Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere! – Martin Luther King Jr.
What does that mean?
This quote makes an obvious point, but too many people don’t understand it. When an injustice is done to one person, everyone else has to wonder what it would take for that same injustice to be done to me.
Sadly, that is a question that many people I know just don’t think about. They may say that it is a shame that something bad happened, but they don’t usually consider the possibility that it could happen to them.
If you have faith in the system, and faith that the incident was only a one time mistake, that might be a justifiable reaction. But that isn’t the kind of incident that this quote is about.
This quote is about a system with bias. A system that targets some people while letting others escape. An uneven and unjust system. And sadly, as humans are uneven and unjust, so are the systems we design. Thus the quote urges us to work towards being as even as we can, so all may have justice.
Why is even application of laws (justice) important?
It might start out slowly, with the occasional traffic stop motivated by the race or ethnicity of the driver. But once the public decides that this level of injustice is acceptable, is it more likely that the abuses will stop, or that they will get worse?
Eventually, you become one of the targeted groups. Now what? It may already be too late. Atrocities like these started small but grew quickly in the totalitarian regimes of World War II (see the treatment of “lesser” people in occupied Europe, culminating with death camps).
While that is as extreme as it gets, we could look to South Africa only a few short decades ago for a country wide, institutionalized form of injustice. In America, you have to go back a little further for the worst of it, but there are still pockets of injustice and retribution going both ways in a few places.
Being equal in the eyes of the law is the reason why the statues of justice are seen with the scales held in one hand, and a blindfold over the eyes. Everything should be weighed on the merits of the case and the law. Anything less is, by definition, injustice.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Because of the power of the word ‘injustice,’ many people abuse it and try to apply it to situations where uninformed people will react by taking their side in an argument. While it’s sad and frustrating when children use this trick, it is much worse when large groups or even countries try to use this.
Yes, there is injustice in the world. As I mentioned earlier, we are an imperfect species and all that we do is, by definition, imperfect. But this quote isn’t about a random error, but about a systematic bias. While it does exist, it isn’t as common as some people like to claim. Be wary of being drawn into their fight and used as a human shield.
That said, the only thing we can directly change is ourselves. Yes, it would be nice to change others and make people be nice to one another, but what about us? How nice are we to others? How about *THOSE* people, whoever they might be?
It is human nature, in our DNA, to show a preference towards those we like and be far less kind or respectful to those we don’t. Usually there is some solidarity by group, whether it’s nerds or jocks, blacks or whites, boys or girls.
But not always so clean or well defined. How should a group of male nerds treat a female nerd? Does their combined nerdiness outweigh the gender difference? How would you want to be treated, and how do you think you would treat someone else, were the positions reversed?
This bias, something we all have to some degree, is the basis of this quote. One person having a bias is noise, often counterbalanced by another with an opposite bias. However, when a large group of people (or a small group of people with a large amount of power or authority) have the same bias, things can get ugly rather quickly.
So what do we do if we see an act of injustice on the street? Do we sink to their level and do an injustice back to them? Does that make the world more just? I don’t believe it is the best course of action. There are usually ways defined to handle such injustices, and that’s what I would try to do.
There is much beauty in humanity. However there are other aspects to humanity, and we must start by working constantly to become a better person. From there, we can encourage others to follow their own path to becoming a better person.
We can be the example for others we wish someone had been for us. Or we can emulate someone we consider to be a shining example of who we wish to become. We can only be more just ourselves, and then try to help others to become so as well.
Together we can help fight injustice, wherever it might be. It won’t be easy, but it is the best path forward of which I am aware.
From: Twitter, @tonyrobbins
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth122559.html
Photo by Rob