The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about injustice is crime shows on Netflix. They usually deal with the very personal crimes of people driven by greed, jealousy, fear or obsession. And of course there is always the hero of the show, who is willing to go outside protocol and convention to see the perpetrator answer for his or her misdoings. And every time someone ends up behind bars or at least much worse for wear.
But what of the real world? And what of its organized injustice that happens within the law or its loopholes? What if our fictional champion with his genius or special ability of reading people had to go up against the faceless giant of a corporation for which injustice is just a factor in their cost and benefit analysis. Values of wealth, success and even convenience seem to cast their shadow over those of compassion and respect for another human being and their rights. If you cannot limit work unions or expect excessive overtime in one country, you move your production to another. If your factory will not pass health and safety standards under one set of laws you move to a place where it will.
Now, mistreating people is not the end goal here. It is not about people setting out to hurt other people. It is about cutting corners to cut costs. Injustice is a byproduct of the way we set up our economy, because money seems to be worth more than human beings these days. Same with our convenience.
Because let us face it. We participate in this practice by making our choices as consumers. We know what it means when a label says “made in India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam”, or we see cheap bananas at the supermarket. We are vaguely aware, even if we have chosen not to watch documentaries about it or read the articles that were just a click away. And this is the scary part. We comply; we make it okay.
And why wouldn’t we? If injustice is this profitable, brings us all these benefits, why would we want justice? Especially in the beginning, it would take the choice of inconveniencing ourselves. Of spending the time, consideration and action to change. Resources already spread thin by our daily lives.
But what if we pay a higher price for the benefit of the original cost than we realize? What happens when the mistreatment of a (human) being passes from unacceptable to undesirable to a “necessary evil”? What or who stops this progression from blotting out the “evil” altogether and just calling it a necessity? It is like an unravelling thread that will not stop coming undone until we do something about it.
Calling the same thing by another name might not seem significant, but as a mentality they accomplish their opposites. Something unacceptable is going to be contained by laws and law enforcement, while something necessary will not be stopped by them. In a world with trade agreements that allow multinational companies to sue governments whose policies damage their interests, this is already happening.
It is hard to care about something that seems so far away, out of grasp and vague, but it is likely to become all too concrete once the economy’s growth cannot be sustained by the workers, wars and resources which feed it at the moment. It might sneak up on you while looking for another job and ending up at the doorsteps of a temporary employment agency, threatening to fire you if you take time off work because you are sick. Maybe you can already see it in the migrants and refugees whose education will not be recognized by your government and are used as a cheap addition to the low-wage sector. Or maybe when state owned assets are sold to the private sector in your country and things like your health care and access to clean drinking water are suddenly up to firms and industries whose foremost motive is profit.
By insisting on other people’s rights, you are insisting on your own. Instead of letting the loose thread of injustice unravel until it reaches you, let us fight for justice EVERYWHERE.
Because as Martin Luther King Jr. once said when talking about the Vietnam war:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”