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Injustice: An Ethical Issue in the Contemporary Society

Chukwuemeka Chinedu is an ongoing Student Pastor at Nigeria Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho, with BSc in Economics.

injustice-an-ethical-issue-in-the-contemporary-society

Introduction

Injustice, which is more often used in the legal profession, refers to a violation of rights. This, when judged from a moral point of view, is unethical wherever and whenever it occurs. This paper aims to understand the concept of injustice, examine the places it can occur, and highlight the biblical perspective of the subject matter. This paper will also investigate how injustice can happen in the family, Church, and society. The consequences of injustice will be studied, and recommendations will be proffered.

Understanding the Meaning of Injustice

Injustice is a term derived from the word "justice", and it connotes the opposite expression of justice. Justice is more synonymous with the legal profession as it relates to being fair in the process of delivering judgment. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Injustice refers to "absence of justice: violation of rights or of the rights of another: unfairness"[1]. One can therefore say that "injustice is simply the absence of justice"[2]. One would therefore wonder where injustice can take place. Injustice takes place in any environment. It is a universal human issue where every now and then, people complain of being unfairly treated. Barrington Moore Jr. concludes that "the sense of injustice is found everywhere there are men and women[3]. The acts of injustice can therefore be experienced in the family, Church, schools, working environment, society, politics, economy, etc. The major root from which Injustice stem is human selfishness. Humans will engage in injustice when they conclude that the outcome will end up in their personal interest.


[1]Merriam-Webster.(n.d.).Injustice.In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary.Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/injustice.

[2] Judith N. Shklar, The Faces of Injustice (New Heaven and London: Yale University Press, 1990), 15.

[3] Barrington Moore, Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt (London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd,1978).

Categories of Injustice

Injustice may be classified in several ways depending on where it takes place and the form it appears. Nancy Fraser introduced a dualist framework for understanding contemporary struggles for justice[1]. She argued that injustice could be broadly categorized into:

  1. The injustice of maldistribution: this is associated with a politics of class, redistribution and equity.
  2. The injustice of misrecognition: this is associated with a politics of culture, recognition and difference.

From these two categories, one will be able to fix every form of injustice into one or both. The research was carried out by Garold Mikula, Birgit Petri and Norbert Tanzer to determine what people regard as unjust and experiences of injustice in everyday life[2]. The following list is their conclusion on the type of Injustice people encounters frequently: Breaking agreements; disregarding feelings, needs and desires of others; taking advantage of a partner, not doing one's share; betrayal of confidence; talking behind somebody's back; lying; making fun of another person; reproach; accusation; putting one's interest first; meddling; leading a person on a string; punishment; cheating; stealing; unfriendly or impolite treatment; abusive or aggressive treatment; unfriendly or rude treatment; not admitting one's error; the arbitrariness of and bureaucratic treatment by institutions, officeholders or authorities; examinations, grading; lack of recognition of performance or effort; distribution of goods and benefits; partiality of referees; demonstration of power and superiority.

There were other unclear cases not mentioned in the research. This suggests that issues of injustice occur in various forms, in a wide range of environments and could be classified in one or both of the two categories mentioned earlier.


[1]Nancy Fraser, "From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a Postsocialist Age", New Left Review 1, 212 (1995): 68-93.

[2]GroldMikula, Birgit Petri and Norbert Tanzer, "What People Regard as Unjust: Types and Structures of Everyday Experiences of Injustice", European Journal of Social Psychology, 20 (1990): 133-149.

Biblical View of Injustice

The Bible has so much to say about Injustice; God has been against injustice right for ages past. Through the prophets and priests appointed by God, He has been revealing his word and message about injustice in society; God has been dealing with the affairs of men by rendering his opinion and judgment against the ways of men. God has been against the evil, wickedness and sinful nature of men. God has been interacting with his people by dealing and judging them according to their deeds, warning them and offering them eternal life through the message of salvation as we come across the pages of the scriptures.

Some of these scriptural verses about injustice includes: Proverbs 17:15; Proverbs 29:27; Exodus 23:7; Isaiah 1:17; Luke 16:15; Psalm 12:5; Luke 18:1-8; Amos 5:11; Proverbs 22:8; Isaiah 10:1-3; Lamentations 3:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Matthew 21:12-13; James 5:1-6.

