Seven paths to peace

The Path of Justice

He will uphold the principles of justice for mankind, recognizing that these are fundamental and must be world-wide.

(From the Outline of Policy in International Service.)

THE GREAT CONVERSATION of Socrates and his friends in The Republic begins with a discussion which, in content, is as current as today’s newspaper. Thrasymachus says, “I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger …”

Socrates is further compelled to defend his thesis that justice is “among those goods which he who would be happy desires both for their own sake and for the sake of their results.”

Glaucon counters, then, that “the life of the unjust is, after all, better far than the life of the just.”

The origin of justice as developed by Glaucon in a later argument with Socrates is relevant here, because it accurately reflects how a sizable number of twentieth century men define justice.

Glaucon says justice is a compromise, “between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at the middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honored by reason of the inability of men to do injustice …”

A second reading of Glaucon’s definition may be necessary; reflection certainly is called for. The “best of all” – to do injustice and not be punished!

Does this sound familiar? How far can we go and still be within the law? You’re not very bright if you don’t take advantage of him. We had better “get while the getting is good”. Now is the time to hit him, while he’s weak.

Whether the field is business, international relations, home relationships, or any segment of life in which men must deal with each other, the temptation is great to call justice the “lesser evil”. To anyone who reads the daily newspapers it must be clear that many persons succumb to Glaucon’s “best”.

A passionate sense of justice, however, seems indeed to be fundamental in human nature. Moved by it, men have not hesitated to “pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” in wars where each side was convinced that theirs was the cause of justice. Voltaire said: “The sentiment of justice is so natural and so universally acquired by all mankind, that it seems to be independent of all law, all party, all religion.” Here is something universal, then, upon which men should be able to agree. But it is not easy. Kipling touched the heart of it with –

The world is wondrous large, seven seas from marge to marge,
And holds a vast of various kinds of men;
The wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandu,
And the crimes of Clapham, chaste in Martaban.

Under the circumstances, can universal principles be found? What are these principles of justice that the Outline of Policy calls upon the Rotarian to uphold? To be recognized as fundamental and as demanding application world wide, these principles must cover a vast territory, an infinite variety of values, and a great many opposing points of view which are passionately held. In a world where many disputes are settled by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and justice sometimes occupies the mourner’s bench at peace conferences, these principles must have a superior logic to be capable of raising justice from the level of partisanship to the level of principle.

Can nations be so persuaded? Can the personal acquaintance that Rotary fosters between men of different nations help in the establishment of these universal principles of justice?

A visitor from the United States found his warmest welcome at a Rotary club in Scotland where one member took special pride in making visitors feel at ease. About 30 seconds after he had been introduced, this member called the visitor by his first name and said, “Lee, you are a remarkable American!”

“Thank you, sir” was the surprised response, “but I can’t see how you can arrive at such a conclusion on such short acquaintance.”

“Well,” answered the host, “you speak Scottish so that we can understand what you are trying to say, and that’s remarkable. We Scots like you for that. Then I notice you don’t drink Scotch at all, and that is remarkable, too. We like you very much on that account, for most visitors try to drink up all our Scotch.”

From this humorous beginning, an intimate discussion developed at the luncheon table on the theme that “what the nations of the world need most is to try to look at every situation from the other man’s direction.”

From the other man’s direction – this is the test. A proverb from the American Indian admonishes to this effect: “Do not condemn the other man until you have worn his moccasins.” The challenge is to “get into the shoes” of the other person. Is there a way to do this, beyond the normal processes of reading, correspondence, discussions, hearing lectures, and travel?

There are other steps which can be taken – steps which involve action and putting knowledge to work. “Role-playing” is one device – pretending to be someone else or a representative of an organization or nation which embraces a point of view different from your won. Many Rotary clubs have used this as a program technique. Done well, it means thorough preparation by the participants and, just as important if there is to be open discussion, thorough preparation by members of the audience. To be specific, the technique might involve the club president or program chairman saying, “If you were an American, Abdullah, how would you feel about the recognition of communist China ?” It may be quite a stretch of the imagination for Rotarian Abdullah to put himself into the shoes of an American – and vice versa – but the effort helps him escape from provincial limitations in his thinking. Above all it reveals that justice has at least two sides.

