The Call To Social Justice: Are You Listening?

Some people think about the old west when social justice is mentioned, remembering how justice was carried out swiftly and correctly in the eyes of the townsfolk when the sheriff caught a stagecoach robber. Other people may quote biblical scripture to say social justice is simply an eye for an eye. Still others turn to a Wikipedia type definition of social justice as a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.

Frustrated in 2011 with unexplained banks fees, home foreclosures and reckless government spending, along with cooperate America being seen as having a monopolistic hold on society, social justice took on a new form that we recognize as the “Occupy Movement.”  The Occupy Movement represents society’s claimed 1% voice for a concerned 99% American population.

It has become abundantly clear that America is not the only nation on this planet unhappy with decisions made by government and big business. The website known as (a supporter of the Occupy Movement) says citizens from 951 cities in 82 countries took to the streets on Saturday April 14, 2012 under the slogan, “United for Global Change.”

American history has shown time after time that when the people stand united in voice against government decisions such as going to war and reckless government action or inaction, we can be effective and will finally be heard, inciting society’s desired changes.

Flash back to 1969 to a 600 acre farm in New York, over a half million people became not only a celebration of peace and love for all, but a protest against government decision. The event was rumored to have helped end the Vietnam War.  Woodstock images reveal people protesting for peace with slogans on signs like “Make love not war,” and “Flower Power.” The internet has more information about Woodstock than you could shake an angry stick at, and the information seems oddly similar to OM.

 For example, Howard Zinn’s Woodstock slogan, powerful and controversial 40 years ago, is a reminder today of the Occupy Movement’s value and importance to media and the average Joe American across the nation.

“Workers of the mainstream media! Stand on watch to guard the victories of Woodstock! Write news stories worthy of revolutionary psychedelic experience!”

As Zinn himself likely realized, social justice when organized and containing a massive number of bodies to perform sit-ins or form picket lines can effectively bring about change within a nation.

If time travel were possible we could take a trip even further back into history to August 1963, once there we would find Americans protesting in Washington, D.C. and Martin Luther King Jr. presenting his infamous “I have a dream” speech to a watchful nation. That effective speech contained too many voices for America to ignore.

The media has played a role in virtually every grass roots movement in history. Today, the population has access to the media with YouTube videos containing footage of police action against grass root movement protesters going viral all over the world. Police brutality has become a revisited issue from the past, but with a new twist: any observer can now document that brutality in an effort to create social change.

Although we know that broadcast messages can illicit social change, the broadcast is never enough. We have to also act. As the decades pass, our morals and our values also change, but are we willing now to watch police brutality on television while sitting there eating our Cheetos acting as if it never even happened?  Or is fear of being included in the grass roots movement and possibly getting run down by a police motorcycle ourselves stopping us? and then receiving a beating for trying to get out from underneath a police vehicle.

Let’s not let corporate America and government decision occupy our lives to the extent that we have no enjoyable leisure at home or away from it, no decision about our own lives or happiness with where and how we live. We all must find a common path to peace in order to find satisfaction. I pray the current face of social justice never gets tired or old.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.