Social justice and development

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines development as a specified state of growth or advancement. The concept of development is one general idea, but has a multi-pronged nature. While the basic concept is advancement, it can be economic, social, infrastructural, mental and so on.

Social justice has been defined by Wikipedia as justice exercised within a society, particularly as it is exercised by and among the various social classes of that society. This definition implies that social justice has a lot to do with the norms, mores and belief systems of various social clusters. Their coloration of life determines what they regard as just or unjust. It is justice as perceived by the people inhabiting a particular place at a given time. Thus, what one society recognizes as just may be considered unjust by another society. In other words, social justice may be referred to as relative and subjective.

When the term development is applied to a society, it is a measure of their level of growth as an entity. Development has a direct relationship with the quality of life that members of a society can enjoy. This article seeks to explore the relationship between the degree of social justice and development in a society.

All human societies have witnessed social injustice in one form or the other throughout their history. Discrimination, segregation and injustice have been part of human existence from earliest times. For some inexplicable reasons, men have always felt the need to create differences that will make certain segments of society superior to others. From the caste system in India to the ‘Osu’ system in Igboland, the racial or colour divides, master-slave dichotomies and the gender imbalance that is almost a universal question, the supremacy battle rages.

Perhaps it is a carry-over from the jungle era of human existence when survival-of-the-fittest philosophy beclouded all sense of judgment. The era of the cave-man also marked the lowest point in human development. As civilization progressed and man left the jungle life, development followed. In other words, the more the civilization, the higher the propensity for development.

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Civilization came with ideas that promoted respect for one another, peaceful co-existence, collaboration in positive ventures, improved hygiene and healthcare and love as a binding force of society. Studies have shown that societies that propagate these tenets of civilization have developed much more rapidly than those that have not imbibed these virtues.

The issue of discrimination belongs to the era of the jungle men when crude force and prejudice reigned. As it turns out, development does not come by such negative attributes but by the effective use of the brain, which gives man an advantage over other animals. 

It is important to state that the brain is the pivot of inventions and so the citadel of development. Whereas human societies have created all kinds of discriminations, the brain recognizes no such differences. When a segment of the society is looked down upon, and their views not recognized, the natural consequence is that their creativity is stunted. Their ideas wilt within them for want of expression. The society loses out.

There is nothing in the human make-up that says that those in the favoured class have better brains than others in the relegated class. Since only the favoured lot are given the right of self-expression, merit is sacrificed on the altar of senseless superiority syndrome.

Perhaps gender imbalance illustrates this truth more than any other factor. In many societies of the world, women are regarded as mere property to be acquired and used by the men (considered to be superior) as they see fit. They are to be seen (in their colourful best or completely wrapped up like walking taboos), but not heard. It is considered a sacrilege for a woman to be seen in the gathering of citizens where issues of general interest are to be discussed in such societies. This is definitely negative.

These people fail to realize that the brain has no gender. A great idea is as likely to sprout from a woman’s brain as from a man’s head. If a saving formula comes from a woman’s brain in such a society, the entire populace loses out.

Even young people who are encouraged and given the opportunity to develop optimally may be able to contribute meaningfully to the development of the society. Unfortunately, many societies uphold inhuman laws that emasculate children and cage their creativity. Many of these young people are turned into house maids which, in many cases, is another name for slavery. Many unreasonable laws and norms discourage children from expressing themselves and give adults the right to maltreat them for daring to speak out.

It is also important to point out here that history is inundated with examples of various inventions by slaves, women and very young people. Benjamin Bradley was a black slave when he invented a steam engine for ships. Thomas Jennings was the first African American to be given a patent. He invented a dry-cleaning process. He was a slave. Madam C. J. Walker was a black widow but she invented a new hair care system. Ear muffs, trampoline and popsicles were all invented by children.

There are many more examples of such inventions which are still serving the world today. The exploits of slaves in recorded history are uncountable. Many of these courageous souls paid with their lives for daring to assert their right to normal life. However, their uncommon achievements and inventions proved to the world that the brain of a slave can be as good as or even better than that of his master.

What more can I say? Societies that still promote slavery in overt or covert forms will likely not do well in terms of development until they come to terms with the truth that all human beings were created equal by the Most High. Is it any wonder that the worst forms of social injustice are found in parts of the world that are called under-developed, third world or even fourth world countries?

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