Cicero once defined “aequita”, the Latin concept of justice as “tripartite”, where three different parts belonged to different beings: the first, “pietas” or piety to be more exact was related to the gods, the second was “sanctus” or sacred, which belonged to the souls, spirits, and the third, related to human beings was “iustitia” justice.
Many people associate justice with fairness, in a sense they are the same. Every person in the twenty first century wants to be treated fairly, no matter their sex, religion, skin colour, income, beliefs or any other factors. Be it in their workplace, standing in a line to buy something or walking down the street. But every coin has two sides, and unfortunately in many places around the globe, justice is overpowered by injustice or simply non-existent. Injustice can nest even in the hearts of democracy across the world in forms of greed, corruption, sexism, racism etc. In this article I would like to discuss and present the biggest forms of injustice around the world, from where they stem, and share my personal thoughts.
I would like to start off with Liberia, Africa. Liberia is one of the many examples of an African country so devastated by previous wars that the situation there is appalling. The country suffered two civil wars that lasted 15 years and it has been painfully recovering since. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, places like Monrovia, the countries capital, is home to the worst slum in the world, West Point. In these slums injustice rules, injustice against people. The area lacks proper sanitation, it does not have toilets or any kind of plumbing, which forces the inhabitants of West Point to go and use the beach as a public toilet. Disease, prostitution, drugs and criminal activity run rampant. Many women are forced to pursue prostitution as their occupation to simply survive and feed their children. Orphans, left after the war, turn their attention to drugs, with no parents or government supervision and no police force in the area, these young kids start robbing citizens, raping women and taking part in other criminal acts. It is true that the UN was stationed in Liberia and made some progress there to restore order and justice, but many people did not even feel the presence of the UN, and did not receive any help, neither from the government nor the UN. What does that mean? That means that the citizens are still asking for justice, they are hoping for the government to take action, to fix things, but the country is corrupt and its economy is so poor, that the Liberians are left to live hell on earth. Poverty brings out the worst in people, but all across the world select individuals, with a sense of duty, take action and take things into their own hands, trying to fix communities, and improve life.
The next form of injustice I would like to discuss is sexism. This of course is present in third world countries as much as it affects second and first world countries. Companies not paying the same salary to women as they do to men, women being objectified, disrespected, catcalled walking down the street etc. But let me start in the United Kingdom, where cuts to legal aid made people protest, and scream: “SAVE BRITISH JUSTICE”. These changes affect women in danger of domestic abuse. Many women are trapped in their households with abusive husbands and sometimes their husband’s families who also abuse them, forcing these women to live like slaves. They have no voice and no freedom, those who try to ask the government for help are turned down due to gaps made by cuts to legal aid. But sexism is not a stranger to many other countries in the world, like Liberia for example, where at least 70% of women are raped in their lifetime. Or Papua New Guinea, which has a rich history of passing down this mentality of rape and abuse from generation to generation. Women there are treated like property, with absolutely no freedom, if they want to do anything they have to receive permission from their husband, if they talk out of place they get beaten, and there is a habit to belt your wife regularly to show dominance in the household. The situation is so bad that the police cannot do anything or choose to not do anything because they receive about six thousand cases in a year, and just try to imagine how many of the abuse is left unreported because of intimidation or fear. But some women are standing up, speaking out against abuse, and some of them even receive shelter in safe houses. What we must do, as citizens of the world, is continue to fight for equality and speak out against inequality and injustice every chance we get.
An equally significant aspect of injustice I wish to touch upon is racism. As far back as the wild west of America, African Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities have been discriminated and have been the victims of systematic oppression and different taboos in society. Even today, being a minority in USA is extremely dangerous, especially if you are living in a low-income neighbourhood. According to nbc news 64% of Americans say racism remains a major problem. But where does it come from? Well, to make a long story short, it comes from stereotypes and ignorance. There are many cases of police officers shooting down innocent, unarmed African American citizens, using excessive force, and planting evidence to avoid eviction from the police force. What do you do, when the people who have to uphold peace and justice in your society are unjust? Many turn to protests and civil rights movements in the country, trying to oppose racism and bring attention to these issues. Alas this is not the first time this is happening. Many minorities have tried to oppose discrimination, and there were many famous civil rights movement leaders in history like: Abraham Lincoln, who declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”. Rosa Parks, Civil Rights activist. She started the Montgomery bus boycott through her refusal to give up her seat to a white person, and later became a prominent spokesperson for the American civil rights movement. And probably one of the most popular leaders was Martin Luther King Jr, leading and inspiring non-violent civil rights movements to achieve greater equality, also helped organise the 1964 March on Washington, where he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. But not only does the United States face these problems, many other countries suffer from racism. From my personal experience, in Lithuania we have many people who are older and grew up under the soviet occupation, under a different kind of oppression. They did not have access to the outside world or a better education, which as a result left many elderly citizens influenced by stereotypes or lack of knowledge. Our countries best hope, the world’s best hope is the youth, which is more educated and connected than ever in history. These stereotypes are slowly fading away, and racism is slowly fading away, but that does not erase the past, and it does not fix the present. It is going to be a long process, but every well-educated person must strive to educate the less fortunate, and spread tolerance, and love.
Justice has been around since the twelfth century, and through trial and error many scholars have incorporated it into our societies and laws. The presence of justice usually means a well working society, but what happens when injustice comes into play? Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And the examples that I have presented in this article show just select few cases of how injustice can be exactly that, a threat to justice anywhere on this earth. But we live in modern times, where people are becoming more open to the world and one another. All of these injustices against citizens, women, minorities, might pose a great threat to many people across our world, but things are changing, people are changing. And many take action to fix these problems and stop injustice in their communities. I believe that no matter your country of origin, sex, race, age or religion, every person must respect and love his neighbour, and try to achieve something in his life that would benefit the betterment of the planet. Justice can be a very fragile thing; our duty is to nurture and grow this ideal so it can flourish. I will finish with a quote from Frank Sinatra: “If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world, pal. We’re all neighbours.”