From the scriptures of the Bible, God's reaction towards injustice in the society can be seen in His interaction with the people of Israel and His response through his prophets. Prophet Isaiah was present at a period when the Israelites were experiencing injustice in the land, as recorded in Isaiah 59: 1-19. From Isaiah 59: 1-15, the issues of injustice are enumerated concerning Israel. From Isaiah 59: 15-19, God's response to injustice was declared through the prophet Isaiah. God is righteous, and He judges righteously, for His throne is upheld with justice and mercy. God, therefore, expects leaders in all positions and authorities to render justice in all aspects of life and in every group, from the family level to the society of any given state and kingdom of the world. According to 2 Chronicles 19:4-7, Jehoshaphat demonstrated an attitude of a godly king and leader; with the fear of God, he brought his kingdom to God, he set up judges and gave them principles and instructions against injustice according to God's will.

Major Settings of Injustice

It has been noted earlier in this paper that injustice takes place in a wide range of environments. In fact, it occurs anywhere human is found. This paper examines three categories of places where injustice takes place in the human environment and relations. Injustice in the family, Church and society is discussed briefly.

Injustice in the Family: There are particular injustices in the family setting that ranges from nuclear to extended family relationships. This Family injustice ranges from monogamy to polygamy and other kinds of marriage. Every nuclear family character tends to be vulnerable to injustice if there is no uniform ethical culture in that family setting. There are injustices at every stage in the family which children, teenagers, adults, men and women encounter. Some occurrences of family injustices include:

  1. Couples that are bitter and engaging in marital conflicts and wars against each other
  2. Siblings that turn against each other and battle each other
  3. Fathers who abandon and ignore their children
  4. Mothers who grow weary and thereby reject or persecute their children
  5. Children resist, mock and attack their parents, and so forth.

For every level of injustice that occurs in the community, it must have cropped from the family. When there is no fairness, when there is no moral judgment among spouses, which upholds the ethical lifestyle of any marriage relationship between a man and a woman, it will eventually abuse marriage relationships. Furthermore, if it continues, as they bear children, they pass on some unethical behaviours and attitudes unto the younger ones. The children will then repeat the bad traits of behaviours in the community.

Injustice in the Church: There is Injustice in the Church setting. Though there are various Church denominations, some conflicts and unethical issues result in the Church that falls prey to it. The Church is meant to serve as a social institution that allows families searching for rest and Jesus Christ from different cultures and backgrounds to gather and resolve their actual social, emotional, spiritual and unethical problems.

However, in some local Churches, there are all kinds of injustices propping out from the members to the supposed under-shepherds. Injustices that can be seen in the Church can involve interaction between members, Pastors and their members. Some of these occurrences include:

  1. Rejection and partiality on the poor from the rich in local Churches
  2. Authoritarianism and bureaucratic crises among leaders of local Churches
  3. Immorality among members of the Church, even stemming unto leaders and members of local Churches
  4. Allowance of Political influence, state autocracy and dictatorship into some local Church affairs and responsibilities
  5. Favouritism and Preferential treatment focused on specific individuals in some local Churches, particularly men of affluence.
  6. There is the occurrence of racism and tribal discrimination among members in some local Churches.

The Church as an institution is a formal organization that is set out to accomplish a specific purpose. It is an agent, and it can do things, it can say things, it has its own voice. As an institution, it has its own purposes and plans, its own structure and officers and its own mission. This is to be considered the Church as of believers, the communion of believers. Each Christian is, of course, a personal agent.

Two dangers the Church must avoid if it tries to address all and only clearly immoral social policies. The first is that it should speak out; some churches failed to speak out against the clearly immoral policy of "apartheid". The second is that even worse danger is that a church does not speak out against it. When this happens, the Church is guilty of injustice. The Church is in a privileged position with respect to knowing what is clearly morally permissible and what is morally impermissible, for it has God's written word. Thus, it should speak out on the clear moral injustices of the day[1].

John Sheehy focuses on the Catholic Church but includes all Christian denominations, exposing not only the Church's lack of interest in the basic rights of people but its role as perpetuator of social injustices. Sheehy, a former priest, examines the church actions, finding prejudice against Jews, marriage, women, homosexuals and others. Sheehy also examines such prominent events as the inquisition, the crusades, and the heresy gradually becoming distraught at the action he served. His study brings forth a conclusion that the Church is outmoded and no longer functional in any area of social justice[2].