Carrying this technique one step further, several communities have organized into-their-shoes conferences, with local persons organized into groups of five to eight, each group to “represent” a nation in an international conference. They debated major world problems in a series of public meetings which went on over a period of several weeks.

Can a person engaged in such intensive study – writing to Rotarians in other lands to get firsthand information and defending “his country’s” policy in public debate – really put himself “into the shoes” of another person thousands of miles away? The evidence says that he can and that it builds a new concept of justice and fair play.

One American representing Bolivia in this project went into his grocery store one morning and learned that the price of coffee had gone down. “My first reaction,” he reported, “was – how terrible! South Americans can’t afford to reduce their coffee price!”

There is another technique, previously cited, which has been developed by Rotarians – but widely used by non-Rotarians, too – which also works well as a “yardstick” for justice. It is “The Four-Way Test of things we think, say, or do”:

Is it the TRUTH?

Is it FAIR to all concerned?


Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Although this test was devised originally for use in a business faced with crisis and has been developed in Rotary initially as an adjunct to vocational service, it actually has wider application. Experience, indeed, has shown time and again that when a man earnestly uses The Four-Way Test in his business or profession, the results are also evident in his conduct as father, friend, and citizen. That this simple yardstick of human relations can be useful in international service also is the conviction of one Rotarian in The Philippines:

In the promotion of Rotary’s fourth avenue of service, the exemplification of The Four-Way Test in the diplomatic relations between nations will certainly exert a tremendous influence. The world is flooded with so much propaganda that confuses our minds and distorts our views. There is so much distortion of the truth that leads to misunderstanding and mutual animosities. I believe that a challenge is hurled at Rotary to diffuse the genius of The Four-Way Test through its fourth avenue of service.

Might not these four simple questions likewise prove helpful in the quest for universal principles of justice? Evidence of the usefulness of The Four-Way Test for this purpose is the fact that it has been accepted and adopted in most countries where there are Rotary clubs. It is not a code of ethics. No one can object to it because it merely reminds him to use his own best judgment. It does not tell him what to do. It merely asks him to look at what he thinks, says, or does in light of his own standards. A principle of justice which is upheld by The Four-Way Test should, accordingly, be acceptable to all peoples.

The Rotarian who is exploring the path of justice may wish to undertake the testing for himself. A critical examination of his own principles of justice is one way of upholding them, of proving that they are more than high-sounding slogans. It may also reveal opportunities for him to help in making them world-wide.

To illustrate: what of the much discussed principle of self-determination? How does it meet The Four-Way Test? The truth is that this principle has carved for itself a formidable place in the history of our times. The most massive fact in world politics of this generation has not been the wars which claimed the headlines, but the achievement of self-rule by nearly half the human race. Fair to all concerned, surely, is the freedom of all peoples to pursue their own destinies, to make their own mistakes and their distinctive contributions to mankind. Once their independence is secured, moreover, the good will and friendship of these peoples seem to turn with special warmth toward their former officials. The beneficial results remain to be seen, but these new nations have high hopes and are spurred to great accomplishment.

The principle of self-determination would seem to meet The Four-Way Test. But to uphold a principle calls for more than passive approval. “Justice,” said Disraeli, “is truth in action.” Justice must surmount the real problems which are involved in making it world-wide. And there are many problems. One consequence of self-determination is the multiplication of nations, a “balkanization” such as occurred in Europe after the first world war – and held in part responsible for the second.

Today, there emerges a contrast between the growth of economic interdependence and the trend toward political independence. Further difficulties relate to the readiness for self-government. To many minds, a level of education enabling a new nation to function in the modern world is essential. Yet to others, this requirement is obvious.

For the individual Rotarian, opportunities leading to the path of justice arise in efforts to surmount these problems. Around the world, however, efforts are being made. They are as varied as the problems and the particular situations. In the new nations of Asia , Rotarians wrestle with the problems of achieving responsible external relations along the new frontiers. Individual Rotarians in Europe , perceiving the urgency of economic interdependence, have sought to supplant the tradition of separation of states by actively supporting the movement to unite Europe and to make “Europeans” out of the peoples of ancient states. This trend has found expression in the creation of the Coal and Steel Community, Euratom, and the Common Market.

