With the advantage of social media and the ability to be able to spread ideas and thoughts further than ever before, certain topics become more visible.
For several months I have followed (from a distance) the rise and calling out of injustice. From the start of time educated people have known that injustices have happened. We can identify with the scapegoating of the people who lived outside of social norms to be labelled as witches and treated as such with burning and hangings. Furthermore, we can identify with more modern events such as the holocaust of the 1930s and 40s. Again this injustice has been allowed to repeat in countries such as (formally) Yugoslavia, states in Africa and so on.
Two sides of the same coin
But is the idea of justice and injustice two sides of the same coin? Is it that injustice is simply a lack of justice? If we expect to balance injustice then we need to address what we know to be justice. And this can be a difficult event to deal with when your idea of justice has been diluted and abused by those of whom should have done the right thing in the first place.
The rules of injustice are difficult to comprehend to a law abiding society. From an early age a sense of justice and injustice is indoctrinated into us. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that even babies have a sense of injustice and dislike having it violated, even when they witness events that do not directly effect them (Maia Szalavitz (20th February 2012). “Even Babies Can Recognize What’s Fair: Babies as young as 19 months are affronted when they see displays of injustice”. Time Magazine).
It is even found within religious texts, for example, in the book of Deuteronomy, it explains that the godly person;
‘shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water… and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but are like chaff which the wind driveth away’.
To be precise about this matter a feeling of injustice, on a personal level is devastating. A sense of injustice is a feeling that the rules of justice have been violated. These are rules which dictate that if we are honourable, we will be rewarded and that if we are bad, we will be punished.
If in life we act correctly but still suffer at the hands of those who don’t we feel excluded from the rights of justice and therefore, vulnerable in every other walk of life. The whole world in which we have lived in seems absurd and unrecognisable.
Thinking on two fronts
It becomes expected that the victim of this nightmare thinks on two fronts. Firstly, you may think that you had done wrong without knowing and this is why you are being punished. Or, alternatively, you know that you have not done anything wrong and that you have fallen victim to a catastrophic failure in the administration of justice.
The voice of the majority
Time after time I have witnessed people coming forward to highlight the failings of the judicial service who still continue to deny that there is a problem. Yet in a supposedly democratic society the voice of the majority is being ignored by those of whom are in power not by selection but by privilege. How on earth can one value have a higher value that a principle of protection from an injustice. And here lies the fact that this is the case.
Injustice can be seen as the poor man’s burden. As previously stated in my blog entitled Legal (F)aid ,access to resources to fight injustice is somewhat limited. From that angle we can see that those at the bottom of the social ladder are left to fend for themselves. So the ultimate realization of Social Darwinism is a real modern day problem. The weak will be left behind with the burden of injustice.
Profit and loss
I would like to think that human nature tries to avoid a world that is unjust, but alas, this is not so. With a justice system comes a profit and loss ideal. For example, like so many other false accusers they intend to gain from another person’s loss, be it either power over that person (as in the case of my ex), financial gain or out of just trying to save face following their own trial of lies. It is only social structures and organisations that choose justice for us. Hence, only an agent such as the legal system can be held accountable as it either supports the false accuser or not. This fact does indeed rest with (in the UK) the Crown Prosecution Service. To date, will all of the people I know who have found injustice not one of them have received an apology for their wrong doing (coming back to the point of doing good means nothing). It only happens when their errors have been made public and the CPS has nowhere to hide.
It seems that the ethical injustice must derive from some ethical poison in the judgement of the hearer. From different points in history one might draw on many depressing examples of prejudices obviously relevant to the context of credibility judgement, such as the idea that women are irrational, blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, the working classes are the moral inferiors of the upper classes, and men are violent within relationships. With this level of brainwashing it is little wonder that injustice is allowed to continue unabated. The suggestion I am heading for is that the ethical poison in question is that of prejudice.
But in order to furnish the readers imagination, let us turn to an example from literature that provides us with a historically truthful ﬁction.
The example is from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The year is 1935, and the scene is set in a courtroom in Maycomb County, Alabama. The defendant is a young black man named Tom Robinson. He is charged with raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, whose family’s rundown house he passes every day on his way to work, situated as it is on the outskirts of town in the borderlands that divide where whites and black live.
From the outset it is obvious that Tom Robinson is entirely innocent. His defence lawyer, Atticus Finch, has proven beyond doubt that Robinson could not have beaten the Ewell girl so as to cause the sort of cuts and bruises she sustained that day, since whoever gave her the beating led with his left ﬁst, whereas Tom Robinson’s left arm is disabled, having been injured in a machinery accident when he was a boy. The trial proceedings enact a straightforward struggle between the power of evidence and the power of racial prejudice, with the all-white jury’s judgement ultimately succumbing to the latter.
Presumption is a pre-requisite
But the psychology is subtle, and there is a great complexity of social meanings at work in determining the jury’s perception of Tom Robinson as a speaker. In a showdown between the word of a black man and that of a poor white girl, the courtroom air is thick with the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of racial politics. And yet, like so many other injustices the word of a small blue eyed female (my ex) carries more weight than the word of an innocent man. The presumption is made and the idea of guilt needs to be disproved.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
This example of injustice carries on through the discursive moments of the book. When Mayella grabbed Tom Robinson he was at a loss already. If he pushed her away, then he would have been found to have assaulted her; yet if he is passive, he will equally be found to have assaulted her. So, he does the most neutral thing he can, which is to run, though knowing all the while that this action too will be taken as a sign of guilt. The interrogation of Tom is suffused with the idea that his running away implies culpability:
‘…why did you run so fast?’
‘I says I was scared, suh.’
‘If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?’
Domestic stereotype ideals
Even with all of the evidence to support Tom Robinson’s innocents he is still found guilty. It is perhaps worth remarking that even the most hateful prejudicial ideologies may be sustained not only by explicitly hateful thought and talk but also by more domestic stereotypical ideas that are almost cosy in comparison. For these types of people an alternative truth to their own ideas is largely unthinkable. And so, the ignorance is allowed to continue.
By selecting an individual to a specific group (for example, if all men are violent abusers then an individual man is an abuser too) this becomes a form of ‘identity’ prejudice. So, the inﬂuence of identity prejudice in a hearer’s credibility judgement is an operation of identity power. Thus, in such a case the inﬂuence of identity prejudice is a matter of one party or parties effectively controlling what another party does, says or thinks. So, a view of guilt depends upon collective conceptions of the social identities in play.
In our Mockingbird example, racial identity power is exercised in this way by members of the (white) jury as they make their deﬂated credibility judgements of Tom Robinson, with the result that he is unable to convey to them the knowledge he has of what happened at the Ewells’ place. This is the essential exercise of identity power in the courtroom that seals Tom’s fate.
Selection is ingrained
From these examples and thoughts it shows that your view of your position in a society that implies it protects the innocent is an irrelevant lie. For many our lives have been selected and chosen before we have even left the womb. Yet regardless of how we try to fight these prejudices they have become so ingrained within the social psyche that justice or injustice becomes irrelevant. It is your gender, sexuality, colour, religion and so on that predetermines the outcomes.