One of the fundamental issues in our contemporary world that is at the base of a great deal of our problems is the failure of reciprocity. Whether one prefers the formulation of the golden or silver rules is sometimes a matter of personal preference, but whether one seeks to do unto others what one would have done unto you or whether you refrain from doing unto others what you would not want others to do, you are engaging with the world in an attitude of reciprocity. The expectation that one is the equal of others and therefore that to do what we want others to do to us (love, respect, and so on), or to refrain from doing unto others what we would not want to suffer is how one behaves justly. Justice is not so much always about the justice we receive, but the justice we give to others, and by that standard our age falls woefully short.
A poignant example of this found its way into the public discussion yesterday. A reporter for the WaPo, long one of our most overrated newspapers, has recently been crying about the harsh treatment she has been receiving, including the threat of online harassment. Yet this same reporter, who has been known to cry about the sort of difficulty she has faced for her less than just or competent reporting, simultaneously engaged in a targeted harassment campaign of another woman who happens to be behind a popular Twitter handle that exposes crazy leftist views by retweeting damaging Tiktok videos whose contents are generally their contexts. While it should go without saying that those of us who dislike harassment should not harass others, it is precisely this which must frequently be said, because those who are sensitive to the incivility of others are often not very sensitive about being uncivil to others, because they think they are in the right and that those who think differently than they do are not worthy of respect, which is itself a sign that onself is not worty of respect.
The justice we give to others is the justice that we deserve from others. To put it another way, if we want to receive just treatment from others we need to be just to them. To demand justice without providing it is to demand to be in a privileged position that lacks proper accountability and reciprocity. We frequently find that those who harp on the supposed privilege of others the most demand the most privilege for themselves–and fail to recognize themselves as being people of rampant and unchecked and unacknowledged privilege even as they rail against anyone else receiving any privilege whatsoever without it being constantly challenged by them. In this world, those who dish it out the most often are able to take it the least, and those who seek positions where they may dish out without having to take it demonstrate their failure to behave justly. It is often our discomfort at the harsh and unpleasant treatment that we can receive in this world that encourages us to be kind. We learn the importance of being gracious to others when we ourselves are treated without such kindness.
Why do we fail to connect the way that we treat others from the way that we are treated by them? It would seem obvious that the two of them are connected in some fashion. Yet as human beings, none of us are immune to the failure of reciprocity. The tendency that we gain in contemporary society to focus on the hurts and wrongs that we have suffered often blinds us to being attentive to the hurts and wrongs that we inflict upon others. Our sensitivity to suffering and injustice and wrong is not itself a bad thing, but it often ends up making us far worse as people because we find it hard to forgive others for their wrongs against us but do not give any thought to the wrongs that others suffer at our hand, which we do not apologize for, do not repent of, and do not even recognizing. Yet it is not the wrongs that we suffer for which we are to be judged but rather the wrongs we do that we will be judged for. And if our thoughts and attention are only directed at what other people and not at what we are doing, we will never find the justice we claim to seek, for we only find justice when we ourselves are just. Otherwise we only find some sort of justice system that inflicts judgment upon us.