The non-European committees of Rotary clubs in South Africa are active in helping the African to develop his competence for self-government without sacrificing his cultural integrity. In the Antipodes individuals who have manifested the principle of self-determination by emigration receive a Rotary welcome. It was a Rotary club that invented the description of them as “New Australians”, which honors their status and pledges Rotarians to help them in realizing its promise.

Other principles of justice can be explored in similar fashion to discover opportunities for service in upholding them and making the world-wide. Throughout all of them is woven one topic: the development of international law. For the antithesis of justice in all human societies is the rule that might makes right. As Pascal put it, “Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just”. The course of civilization has been the search for a rule of law to replace the creed of the caveman.

Mankind knows what he must do. The validity of Benjamin Franklin’s argument is now clearer than ever:

Justice is as strictly due between neighbor nations as between neighbor citizens. A highwayman is as much a robber when he plunders in a gang as when single; and a nation that makes an unjust war is only a great gang of robbers.

Laws can be made to apply to the Space-Atomic Age. But the world community keeps returning to other – and outdated – concepts, anything to circumvent the rule of law. According to one historian, “the only way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing them, in pretty plain terms, the consequence of injustice …”

The latter consequences are becoming clearer with each passing day. A former president of the American Bar Association has said:

The atomic and hydrogen bombs have attuned the people of the world to an overwhelming desire for peace, stronger than any such desire in all history. Here a great opportunity will be won or lost. We lawyers must write the necessary legal machinery to maintain essential national sovereignty, yet provide for the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations under the rule of law …

Even before the atomic and hydrogen bombs had pointed up the urgency of the task, the late U.S. Senator Taft saw with almost prophetic insight what must lie ahead:

I believe that in the long run the only way to establish peace is to write a law, agreed to by each of the nations, to govern the relations of such nations with each other and to obtain the covenant of all such nations that they will abide by that law and by decisions made thereunder.

The world community wavers uncertainly, however, before the entrance to the path of justice, somewhat like Sir Edward Coke when he confronted King James and blurted out, “The king is under God and the law” – and then fell to his knees in terror of losing his head.

“If men were angels”, explained The Federalist, “no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself …”

Oblige it to control itself … If there is a problem which should engage the attention of every man, woman, and child in this generation, it is the need for development and application of international law. At stake is not merely the prevention of wars in an age when nations have acquired the means of total destruction, but also human advancement in all fields which the establishment of a sound system of international law would allow. Yet, for most people, international law is a remote subject, with no reference to their own survival and to the prospects for abundant life for themselves and their children.

Once more, the Outline of Policy challenges the individual Rotarian to practical endeavor. To uphold the principles of justice, to make them world-wide, he must inform himself and others not only about the present status of international law and the prospects for its development, but also about the sacrifices which the establishment of a rule of law might require. In bringing nations from the law of force to accept the force of law, a price must be paid, and little can be gained if it is ignored. The path of justice leads inevitably to the path of sacrifice.

Does not this situation suggest a specific task which is within the competence of any Rotary club? An intensive study under the guidance of members in the legal classification? Fireside meetings, club programs, public forums, into-their-shoes conferences – are these practical? How can public interest be created? Or, is it worth the struggle?

Historian Toynbee, after examining the history, development, and fall of various civilizations which have flowered, concludes:

As a rule the demand for codification (of law) reaches its climax in the penultimate age before a social catastrophe, long after the peak of achievement in jurisprudence has been passed, and when the legislators of the day are irretrievable on the run in a losing battle with ungovernable forces of destruction …

The path of justice leads around the world – into the backward villages, through the halls of government, and up to the “summit”. It is, as Daniel Webster called it, “the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.”

Justinian, the great lawgiver, called justice “the constant desire and effort to render to every man his due.”

It is unnecessary to point out that nations are like people, but the thought is an appropriate introduction to this story told by a journalist who had returned from a newly-developing land. With minor substitution of terms, this story might have happened anywhere:

A poor shoemaker made a pair of shoes a day, which he sold for 63 cents. If he sold them in his own village, some person of a higher class might take them from him without paying at all. If he protested, he would be beaten. So he preferred to walk a long distance to another market. It was a long walk in the hot sun, but it was worth it. Then, clinched his point that it was not a matter of money – in fact, the money was less important than something else: justice. “I want justice,” he declared. “I want to be treated as an equal. I want my dignity.”