Injustice in the Society: God is concerned for His people's welfare and livelihood. God has created a system of social authority through his creation; and had designated the spirit of leadership when he commanded Man to multiply, subdue and have dominion over the earth. Not only to have control and subdue the animals but also to take leadership in being fruitful and leading everyone that makes up a community. However, from the onset of human-beings existence, man's relationship with God has shown throughout history the disobedience and rebellion of man in many occurrences in his interaction with God, both as an individual and as a community of people.

Injustice in the community is of great concern to God, though the Almighty might be patient and tarry for a while so that the wicked can repent from their wickedness. God will yet judge everyone according to their actions, whether it be good or evil. God expects the leaders of every given community to lead the people with peace and judge righteously. The government, principal ministers and other leaders of a particular state or society are meant to lead and minister with fairness and equity. But in our contemporary society, every developing and advanced country are generally experiencing some level of injustice. Some countries are in disarray because of bad governance of the state, wrong policies, treacherous administration and unfulfilled promises. All these defects eventually lead to bribery and corruption, which affects all sectors of the economy, and thereby lead to low per capita income of some households coping with their subsistence living, and then results in the high unemployment rate, inflation, high crime rate, social vices. These make the economy of a country enter an economic recession. God desires leaders of every given society to carry out justice, to be merciful to the maltreated, and deliver the oppressed, and judge the wicked accordingly.


[1]Calvin P. Van Reken, “The Church’s Role in Social Justice.” Calvin theological Journal, 34 (1999): 98-202.

[2]John F. Sheehy, The Church's History of Injustice and Why this Priest Left (n.p,: University press of America, 1999), 134.

Consequences of Injustice

There are various consequences of injustice in any given society, and they are of different categories. Injustices do not only occur in undeveloped or developing countries but as well as in developed countries. There are possibly general effects of injustice that cuts across every underdeveloped, developing, and advanced country. These consequences cover from individual level to economic/societal level, and they are of various kinds, which are enumerated below:


Social Effects of Injustice: These are consequences that affect human social life and society; it affects the basic human rights of an individual, family, institutional organizations and communities. Social effects of injustice can result in these:

  1. Poverty: This is a situation where basic individual needs cannot be met, like food shortage. This can be a result of the bad governance of that state or country concerned.
  2. High Crime Rate: This is a situation of increased criminal activities which opposes the security of human life and property. This can be as a result of high unemployment in the state or country; and therefore, some individual youths are frustrated and provoked to engage in various criminal activities.
  3. Protest: This is a kind of social effect that occurs due to the disturbance of human rights and needs being violated. The people concerned feel that they have been unjustly treated and thereby plead for their needs or rights against the governing authorities, organizations or leaders of the society or community.
  4. Increase in Corruption: This is a situation of all kinds of fraudulent activities and bribery that is as a result of poor governing policies and leadership that makes the country that leads the country to all kinds of social vices.

Psychological Effects of Injustice: Psychological effects occurs when there is a wrong sense of justice, this is a situation whereby there is no disparity between what is right and what is wrong, which eventually affects the thinking of individuals concerned. This becomes more destructive to society as youths and children are affected as they grow not to know or to differentiate what is right from what is wrong, which tends to lead to all kinds of social vices and eventually chaos. Some of these psychological effects can lead to:

  1. Low self-esteem: This is a psychological consequence whereby an individual feels unlovable and unwanted, sometimes among peers and worse in society. The person feels like he is below the living standard of a natural person.
  2. Depression: This is a situation of disorder that affects the mind of an individual
  3. Suicide: this is an intentional act of harming oneself to death.
  4. Fear: This is a kind of emotion that is not pleasant that is threatened by fear, anger, pain and anything that defies the human heart.

Physical Effects of Injustice: Physical effects of injustice are the consequences that affect the individuals' physical life and economic needs. It tends to occur more as an end result that reflects in the economy of the society or country. These physical effects consist of the following:

  1. Damage to Life and Property: this is a kind of consequence that is a result of certain vices in the community, which can endanger human lives and properties.
  2. Loss of Jobs: This kind can be caused by unfair government policies, bad governance or corruption in the country.
  3. Economic Crises: This is a result of an unstable economy, economic depression, inflation, unemployment and corruption in the country.
injustice-an-ethical-issue-in-the-contemporary-society

Like theft and murder, some crimes are commonly recognized as unjust by the government and banned by Local law. However, there are other forms of injustice that may endure in society. Those in authority sometimes use the state's legal and political systems to violate subordinate groups' political, economic, and social rights.

