Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, in writing the Declaration of Independence, wrote “All men are created equal”. The equality of all men stems from birth, all individuals are created with the same basic structure; the normal anatomy of us all remains the same. As would be agreed, different circumstances such as being born into an affluent home, better access to education and a host of other things could seemingly place some individuals at greater advantage, but the basic tenet still remains the same; that all men are created equal. This clause makes room for impartial and uniform treatment of all men irrespective of status; and the laws and rules guiding societal ways are subject, or rather are meant to be subject, to the clause that all men are created equal and remain equal before the laws of the land.
In time, through time and overtime, scenarios have played out which truncated the equality of all men before the law. These scenarios remind me of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and the quote “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others”. Justice has been subverted a number of times because it seemed “some animals were more equal”. Two men commit the same atrocity but one is severely punished because he is of a different ‘colour’. Money exchanged hands and the affluent is set free, the poor is left to stand trial and rot in jail. “She is the weaker vessel” and should be treated as such. These subversion of justice have many names, colours and faces. This strung off a bell in my head: what is justice?
Lady justice is depicted as being blind folded, scales or balance in one hand and the sword of judgment in the other. I was told she is impartial, she can’t see anyone I was told, she is blind to your affluence, colour, sex or race. She metes out justice to all without bias they told me. She weighs the case and brings about justice with her sword, her judgement has no iota of partiality, so was I taught. Why then does the rich man get a month and the poor man get 5 years for the same offence? Isn’t madam justice blind to status? I was introduced to an aberration of Lady justice: injustice.
Justice is fairness, justice is doling out the same treatment to people under the law, it is equal rights of all men. If justice is this, then injustice is deviation from justice, it is the violation of rights of individuals, it is the state of unfairness and inequality. If justice was totally adhered to, there would be no room for the nomenclature-injustice. But alas! justice doesn’t always have the light of day and injustice rears its ugly head. It reared its head during the Birmingham campaigns and gave birth to the popular quote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere” by Martin Luther King. History tells us how Martin Luther King could not stay in Atlanta and think that the happenings in Birmingham was none of his problem. He understood that when we let injustice happen anywhere because it does not affect us directly, we break the web of “All men are created equal”, we indirectly authenticate injustice and give it a field day in society.
In anatomy, I was taught that the human body is made up of systems; the body is an interconnection of systems. Whatever happens to one system affects the body as a whole, the effect is not limited to the system but it spreads through other systems and if not taken care of, it destroys all the systems and inevitably, the body. This analogy is apt in describing injustice and the world. The world is more than ever a global village, this age of technology has made it easier for things to reach where it could hitherto not reach, injustice is like the cankerworm which invades a system (a part of the world) and slowly spreads to the world if not taken care of. It surely destroys the body (world) because when it initially started, those not affected thought “that is so far away from us”, but it continued spreading and alas! it was not far away again, but close home. Again, I will liken injustice to technology which didn’t cover the world at once but spread from country to country and now it has taken a firm root and it is now described as the ‘future of the world’.
Adaptability is one of the basic characteristics of living things, it means to become use to something that was formerly not there and accept it. The process of revoking whatever has been adapted to is usually very hard. It has been noted that humans can adapt to harsh conditions, including injustice! In my home country, the giving and accepting of bribes was once uncommon, but during the oil boom, it became more prevalent and spread to every nook and cranny of the nation. Graft is not totally seen as unjust now, it is seen by many warped minds as part of the order of the country, very much in the fabrics of the society; so much so that quite a number of organisations account for it in their budget! Palms must be greased, some muse. I see it as a form of injustice to have to bribe or rather pay your way in for something you need not to. Whenever injustice is not nipped in the bud anywhere, it spreads to other places, threatens what is just or fair and could unfortunately become accepted and hard to fight later on.
“Women are delicate, inferior and should be treated as such”. This unlawfully wrong statement and thought is unfortunately still being expressed by some people and acted on. Men and women though not totally the same anatomically, are still equal before the law, equal rights to freedom and life is deserved by both sexes, but regrettably, this equality to basic rights is not attainable in some places. Women are still endangered species in some countries of the world, social injustice against women is still very much rampant. In some cases, the girl child has less access to education compared to the male child, her whole essence is thought to revolve only round the kitchen and bedroom. Woman participation in governance is frowned upon in some climes and it is rather hard for her to even vote. Her basic rights such as freedom of speech is countered, rights to good education is not respected. Whereas, in other climes women are starting to get accepted in governance and managerial posts though still plagued with difficulties. It is an injustice that threatens the feminine gender the world over. If women are being treated wrongly in country A, it serves as a model to some other countries, it tarnishes the web of female equality that is being fought for. It gives room for evil fellows to perpetrate the same evil in country B where women are treated equally. Maltreatment of one woman anywhere or trampling her rights affects all women everywhere, it means the equality has not been achieved. A hole in a fine web destroys the web, in the same vein, injustice affects the whole web, not just one woman or some groups of women, but all women.
The fight against racism fought by King and others was a fight for racism not only in Birmingham or the United States but the world at large. It brought about reforms and hope to other people facing similar situation that the injustice can be fought. “If one finger brings oil, it soils the others. Whatever response we give to injustice, be it good or bad, it has a multiplier effect on justice everywhere. Good response can stop the injustice and bad response can spread all over like cankerworm and disrupt justice and the basic tenet that “all men are created equal”.