Wrong Way

Sharing – Is It Dangerous to Believe in a Just World?

In short, yes, it’s dangerous. It’s also obviously incorrect:

“Put simply, believing in a just world is likely to make people feel in charge of their own destiny, and motivate them toward positive behaviours.

It is intuitively obvious why believing in a just world provides comfort and predictability. Sadly, an objective look at the world today tells an undeniable truth: Justice doesn’t always prevail. Innocent children are orphaned in war, millions of people suffer unfair victimisation in modern slavery, and many kind and caring people experience severe hardship on a regular basis. This leaves us with the regrettable conclusion that the belief in a just world constitutes a systematic error or bias in thinking.”

The danger comes in when we try to rationalize this belief because it demands we find a reason why whenever someone suffers some sort of calamity. Otherwise, we’d have to admit the world isn’t fair. We don’t want to do that, so we make up a reason why they deserve it.

This, of course, is classic victim blaming. I’ve written about this before.

If we can find something, anything, that makes a victim of a horrible crime somehow different from us, then we can maybe convince ourselves that the world is still a safe place, as long as you don’t do what they did. On the flip side, if only we could improve society by either getting rid of all abusers, or teaching criminals to not commit crime, then we can all go back to feeling safe. But the world doesn’t work that way.

As the author below mentions, it is easy to try and find an explanation that lets us maintain this illusion that the world is fair, with a few exceptions that we can fix by acting better or making a few societal changes. It’s uncomfortable to consider that these bad things could happen to any of us or someone we love. But considering that possibility is the way to empathy instead of blame.


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