Injustice and justice differ from one village to another, from one town to another, by ethical injunctions and from one political sovereignty to another. What may seem as unfair or undeserving treatment in one clime might be the beginning of justice and its outcomes in another clime and vis-à-vis.
As injustice is the hypothesis of this discourse, we’ll have to draw experience from injustice beyond the interpretation commonly found in Western philosophy and jurisprudence in modern times. Injustice and justice is a susceptible subject to talk about. For instance, if justice is vehemently the practice of fairness in the society by allowing people to get what they want, do we not think people can be given more than they deserve? Against this influence, we must interpret injustice and justice through the periscope of traditions, cultures, and religions predating modern times. We must draw inspiration from laws of different countries. We must interpret injustice and justice through laws that were before and during slavery. We must not undermine such laws and base our argument on the 10 December 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No. This discourse may not attain the result it was intended to if we base our argument only on human rights. There were other rights before the progenitors of Martins Luther-King Jr. journeyed to the United States of America in the cause of slavery. There were rights that countries observed before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we must exhume them for posterity.
When the founding fathers of the United States wrote into the Constitution in 1787, there was a provision that absolutely legalised slavery. When they said that “all men were created equal”, they purposely meant the Americans because they did not see the world beyond the confines of their country, their political interest, religious inclination and economy. If they did take to cognizance that “all men were created equal”, they would not venture into slave trade in the first place. They saw what they did as their right – to overlord themselves over others.
By their Constitution in that period of time, slaves were not seen as people but as objects paramount for labour. A quote was credited to Thomas Jefferson as saying. “Blacks and whites could never coexist in America because of ‘the real distinctions’ which ‘nature’ had made
between the two races.” This philosophy by Jefferson which, (without doubt, represented the mindset of founding fathers of America), is what political scientists call Political Injustice. We shall unravel the benefits of Political Injustice in our subsequent lines.
We must consider politics played in different climes, their interest, before we define justice and injustice. This brings to bay Political Injustice. Political scientists say it has great benefits. They believe that “he who has the most guns grabs the most property”. They are not concerned about human rights. They are not talking of a failed state but “he who dies with the most toys, wins.” Those who call the shots in such environment regarded as fiefdom extend their practice beyond their “peons and protégés” they have acknowledged under their authority. They also argue that human rights activists see such environment as a failed state, but decorum and a sense of ‘justice’ prevail in it. Accordingly, the points given here disprove Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary statement which states that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Ancient and modern
Before the political communities we live in today, we once questioned what justice and injustice was (as rational human beings). We again questioned justice and injustice in religious sects, traditions. For instance, at the beginning of Plato’s Republic, Socrates was seen quizzing Cephalos, afterward Polemarchus and lastly Thracymachus about what they profess justice and injustice is. We often preserved judgment of this to either God or Ancestors. While many of the values we inherited from the past inflect the way we act on matters, the context of just and unjust has shifted drastically, taking on a more transnational concept. We can see that in the past atrocities such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, corruption and the killing of women and children in wars were regarded as a taboo. Then-again, as children, we construct our notion of justice and injustice based on the definitions ascribed to these constructs by society and law. Often, people do not keep to the definitions learnt in childhood due to trauma; hence the situation impacts what they define as social order – justice or injustice. This sheds light on the fact that the mind of a child is constructed by the legal system/ethical principles of their upbringing. This environment consolidates their initial view of justice and injustice.
Justice, injustice and law
It is essential to state that in the past justice and law were like Siamese Twins. They were synonymous. But there is a drift today: injustice can be supported by law; despite most people claiming that justice is the sole purpose of the law.
Let us believe that the type of justice Martin Luther King Jr. was referring to was the justice that morality brews. In the same vein, the world has had personalities like Plato, Derrida and Socrates who insisted that law should make justice prevail. But what they forgot to understand was that the justice they were fighting for was not embodied in the practice of law. Rather, such justice was indescribable, if not erroneous, and dislocated from the personified practice of law.
Justice is indefinable in law. It is in dispute with law. Lawyers would say that justice may apply to disperse issues or engage technical questions, objectivity to judge or give penalty and reward. In history, law, anthropology and political science, the role of justice is regarded as a political statement.
There are two chief definitions of justice. One relates to criminal activities while the other relates to equality. What may be seen as a crime to the people might not be seen as a crime in law. The same is applicable to equality. In some cultures (with emphasis on Islam) the treatment given to men is not the same as women. They measure justice not on equality but on equivalence. Treatment also differs between a man and woman, a boy and a girl in a Muslim community. For this reason, we cannot say that since there is inequality in Islamic tradition – there is injustice. Most Muslims were comfortable with this and no one, seeing through their lens, would characterise their practice by injustice. In this context, justice and injustice is determined by the law governing a given group and country. Conversely, in the face of injustice, a suspect has the right for a plea bargain in a court (in front of competent jurisdiction). Therefore, what may seem as injustice at a local standpoint is not always enough to convict. Even when a suspect admits guilt in a societal setting, to evade extrajudicial punishment, he or she still remains legally innocent.
Nevertheless, settling a matter out of court is often seen as more important than justice. They call this a win-win situation in law, whereby both prosecutors and defense attorneys’ interests are managed. We can see that in this type of situation, the victims and the community have no place in the world of justice but the suspect has. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are often faced with pressures that lead to a compromise. This brings societal justice as the compromise has guiding principles and rules. There is no special treatment. Here, the law is not evenly and equally applied to all.
Not evenly and equally applied
Analysts would say that governments at all levels are keen to promote social injustice christened as social justice. This is where the interest called political correctness comes to play. Many governments convert this political ideology into law, which ought not to be so. There are suspects that receive special treatment to the peril of private citizens. Now, we have governments all over the world who prefer the gathering of special interests above the law. This is to say that Martin Luther King Jr. and his contemporaries were children of circumstance at the time. Today America allows millions of migrants into her every year and allows them to enjoy welfare.
To the government, this is a way of showing justice to those outside America (in need of coming into the country). But for the taxpayer, it is blatant injustice against the whims and caprices of the American Refugee Act of 1980 which specifies a limit of 50,000 refugees. Some Americans would say, “Executive decisions removed limits.”
Conclusion: The blind and the elephant
Proverbially speaking, justice and injustice are like the elephant in the eyes of the blind. The blind can only define an elephant from the side he or she is allowed to touch. Thus, the great Martin Luther King Jr. was a blind man in the definition of justice and injustice without considering social, religious, ethical, traditional, political, economical and sundry differences around the world.