The rallying cries to end racism, to end homophobia, and to smash the patriarchy are all passionate pleas calling for sanity in a world gone crazy with unfounded hatred and hegemonic power imbalances. They all wish for the same thing: the elimination of injustice. We want to destroy capitalism. We want to abolish racism. We use colourful language like this with grand images of violent revolution because it is an anger that stirs within us that wants to lash out in retaliation against the oppression that we see inflicted upon the less fortunate. Seeing the devastation that injustice can bring would indeed drive any rational person mad, so to condemn the seething reactions begotten by this social terrorism is as absurd as condoning the appalling apathy that inevitably accompanies it. I use “we” because I am not excluded from these feelings, though my preferences tend toward simmering cynicism over boiling rage.

What are these injustices? Racism is the preference of one race over another, often structurally enforced by anachronistic institutions built prior to the bleeding heart enlightenment. Basically samesies with sexism, replacing race with gender where appropriate. And so on. Now, obviously they’re not identical and intersectionality has come a long way in explaining why, but they do share one common element: they are all ideas. Ideas fused into systemic practice, yes, but at their foundation they are intangible worldviews.

How do you destroy an idea? Tangible things are easy. Audrey Lorde’s quotation about being unable to dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools would be irrelevant if she were talking about a literal house. That shit would be a breeze to knock down. We have hate speech and anti-discrimination laws in Canada that prevent overt oppression meaning that, on paper, injustice has been triumphantly eliminated from our country. Well done, Canada! Except obviously it hasn’t. The tangible injustice is all but gone, leaving only the insidiously abstract injustice to be destroyed, and it seems the abstract is far more resilient.

Yet to destroy, demolish, dismantle, and decimate (if you wish to reduce injustice by a tenth) can only succeed negatively. What I mean by this is eliminating injustice can only ever negate the status quo. It seeks to thwart an inherently destructive idea with other destructive ideas. If you believe Lorde, then it’s simply never going to work.

Within the last year, there have been several sexual assault cases that were gravely illuminating about the flaws within our justice system. Kesha was forced to continue working with a man who sexually assaulted her. Brock Turner received a slap on the wrist. The judge for the Jian Ghomeshi case highlighted the problem by stating that without hard evidence, it comes down to the testimony of the accuser against the accused. This is then subject to often harsh cross-examination which can easily raise reasonable doubt as trauma is neither the best for memory nor unambiguous in its mental affectations. Thus, too often does justice ignore the victims of one of the most heinous crimes today. The legal system is an institution, but more than an institution, it is an idea. It is an idea that did not take into account the unique tragedy of sexual assault victims during its conception.

Screaming that the legal system is broken will not fix it. An argument could be made that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but imagine a group of workers complaining about the conditions of their factory to the owner. The owner may eventually implement a solution, but it will be a solution created by the owner who is likely going to avoid shifting the system too far as he is the one currently benefiting from it. Progress requires new ideas. The elimination of injustice will be the byproduct of these new ideas, not their predecessor.

The Broadway musical Rent has a lyric that states that the opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation. This line is then followed by a jubilant WOOOOO! to celebrate its veracity. Peace is only the stagnation of where the war left off. Creation is the opposite of war because creativity produces something new. We need to stop trying to destroy, and start building.