The Anatomy of Injustice

Jun 25


Frederick Fabella

Frederick Fabella

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This article deals with how the idea of justice came about and what role power plays in its realization.


Fairness is a concept that emanates from the belief in the equality of all men. But it is not always observed and practiced in human dealings. People’s ability to exhibit fairness is inconstant as demonstrated by our very own observations and experiences. And since fairness does not come about naturally,The Anatomy of Injustice Articles there had to be a means to implement it. And this is how the idea of justice came to be.

But justice could only be dealt by those with the power to do so. And so, instead of members of society taking justice into their own hands which invariably led to chaos and anarchy, people surrendered their collective power to a government that would have the sole and legitimate authority to deal it out. The power to police society was delegated by people to a governing body whom they trusted would recognize what is fair for the good of the individual. Order was thus established and maintained in this manner.

The evolution of the notion of justice spans the entire history of the human race. There were very different ideas of justice at different times. And government itself took varying forms. But there is one commonality. And that is, for justice to exist there had to be someone with the power to administer it. And that power is displayed with the use of force. To illustrate this, force is used to arrest a criminal suspect, to incarcerate him and in cases of the death penalty, to execute him. Force is necessary to take property from someone who has unlawfully taken the same.  

This is why prior to the advent of modern society, those who had power were the ones who determined the presence or absence of justice, and how it was defined. The person who wielded the greatest power could thus place himself above the reach of justice. Tyrants, despots and monarchs all had absolute power and they determined what justice was in the realms under their spheres of control. This is the reason why when large scale injustice is perceived, it often sparked revolutions and even war.

Fortunately, we no longer live in a world where might makes right, or do we? Injustice occurs when those in power abuse the powerless, when the strong exploit the weak. The opposite, where the weak mistreat the strong is unheard of.  In a just society where there are instances that the strong abuse the weak, someone stronger would have to come in to administer justice. This is why a government must always be more powerful than any individual member of society.  

Therefore, even the concept of justice is a matter of power and who wields it.

Taking the current issue of the perceived racial discrimination in the United States as an example, justice is being sought in the form of equality in the treatment of black Americans. But because black Americans are a minority, the power that they wield is probably not enough to effect the desired change.

Consider that in 2016, when the international Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague ruled that China had no historic rights to the South China Sea within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it was believed that China would finally relinquish its claims. But because no one had the power to enforce this ruling, justice was denied.

No matter how much we desire the attainment of justice and fairness, these will remain mere ideals if no one has the power to administer them, or if those with power do not wish to do so.


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