouncing it like “dicky” or “dykey”, but either way it is two syllables. She’s generally depicted as holding scales, but unlike many modern depictions of Lady Justice, she’s not portrayed blindfolded.

So, we’ve got Rules and Justice. How are disputes mediated? How are rules enforced? When are exceptions made?

This post has sat unwritten, on my todo list, for more than a week. I’m not quite sure where to go with it, and it winds up being mostly questions with no answers. But perhaps that is appropriate? In any case, I don’t want to get stuck here on #2 out of 60.

So, who has the authority to interpret and enforce rules? How much authority do they have? What actions are taken to restore Justice to a situation? What will be fair? What will be for the good of the community? What if those are very different things?

I think the hardest bit is how to restore Justice without breaking Peace. Or at least breaking only mindfully, for good reason. Whenever you bring up an issue of injustice, someone’s peace will be disturbed. It is easy to say, “Well, it must be done. Justice is more important.” but especially on the scale of a small community, that mindset can lead to endless bickering over what is fair, and who owes who what, and whose side are you on. When do we put our grievances aside, accept things as they are, and just try to live together peacefully? When do we decide the injustice is too much, and something must be done to set things right?

But what should be done? What actions will restore justice? I’ve often heard it said that when most people say they want justice, what they actually want is revenge. They’ve decided that the only way to restore balance is for the other person to suffer in proportion to the suffering they caused. Punitive justice, rather than restorative justice. But then, things that work wonderfully in small, close-knit communities can become appallingly unworkable on a larger scale. And the difference is even greater when you consider an entirely self-selected, voluntary community, as opposed to one you are born in and have few alternatives to.

In a small spiritual community, I would thing the balance of Peace and Justice would tend heavily towards Peace. I’m likely terribly biased in this, because my own spiritual path has lead me, again and again, away from advocating for my own interests, away from logical analysis of what is fair and who is obligated to do what. Again and again, it has lead me to forgiveness, to generosity, to accepting things (and people) as they are.

I suspect that has nothing to do with the inherent value of Peace rather than Justice, and everything to do with how spiritual growth pulls us out of our old patterns, whatever they are, to give us a more expansive view. I’ve never been reluctant to stand my ground. I can easily see how for someone whose default was to yield to whatever injustices were imposed upon them, to accept unwarranted blame in the interest of reconciliation, they could find enormous potential for growth in learning to advocate for themselves, to seek justice for themselves and others, to stand firm when told to “not rock the boat”. Either path can be done poorly, and either can lead to spiritual transformation.

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