All people of good will value justice, which we generally associate with basic fairness. We're taught from a young age that if there are only so many cookies, we have to share them. That's only fair.
Over time, we also come to understand justice in the cosmic sense, meaning that people who do right are generally rewarded, while those who do wrong are punished.
Or at least, that's how we believe the world should work, even though most of us recognize it doesn't always. We know from observation and sad experience that life is rarely either fair or just. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for justice, or that we shouldn't try to treat people fairly.
Unfortunately, much of what masquerades as justice nowadays really isn't. Even those orchestrating the masquerade -- namely, the neo-Marxist left--recognize this. So they've had to coin a new term: "social justice."
But wait. Isn't "social justice" merely the application of the principle of justice -- with which all agree -- to society at large?
No, it isn't. Justice, as we have traditionally understood it theologically, politically and legally, applies to individuals. What the left means by social justice is something quite different: a misguided notion of fairness applied to groups rather than individuals.
Perhaps you think I'm splitting hairs. But the distinction is not insignificant. Most of what the left advocates under the heading of social justice does not qualify as just when directed at individuals.
Take affirmative action, for example. Let's say you're a highly qualified applicant -- far more than most -- but you're denied admission to the college of your choice because you're not a minority. Does that seem fair? Would you feel that you had been treated justly?
Obviously not. A policy like affirmative action becomes defensible only if we're talking about groups. Majority applicants collectively already have enough cookies, the thinking goes. Minority applicants deserve some cookies, too. The fact that one person's cookies are unfairly taken away, due to no fault of his own, is immaterial.
And how about income redistribution? Is it fair for the government to take money out of your wallet at gunpoint, in the form of taxes, and give it to someone else as welfare or entitlements? Of course not. Taking a person's money by force is called robbery and is by definition unjust.
But the left would argue that your income group already has enough cookies. To be fair, you must give some of yours to the group that doesn't have as many.
Far from being insignificant, the distinction between justice and social justice defines today's warring political ideologies. Conservatives believe that the highest form of justice is for each individual to be treated fairly and equally under the law. The left has no problem treating individuals unfairly as long as "historically oppressed" groups get theirs.
"Social," it might well be. But don't call it "justice."
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility," available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit familymanthebook.com.