Justice is a huge topic, with lots of aspects, all of which could concern Quakers. I thought I’d just share an incident from my life recently that made me think about justice.
My washer/drier went wrong. I did the washing and when I took the clothes out at the end of the cycle they were dripping wet. I knew something was wrong, but I put them back in, dialled ‘spin’, pressed ‘on’,and waited to see what would happen. The clothes came out damp, but not dripping ie as they should do. But I tried to spin the drum round manually and it was not moving freely. We’d had a few doubts about the machine, especially since a t-shirt had got caught between the seal and the drum and badly chewed up. It was clearly time to ask someone to look at it. We’d only had it four and a half years so it was still covered by the extended warranty we’d bought.
I had to wait in the next day (aggravating since it meant missing Wednesday group, but such is life). A man came and looked at it, agreed it was faulty, probably due to something caught in the mechanisms. He couldn’t see anything through the holes in the drum, so he said he’d have to rebook us as it was a two-man split drum job to repair it. First, he’d have to ask permission to do that. The insurance company refused permission, saying it was ‘beyond economic repair’, they would contact us about a replacement.
Now, here’s where the issues of justice arise. I do very nicely, financially, out of this situation. I had paid £175 to extend the warranty from two years to five years. I’ve now had two call-outs in that time, and I get a brand new replacement machine that would cost me about £500.
However, much of the existing machine is now destined for landfill, though some will probably be recycled.
Also, the cost of two people here to come to the house and work for, probably, less than an hour, is valued more highly than the work of how many people and how much material and how much energy to produce and ship a brand new machine. The second person is probably needed to meet health and safety requirements, rather than because it needs two people for the entire time.
There is something very wrong with the sums here. We are not putting the right values on people, their time and their effort, or on raw materials, or on energy usage. I wish I knew how to put this right.
In the event, we freecycled the old machine, delivering it to the person a few streets away who thought it worth trying to fix it. To someone with appropriate skills and some time, I think it probably can be fixed, and I hope it goes on to give several years of service to someone. That will go some way to redressing the balance of justice in this small incident.
This is a small incident, but, to me, it illustrates some huge issues.