is not the essential element of justice
. It is legitimacy
that is the central element of justice. What we call "justice" is the monopolization of vengeance
by a governing body in order to prevent a "cycle of revenge
" from occurring.
Retaliation in response to an inflicted harm is logical. Retaliation is an attempt by the injured party (or by the polity) of the injured party to regain parity in the "hurting stalemate" between opposing parties. But the harm inflicted in retaliation is rarely perceived as being "equal" to the original harm. And thus, the additional harm requires a reciprocal retaliation, a dynamic that can continue until the most recently injured side declines to continue the conflict because the threat of future retaliation is worse then the existing inequality of harm.
Punishment, the "impartial vengeance" by a governing body, cannot correct the original harms inflicted. It can only inflict a reciprocal harm. Justice is when an authoritative body presumes the ability to measure the harms inflicted, and inflict harm on the "guilty" party with such exactness, that the opposing parties agree that (relative) parity in harm, or "fairness" has been achieved. Truth is necessary in the process of justice only insofar as it serves to legitimatize the infliction of harm. The process of discovering truth, of making it public, serves only to make the perceived "measurement" of harm inflicted more accurate, and thus more legitimate.
But to prevent a governing body from merely becoming another player in the cycle of retribution, its infliction of (measured) harm must be legitimized. Both the deliberations about the amount of harm, and the actual process of inflicting harm by such a mediating body is ritualized and formalized in such a way that it is distinct and separate from the normal process of vengeance. The role of governments in granting justice is in administering impartial vengeance. As long as the punishment is considered legitimate, to such a degree that legitimacy can be enforced with the threat of further punishment for any party upsetting the decided parity, it does not have to be accurate or fair.
Closely concomitant with this is the monopolization of legitimate force by the governing body. Monopolizing the ability to inflict harm reduces the net amount of harm inflicted. The cycle of retribution is cut short (in many cases to only a single cycle) because the injured party is not allowed to reciprocate that inflicted harm. It also reduces the presence of violence in the common sphere less prevalent, serving to make the infliction of harm by the government that much more special and separate from normal practice.
However, in reality, establishing parity in hurting may be more difficult then official judicial procedures can effect because of the dynamics of shame.
Shame is the association of a moral failure with the self. It is the internalized violation of accepted and internalized moral norms. The process of moral failure may take part on the part of the transgressor or transgressed. In either case, the conflation of the moral failure with identity then undermines the axiology (what is important or valuable) of those who have been shamed. Because the conflation of moral failure with identity, the moral failure is associated with a failure of self, and a negation of self worth. A failure of the sense of self naturally undermines assumptions of the fitness of self to know. Thus a crisis of self-doubt results, undermining cosmology, ontology, logic and ethics. Logical thought is then largely impossible because the fundamental premises/assumptions from which logical constructions occur have been sabotaged. Emotional logic reins. Without some sort of conditioning (or an external force) to trigger re-integrative shame, the shame is then either internally suppressed by rendering the shameful event a non-event and willfully forgetting it, outwardly disassociated using constructed narratives to minimize the significant of the event by constructing a new narrative for the event, or fixated upon and used as the basis for a new identity. Each “solution” to the problem of the shame induced identity crisis manifests in different negative ways.
In the case of disassociation, the shameful event or circumstance may be privately (and to a limited extent) publicly acknowledged it is not given any narrative significance. It is treated as a non-event, although its existence may by reluctantly acknowledged. 'Bridge narratives' spring up around it, intended as mechanisms to manage the shame. Bridge narratives are alternative narratives constructed and emphasized thru instance and repetition until they have covered and replaced the memory of actual events, and are recounted as truth.
The problem with this technique is the same as the problem for suppression. Attempting to render reality a non-event creates a divergence between the personal narrative and the communal narrative. This discontinuity is extremely alienating, because what should be a significant event in the communal public narrative instead only occurs in a private narrative. This disjunction makes continuing to operate within the public narrative extremely disconcerting because there is a disjunction in causation around the shaming event. As the public narrative continues to go forward without reflecting the major shaming event that exists only in the private narrative, the disorientation and alienation from the public narrative and community life grows. While the unresolved shame continues to undermine the self worth of the shamed person, alienation from the social narrative grows worse. Already unable to share or participate fully within the narrative, there begins a fear of the original transgression being discovered, and upsetting the slim appearance of normality that hiding the reality of the shame has allowed to happen. The undermined self worth, lack of trust, and lack of relationships with persons who operate within the parallel public narrative eventually result in a situation where the shameful event or circumstance comes to dominate identity.
A similar result is achieved if the person who has been shamed elects to fixate on the shameful event or circumstance. Because shame is a disassociative emotion, the fixation upon it effectively causes a break in the sense of identity, where the pre-shame identity is effectively killed, and a new identity is generated around the shameful event. This causes a radical realignment of values and self as the person is forced to reorganize their worldview in such a way that the shame becomes a positive event. There is a radical reversal of values, and in cases of mass trauma, cultures of victimhood may spring up.
The culture of victimhood itself is extremely problematic. Victimization provides the moral justification needed for resentment, for hatred, and for revenge. The harm resulting from the shame is no longer a matter of parity, something to be expunged and cancelled out by reciprocal vengeance, but the basis of identity.
What disassociation, suppression, and fixation all have in common (apart from being mechanisms to manage shame) is their ability to trigger cycles of shame. In the case of suppression and disassociation the reoccurrence of similar events or related cues may be enough to cause “flashback” the trauma of the shame, triggering feelings of anger and rage, sometimes seemingly without reason. In the case of fixation, it has been suggested the process of fixating on a specific trauma as a unit of identity requires the continual reduplication of the process of moral attachment and the subsequent shaming and destruction of that moral attachment. Fixation is especially troubling because its celebration of the trauma, the reiteration of narratives of connection and destruction can be transmitted across generations, so that persons unconnected with the original trauma may be affected.
In all three cases, persons involved in ‘shame cycles’, of forgetting and reminding (suppression), of hiding and being reminded (disassociation) and of connection and trauma act to destroy identity. The pre-shame identity is either subject to being continuously recreated in an effort to narrate around the shame as a non-event (disassociation), the immediate and traumatized post-shame identity is recalled upon each bout of recollection (suppression), or is being constantly refuted and marginalized (fixation).
Moving beyond these mechanisms for managing shame is necessary before any restoration of the hurting parity is possible.
For disassociation and suppression, efforts can be made to end the denial of the shame and trauma of past events. Public and open acknowledgement of the event by all represents a perturbation in the reoccurring cycles of shame that allow a skip in the broken record, and then it becomes possible to struggle toward creating a new narrative involving the acknowledged shameful events.
Creating this skip in cultures of victimization is vastly harder, because the reoccurring and recreated trauma has become the basis of personal identity, and justification for revenge and violence. Indeed, the threat of acknowledging the revenge and violence carried out in the course of the traumatic fixation, and relinquishing the justification of necessity, destiny, and moral requirement may represent a disassociate effort to manage the potential shame and trauma of ‘defensive attacks’ carried out under the justification of victimization. Fixation appears to be a generational problem, and short of stopping inter-generational transmission, impossible to fix.
Therefore, while truth may not be an essential element in securing formal state justice, it is essential in bringing the continuously reoccurring shame cycles that reset the hurting parity to an unaddressed balance, over and over. Unlike formal justice, real reconciliation of the sort that will prevent future violence and conflict without a hurting parity being continuously enforced may require actual truth. When the harm inflicted by one party on another is a shameful one, nothing may be enough to redress that parity.