TODAY -

An Introduction To The Notion Of Injustice
- Part 1 -

Czadanda Saint *



"If it were not for the injustice, there wouldn't have been justice".
- Heraclitus

Indeed, it is the injustices which makes the concept of justice so significant. Consider this hypothetical scenario. If justice had prevailed, Jesus Christ wouldn't have died at the Cross for us. Of course, he died as a redemption for all the sins of mankind, and it was meant to be that way. But, it also cannot be denied that the persecution, capture, imprisonment, torture and the subsequent crucifixion amounted to a grave travesty of justice. It was grossly unfair, arbitrary, and it was an absolute display of corrupted power. The bottom line is that justice had not prevailed. Justice had never prevailed. So, it is quite a wonder to think, if justice had prevailed, what would have been the history of the world as we know it.

Justice, or the concept of it, is more truly a utopian dream. One of the highest ideals of mankind, which we should keep striving for; it is never seen except for the occasional glimpses, encouraging us to carry on the quest for it. But in reality, it is actually the 'injustices' which we meet along the way which shape our lives, and the times we live in. History is littered with innumerable instances where great injustices have produced great soldiers of justice. If slavery was not practiced on a grand scale in America, would there be an Abraham Lincoln? If the British had not colonised India and meted out the atrocities to the Indians, would there be a Mahatma Gandhi? Or closer home, if there was no AFSPA, or if there was no Malom Massacre, would there be a certain Irom Chanu Sharmila?

Contemporarily, justice has been defined in terms of fairness, as a pre-requisite for the maintenance of order and peace in society. Prof John Rawls, who, developed his theory of justice on 'justice as fairness' principle, holds that justice is what should be good for the least advantageous and the least deprived members of the society. Though Prof Rawls presented his principle to solve the problem of distributive justice, much required for the social and economic ills prevailing in our present world, 'justice as fairness' principle has a universal appeal to it.

For instance, in the realm of criminal justice administration, justice is seen as an act of vengeance. For when a criminal is punished- imprisoned, fined or otherwise, it can be inferred as an act of vengeance by the State, if not by the private individuals.

The crime can't be undone. So, this act of 'vengeance' becomes proper to restore the balance between the powers and the liberties of the people, to deter future crimes and thus to maintain order and peace in society. Justice thus becomes fairness. And therefore the corollary to this is without fairness, there can be no justice.

There is, however, a catch to this. Because, life itself is not fair. Or to be more precise, there is no such thing as fairness in its absolute sense. In life, we can only strive for 'fairness', but make do with what we have or what we get. For example, orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS. By birth, life has been unfair to them. With no fault of their own, they are brought into this world with already an affliction and stigma.

And no matter what we try to say otherwise about the 'stigma', it is real and sooner or later they are going to feel it. If we could only step into their minds for at least a day and see and feel by ourselves the many questions, the many 'whys' left unanswered, we may realise that whatever we may do for them is never going to be enough. Because, the unfairness can't be undone. All we can hope for is to try to restore the balance to some optimum level. And that is the best we can do.

Nevertheless, keeping aside this cynicism, it also doesn't mean that we shouldn't do anything for them. On the contrary, it means that we should do everything we can. There should be a ceaseless effort to make them understand, live, experience and enjoy life; the beauty in the occasional glimpses of pure mirth, moments of laughter and happiness. And it is on those small details of their lives, those fleeting seconds of their merriment and joy that we have to give back 'fairness' to them, justice to them.

To elaborate further, we have to understand 'justice' in the same way Mahatma Gandhi understood 'truth'. Both as a noun and a verb, if we are to say so literally. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to perceive 'truth' in its absolute sense. He went as far as to even proclaim that 'Truth is God' and devotion to this truth is the sole justification of our lives. In other words, it can be said that according to him, our lives should be a quest for this Absolute Truth, the raison d'etre of our existence.

However, to realise this ideal, Gandhiji also stated that there is also the need to understand Truth in its non-absolute sense, i.e., in relation to untruth. He said that truthfulness should permeate through every miniscule details of our lives- that our lives should centre on truth. Our every word, thought and action should be truthful no matter how irrelevant they may appear to be. And untruthfulness or lies should have no place whatsoever and must always be resisted. Truthfulness should govern each and every sphere, each and every moment of our lives. For, it is the only known path to realise the Absolute Truth.

This is exactly how we should try to understand the idea of justice. Justice, as an ideal, should be the beacon of hope, an unfulfilled aspiration, a shining twinkling light on a faraway watch tower. Our life's journey is to proceed along the trail cast by the glittering, twinkling light. But life is not fair. The path may be paved but is strewn with thorns of injustice and unfairness, however minuscule they may appear to be.

And the point of our journey is to clean up these thorns and not just move along the trail or at least make an effort to clean up the path for those who will come after us. For example, let us take the case of those rickshaw pullers and those small one-manned street vegetable vendors and others who are living from hand-to-mouth in similar occupations. For such people, who belong to the lower rings of our social and economic hierarchy, alleviation of their living and working conditions should be one of the top most priorities of the State; and we, as citizens, should push the Government for it.

But in the meantime, we, as individuals, can also do a little bit in our own ways. For instance, we can stop bargaining prices with them, unless they are charging exorbitant rates. There's not much worth in haggling with them for one-two rupees. And in any case, what's the point in asking the Government to ameliorate their existing conditions, if we, as individuals, seem to be acting on the contrary? Such little acts count. It may be construed as kindness or sympathy. But it is step taken in optimism. A step towards justice.

Briefing up, from Gandhiji's understanding of truth, two points can be highlighted here. First, he acknowledged the presence or existence of untruth. By advising us to be truthful in every thought, action and word throughout our lifetime, he was advocating us to resist the temptation to be untruthful, no matter the circumstances.

Or in other words, the importance of understanding the concept of 'untruth' for the realisation of "Absolute Truth'. Likewise, the concept of injustice becomes central to the understanding of the idea of justice. It will and always be the injustices which shape our quest for the ideal of absolute justice. The thorns of injustice on the path and what we choose to do with it has far reaching implications, not only for ourselves individually, but also for the mankind as a whole. If we, as individuals, keep surrendering to the instances of injustice, however small and insignificant they may appear to be, how will we, the mankind, fare in the quest for Absolute Justice?

Secondly, Gandhiji's understanding of truth does not include the concept of 'for the greater good'. Though he admitted that some evils are necessary, but they are only to be temporal. Likewise, the concept of 'for the greater good' should have no place in the idea of justice. If unfortunately there is, it must be considered as a temporary necessity, a necessary evil, and there should be an unrelenting effort to do away with at the earliest. If we keep overlooking, sacrificing small acts of injustice in the name of 'for the greater good', what exactly is the greater good we are after? Or has justice become a commodity, its value dependent on the utility of it, according to the situation?

To be continued..


* Czadanda Saint wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at saddanskhaibam(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on April 06, 2015.


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