Although the Slow Movement—a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace—began in the late 1980s, it has recently undergone a surge in popularity. Today there are numerous offshoots, including slow money, slow parenting, and slow journalism.
While I’m not quite ready to give up fast food or fast media, I’m eager to align myself with what Robert Joustra calls “slow justice”:
I’m trained to do slow justice. I do what Mike Gerson calls the banality of goodness. Slow, methodical, plodding, articulate and planned justice. Architectonic justice that (supposedly) lasts. Paul Wells said this week in Macleans of our Prime Minister, “Other people are moved by a sonnet or a perfect game. Stephen Harper mists up at the thought of long-term planning.” That’s me. I don’t sign petitions or march on capital hill(s). I grab drinks, take lunch meetings, ploddingly offer stats and case studies, voraciously track cultural and political conditions. I get more than 30 journals.
Those of us who do slow justice seem to be more conservative. Those who do fast justice, more radical, more alternative; less impressed with the systems that provide justice. Slow justice gets PhD’s, writes in journals, runs for office. Fast justice petitions, marches, mobilizes. Slow justice can resent fast justice. I’ve resented fast justice. It’s messy, annoying and – at times – hopelessly ignorant. It hasn’t done the work to get to the table.
Like Joustra, I tend to resent the fast justice approach. Too often it appears to be mainly what economists call signaling, i.e., conveying some meaningful information about oneself to another party. Typically, the information conveyed by the conscious-raising and awareness campaigns of the fast justice types is that the person is both caring and cool (or whatever the cool slang term for cool is nowadays) and is willing to help if it requires a minimal level of commitment.
But there are many people who are deeply committed to social justice who are simply mislead into thinking that fast justice measures are effective. These folks sincerely believe that signing a email petition, marching on Washington, or participating in a call-your-congressmen campaign has a significant effect. How shocked would they be to find that these efforts often have no effect at all?
When I worked for a nonprofit advocacy group I was responsible for mass-emailing petitions to politicians. When I worked for a politician I was responsible for deleting all of the mass-emails sent by nonprofit advocacy groups. The only people who took the process seriously were the ones that thought they were truly “making a difference” by attaching their name to an email petition.
I too wish we could email and call and march our way into a better society. Unfortunately, changing the world is neither that easy nor that fast. That is why I’m for slow justice — it’s the only kind of justice that can make a difference.
The first monograph of the 2002 Christian Social Thought Series defines the relationship between economic or social justice and the classical understanding of justice as a virtue.