Sunday, 2 February 2014

Justice and Silence

We read Micah 3 during this week. Micah in this passage speaks out against the the injustice in Judah's society. He speaks out on three fronts. These are the absence of justice in the courts, absence of justice in the popular prophets, and absence of justice in the government. It challenged me as I thought of things that are happening around us. There are many things that are happening that represent injustice in our society. Like Micah's society, there is injustice in the legal system, in the commercial environment, and in government. Those who are the closest equivalent to prophets seem to carry a message that this injustice is what needs to happen because it is the only way to make our economy work.

The question for me is whether injustice can ever be justified. If injustice cannot be justified and our economic system depends on unjust practices then it is time for us to stand up and speak out against it. This view is reinforced by a quote supposedly from Martin Luther King Jr. which says that says “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” If we are aware of injustice, we need to speak out.

Why do I say there is injustice in our legal system? Protesters at the arms fair are now appearing in court because they obstructed entry of arms dealers to the fair. However, no arms dealers were prosecuted even though they sell illegal weapons. Likewise we see no bankers prosecuted for their activities that where seen to cause the economic crash. It seems that some people are above the law.

What in my view is a greater injustice is the political decisions that through having bailed out the banks now sees the poorest in society paying the price for the actions a few rich bankers. The government is reluctant to do anything that would upset those who possess the wealth and instead makes judgements about those on benefits. The consequence is greater numbers of people being dependent on foodbanks and other charities for survival. The government claims that “we are all in this together” but the reality is that we are not. There is increasing inequality with wealth moving up from all areas of society to the wealthiest one percent.

This is further reinforced when members of parliament, chief executive officers, and other senior managers receive more in pay increases than workers. The argument is that in order to retain the best people in these roles, they need to be rewarded so that they don't move on to other organisations. The same doesn't apply to the lowly workers. These are seen as replaceable and therefore don't need to be paid a competitive salary. If one leaves, you simply employ someone else. The consequence is that the top income people continue to receive salary increases that exceed the increase in the cost of living while the workers receive a token increase that is less than the cost of living. Over time, more and more people move toward the poverty line. The workers who are in this situation aren't just the labourers, it includes some fairly highly qualified people that are seen as the traditional middle class.

With increasing pressure put on the financial resources of most workers, there is less willingness to protest workloads or work conditions. Employment options decline during recession periods. Workers are increasingly becoming economic slaves.

Are these decisions just? Should we allow them to continue to happen? Are they the only injustices that exist in our society?

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