According to Rawls, Injustice is a violation of the virtue of social institutions as truth is of scientific systems.

  1. Each individual has an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal fundamental liberties compatible with a similar system of freedom for all.
  2. Social and economic differences are to be adjusted to the most significant benefit of the least advantaged
  3. Each person should be attached to offices and positions open to all under fair equality of opportunity conditions.

According to Rawls:

If people were considering an imaginary society in which to live and for which they were choosing principles of justice, and if they did not know who they would be in the society, the people would require that there be equality of liberties- that is, they would not be willing to be the people who had less freedom than others. They would want as much say about matters in their society that affect them as many other people[1].

Therefore, some necessary remedies to resolve injustice must be implemented, which are:

Political Liberalism: there must be political liberalism since modern democratic societies are pluralistic- that is, their people will have many different and irreconcilable sets of moral and religious beliefs. People have and manifest solid and diverse political, honest opinions. Therefore, for a political system to be legitimate, it must have rules that determine a plan of fair cooperation for mutual advantage by members regarded as free and equal persons.

Public Decision-Making: Members of society should have the opportunity to participate in the formulation, execution, and monitoring of state policies. In other words, public decision members should foster a culture of political involvement and public participation.

Social-Cultural Changes: There should be more social, economic, and political power. Social-cultural changes are often accomplished by strengthening the economy and civil society in conjunction with democratization efforts.

Systemic Economic Injustice: This is often an issue of economic reforms. Addressing it requires developing programs that assist the poor, pensions for the elderly, training and education to help remedy injustice, tax reform, giving workers the right to form unions and plead for a fair wage. Therefore, adjusting gross inequalities to a balance in wealth might also be part of compensatory justice.

Gender Equality: one in three women worldwide has experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner conflicts in their lifetime. Female humans everywhere must have equal rights and opportunities and live free of crime and segregation. By pointing out the histories of the most vulnerable girls and women, we can empower the coming generation of female leaders to go further and reach greater heights. Allow them to engage in a campaign; raise awareness on social media, or donate to an appropriate organization that helps women in need.

Diversity in The Workplace: no one should be segregated because of their sex, race, religion, disability, political views, sexual orientation or nationality in using their rights. Business diversity can improve productivity, be a source of innovation, facilitate better management, improve customer and business partner fulfilment, and open the door to or help manage business opportunities.


[1] Leif Wenar, "John Rawls", in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta (Stanford: The Metaphysics Research Lab., 2021), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/rawls/>.

CONCLUSION

The injustice, which is simply the absence of justice, has been one of the ethical issues of all ages. This research work has examined the concept of injustice from its broad perspective and highlighted the types of injustice, noting the places where injustice can occur. Furthermore, the biblical view of injustice has been studied while the forms of injustice that exist in the family, Church and society were also sampled. This work also noted the consequences of the subject matter and proffered some recommendations which can help reduce the scourge of injustice in contemporary times.



Fraser, Nancy. "From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a Post-socialist Age." New Left Review, 1, 212, 1995: 68-93.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Injustice.In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/injustice.

Mikula, Grold; Birgit Petri and Norbert Tanzer. "What People Regard as Unjust: Types and Structures of Everyday Experiences of Injustice." European Journal of Social Psychology, 20, 1990: 133-149.

Moore, Barrington. Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt. London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press, 1978.

Sheehy, John F. The Church's History of Injustice and Why this Priest Left. n.p: University Press of America, 1999.

Shklar, Judith N. The Faces of Injustice. New Heaven and London: Yale University Press, 1990.

Van Reken, Calvin P. "The Church's Role in Social Justice." Calvin theological Journal, 34, 1999: 198-202.

Wenar, Leif. "John Rawls", in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta. Stanford: The Metaphysics Research Lab., 2021, https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/rawls/>.

  • Injustice Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster
    The meaning of injustice is unfair treatment : a situation in which the rights of a person or a group of people are ignored. How to use injustice in a sentence. Synonym Discussion of Injustice.

© 2021 Chukwuemeka Chinedu

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