The Justice Ideal

The name rather suggests a revolutionary holiday, paying homage, in a mix of pagan mythological piety and the illuminist cult of virtues, to the personification of society’s moral binding: justice. However, during a period that some denounce as being poisoned by a perverse juridical speculation (with political goals), the call on the symbol of Justice does not lack ambiguity. The concept has a prestigious history. While Plato made justice the foundation of the ideal city (and of the best among real cities) and the 1848 masons who were preparing modern Romania greeted each other using the “justice and brotherhood” salute, the current president himself came to power at the helm of an alliance pompously dubbed “Justice and Truth.” But what kind of justice was that? Was it the justice of courts, of legal arbitrage in a jungle of human impulses that are not some of the most honorable kind?

The present proves that “the third power” can become the first impact-wise (Italy’s case with its “Mani pulite” is the most famous), and politicians can shake their opponents by using an iron fist tucked in the judiciary’s velvet glove. Is this social justice? Although the left-wing is now in power (as part of a cross-ideological combination with one of the right-wing’s branches), the discourse of egalitarianism is used only to the extent in which it combats the discourse of austerity (used by the president and the former government) that generates poverty and social discrimination. But is the left-wing prepared, beyond newspaper controversies, for a real Social-Democratic reform? Could that be a call on a value that is beyond the limitations of a far less paradisiacal capitalist democracy? Could that be a meta-political and meta-juridical humanism? Well, it’s none of that. The Hungarian community protested, in this solemn and symbolical way, against a court ruling (not yet final) that penalizes malfeasance in office, namely the retrocession of a building from the Szekler Land to one of the historic Magyar Churches. Apart from the juridical case per se, the political connotation of the ruling is significant. Contesting a retrocession, sentencing UDMR officials, the offence implicitly caused to an ecclesiastic institution, these are the reasons behind this protest. The decades-long collaboration between UDMR and the historic Magyar Churches (the Roman-Catholic, Reformed and Unitarian churches) is based on what turned out to be a fertile strategy. Apart from the retrocession laws, civil servants invested with authority within various central and local institutions facilitated the concrete processes of once again gaining possession of the claimed buildings and goods. Officials such as Attila Marko, one of those convicted in this case, are in fact the heroes of their community because they facilitated a process that would otherwise have been delayed, in some cases sine die. It’s not ruled out, if the sentence is nevertheless correct, that they in fact abused their prerogatives in the name of the noble cause. “Dura lex, sed lex” is a Latin saying that can be applied in this case too. However, could the sentence be a political signal for UDMR, which has plenty of political “sins”? It would mean that Romania is discretionarily dominated by politicians that take the liberty of pursuing in a more targeted manner some “victims” through the (sometimes) long arm of the law. This is only a guess for the time being, being at any rate difficult to prove. Before being a case of political revenge, the ruling is the signal of an abuse of authority. How did UDMR stay in the game after being part of so many successive governments? By concretely working in favor of the community. The Magyars have understood this well and have continued to trust it at the expense of its more rhetorical competitors. This “Day of justice” in the Szekler Land saw slogans in favor of the autonomy too. As a form of pressure, of course. The suspension of the retrocession was denounced as being an act of re-nationalization (the source of a hysterical discourse about the recrudescence of retrograde tendencies). But let’s assume the Szekler Land becomes autonomous. What will happen to the building that is currently used as a school and that a Church wants back? The “region” will take it over and then give it back? Wouldn’t that be an equivalent to “nationalization”? As much as we would respect it, we cannot idolize Justice. Laws are not “just” to the same extent for all. Some are more disadvantaged than others. Besides, the laws change, being to some extent contextual. The fight for “justice” (of any kind) is a permanent task. A political task by excellence. But it goes beyond demagoguery and takes place by sanctioning abuses of authority.

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