Roots of Injustice
NEARLY two thousand years ago, the Bible set out a remarkably accurate social profile of our time. It stated: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, . . . without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
Few would deny that those negative traits have become more common in our time. They become manifest in many ways, including greed, prejudice, antisocial attitudes, corruption, and extreme financial inequality. Consider these individually.
GREED. “Greed is healthy” and “Greed is good” are catchphrases we may sometimes hear. But they are lies. Greed hurts! For example, greed often underlies accounting fraud, Ponzi schemes, and reckless lending and borrowing. The results, such as financial collapse, have hurt many people. Granted, some of the victims are greedy themselves. But their number also includes hardworking people, some of whom have lost homes and pensions.
PREJUDICE. Prejudiced people judge others unfairly and even discriminate against them on the basis of ethnicity, skin color, sex, social status, or religion. For example, a United Nations committee found that in one South American country, a pregnant woman died in a hospital because she had been discriminated against in another facility on the basis of her ethnicity and socio-economic background. Taken to its extreme, prejudice has even led to the gross injustices of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
ANTISOCIAL ATTITUDES. A synopsis of the Handbook of Antisocial Behavior stated: “Each year tens of thousands of families are torn apart, hundreds of thousands of lives are ruined, and millions of dollars’ worth of property is destroyed as a result of antisocial behavior. So endemic are violence and aggression to our society that it isn’t hard to imagine future historians categorizing the late twentieth century, not as the ‘Space Age’ or the ‘Information Age,’ but as the ‘Antisocial Age’—the time when society went to war against itself.” Since that book was published in 1997, there has been no improvement in attitudes and behavior.
CORRUPTION. A report on corruption in South Africa mentioned that over a seven-year period, more than 81 percent of the 25.2 billion rand (then $4 billion, U.S.) provided to a provincial health department was improperly accounted for. Money that “should have gone towards maintenance of hospitals, clinics, and health centers in the province,” was unspent, said the journal The Public Manager.
EXTREME FINANCIAL INEQUALITY. In 2005, nearly 30 percent of Britain’s annual income “went to the top 5% of earners,” according to a report in Time magazine. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, “more than 33% of American income goes to the top 5% of earners,” said Time. Worldwide, about 1.4 billion people live on $1.25 (U.S) or less a day, and 25,000 children die daily because of poverty.
Is There a Solution to Injustice?
In 1987, the then prime minister of Australia set the goal that by 1990 no Australian child would be living in poverty. That never happened. In fact, the prime minister later regretted having fixed that objective.
Yes, no matter how powerful, rich, or influential a person may be, he is still a human and cannot eliminate injustice. Indeed, even the powerful suffer injustices, grow old, and die. Those realities call to mind the following two passages from the Bible:
“It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
“Do not put your trust in nobles, . . . to whom no salvation belongs.”—Psalm 146:3.
If we take that wisdom to heart, we will not be disillusioned when human efforts fail to get results. So, should we just give up? No! As we shall see in the final article of this series, a truly just world is on the horizon. In the meantime, though, we can do something. We can look at ourselves. Ask yourself: ‘Can I be more just in my dealings with others? Are there certain areas in which I can improve?’ Those questions are addressed in the following article.
[Pictures on pages 4, 5]
A. Police in China arresting a man for taking part in ethnic violence
B. Looting and destruction of property in London, England
C. Abject poverty in a Rwandan refugee camp
Top left: © Adam Dean/Panos Pictures; top center: © Matthew Aslett/Demotix/CORBIS; top right: © David Turnley/CORBIS