After all, the essence of justice lies in being able to discriminate

I was recently accused of discrimination.

It is a pity – linguistically – that the word “discrimination” is used as – and generally taken to be – “unjust discrimination”.

A discerning person, a person of judgement is one with the ability to discriminate. Discernment, discrimination and judgement all weigh something against some value scale. The value scale comes first. To judge or discriminate, whether for music or literature or taste or behaviour, first requires some standard value scale against which to compare.

Without being able to compare and discern differences and then make judgements which necessarily require discrimination, we could not achieve justice. Some discrimination may be considered to be unjust. Other discrimination may correct an injustice. The same action may be unjust to the one while being just to another. The same action resulting from discrimination may be considered just by some and unjust by others.

Virtually all human behaviour is based on discrimination. We choose one food over another, make friends with some and not with others, listen to jazz but not to punk-rock or kill some people but not others. We discriminate whenever we give “more” care to a sick person or an old person or a child. And that is just. We discriminate when we don’t give one of Usain Bolt’s competitors a head start. We discriminate with different tax rates for different people. Nobel prizes are awarded subsequent to discrimination. We discriminate when we prefer anything or anyone. But we don’t take that to be unjust. Without discrimination there would be no appreciation (or contempt).

Those without values cannot judge or discern or discriminate. A person with sensibilities is one with values. Nearly all behaviour discriminates. The issue is not the discrimination, but where the subsequent actions lie on the scale of being just. And that scale of justness (rather than justice) too is a value scale.

The ability to discriminate is what tells us where we are on our (or somebody elses) scale of justness. It is what makes us sapient. In a world without discrimination there would be no values, no good or bad, or just or unjust.

And so when I was accused of discrimination, I took it as a compliment.

Discriminating (adj): discerning, selective, judicious, refined, cultivated, cultured, sophisticated, sensible, enlightened, sensitive, subtle, nuanced, critical, perceptive, insightful, perspicacious, penetrating, astute, shrewd, ingenious, clever, intelligent, sharp, wise, erudite, aware, knowing, sagacious, sapient.

 

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