# 116: Realizing Injustice

Rawls, John (1999/1971). A Theory of Justice, 205–6.

Story behind the Passage

It is very easy to explain how I ended up choosing Rawls today. I am realizing more and more how the diversity of our society (de facto) leads to injustices (de jure) which the people affected do not even realize. This is not because they are stupid. It is because they come from very different national or socio-demographic backgrounds. Because of this, they do not even think of the possibility that things which they struggle with might be rooted in legal discrimination. Now, there is a huge leap here now from subjectively perceived injustice to actual legal discrimination. But the point that I simply want to make is that there is always the possibility of a legal injustice happening to you which you are not aware of.

This is why I searched the digital Rawls book for the concept of awareness today. There is no way that I can do justice to Rawls book A Theory of Justice in one post. I cannot even do justice to his basic framework of justice which he lays out. So, I will not even try. I might talk more about the entire book at some point. For now, I will simply talk a bit about the passage and how it relates to my insights as far as the awareness of injustice is concerned in the context of (international) startups.

My Learnings

“His awareness of his own worth developed in the smaller associations of his community is confirmed in the constitution of the whole society.” To make a long story short — this, what Rawls is writing here, is not what happens in many cases. Let us think of startups at this point. Let us think about how the individuals driving startups come from so many different backgrounds that have very little to do with the academic mainstream in Germany. And they do gain self-worth in their own “smaller associations.” But as soon as they want to interact with officials, e.g., the public sector and/or the government, they hit a wall. They hit a cultural wall of misunderstanding and even neglect. Why would a city official take them seriously, they start wondering.

This is not because they somehow have a negative attitude from the start. If there is one thing that startups are famous for, it is their openness. But if you experience this “no” attitude every time you leave your “smaller associations,” it shapes you. You start feeling small. But then you also hold up your head because you know you are not small. It is just that these other people have no idea what you are talking about. In the case of startups, this usually means you are talking about the future because you are building the future of technology. Since these people are still very much living in the present or even the past, they do not see your point at all.

If you could totally do without them, that would not be a problem. But the thing is, you need funding and/or strategic partners. At a certain point, they realize that they or their clients really need your product or service sometimes soon. Then, the crucial thing comes in: You think they are finally getting it — the future — and you trust them. Since you are not from their world, their planet, you apply your own rules, i.e., the legal rules from your world in which people are usually open and care about bringing change and justice to the world. It does not even occur to you that others might start gambling with you — but they do.

This is when the lack of awareness makes you move further and further away from your own home territory. You struggle but you do not notice that the struggle is not really necessary because you are already on some terrain where there is no justice anymore. The point is: How would you know, especially since you are a cultural outcast? There are simply things that you cannot see or even suspect. It is impossible to know everything and since there is nobody to help you, to open your eyes, there is no avoiding this trap. After all, seeking help, e.g., legal advice, can only happen after you become aware of something. It is the same with illness. You only seek treatment if you notice you are suffering from some disease. If that does not happen in time — it might be too late already.

So, the bottom line for me is — and this is a new realization — that the culture clash between startups and the public sector is not just an unpleasant one that has (only) economic effects. It is also one that can be related to actual injustice happening which founders are not aware of because they do not see through the complex system of federal funding. My gut feeling says there is something terribly wrong about all this. There are conflicting interests and there is way too much money involved. Something stinks. What bothers me most is that there are so many founders who accept that injustice is something that is part of their life, that they cannot do anything about.

I think, they can, if people help them.

These people just need to do one thing for the start:

Raise awareness.

Reflection Questions

1) Were you ever in a situation in which you only realized later that you had become a victim of injustice?

2) How do you personally define justice?

3) How could reading political philosophy help your business?

Founder & CEO of Companypoets