What is Justice?

Justice is a condition there of is the ideal state of humanity, a morally correct state of things/persons or the quality of being right and fair. Right is what is morally good, legal and just. If indeed justice is the ideal state of humanity then Kenya with 850 dead could not be further away from it. A famous quote asserts, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is clear that one form of injustice breeds multiple incidences of injustice. This then shows that the correct state of things and persons may be disrupted simultaneously and the quality of being right and fair compromised.

When politicians, the people and the state all claim that justice is being denied to them who should be given priority? Is it the state of Kenya that not only includes the present generation but the past and the one not yet born? The future generation wants to find a sovereign and stable state. Is it the people without whom the future generation may never be born? All they need to ensure a new generation is peace at the bear minimum. Is it the politicians who may tear the social fabric or breakdown the economic state of the country? Is the justice of the people solely dependent on justice bestowed upon politicians? Could it be that politicians fighting for their own ends?

There are two forms of justice. These are distributive and retributive justice. Distributive justice has never been achieved in Kenya. There are vast social, political and economic disparities that make it elusive for many Kenyans. Social differences come in the form of provision of public services and social amenities. To me social disparities in Kenya extend further to education levels and patterns of logic. I am suggesting that Adam Smith and Karl Marx had different patterns of logic not that in any way one was smarter than the other. Political disparities come in the form of number of public appointments and more recently the nature and power of the office of appointment. Economic disparities include access to credit, job opportunities, information and the buildup of the country’s infrastructure on equitable basis. Distributive justice is wholly dependent on peace, transparency, political goodwill, democracy and social pressure on the ruling class.

Retributive justice is more complex. It is a proper response to wrongdoing. I do emphasize one the word proper. Unlike distributive justice that comes only in a peaceful environment retributive justice may come by the blade of a sword. It is deeply affected by emotion, therefore may be easily misconstrued for what it is not. The accused might become the accuser, the judge the defendant and the crime a defense. This is why the blade may only lead to more injustices, the truth moves further away and peace becomes a mirage. This is why Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi choose peaceful means of resistance. They sought justice in courts even under the yokes of apartheid and colonialism.

A just person undertakes Justice. If left in the hands of any Tom, Dick and Harry then justice will never be realized. A just person is hard to define that is why Plato resulted to the character Socrates in The Republic to define the person. To Socrates the soul consists of reason, spirit and desire. The just man is he whose reason guides his spirit and desire. Did the ECK really collapse, does justice precede peace or vice versa, is evidence of rigging really worth the paper its written on, which comes first conflict management or conflict resolution, was the killing pre-planned or reactionary? Reason requires objectivity, defending the other side though no one sees their perspective, believing nobody but dismissing no one, then drawing conclusion. It demands critical thinking.

Then begs the question what is a just country? To Socrates a just city (by extension country) is one where the lovers of wisdom guide the politicians and workers of the city. This is because lovers of wisdom/philosophers do what is right for the people as opposed to what they want. Politicians do what the people want rather than what is good for them. By doing so politicians get what they want power, wealth and glory and the just country is no more. It is at this time in Kenya that lovers of wisdom should rise and be counted, they should guide the masses and the process that returns Kenya to a just country. This process need not be the mediation process lead by politicians. It can be through dialogue, debate or the disillusionment of people whose objectivity has been obscured. It can be through this us, the people not them the politicians. I may not be wise but I seek wisdom. If we all seek wisdom together then we can guide our peace, sovereignty and trade.

Justice is an absolute and universal concept. It is a property of the people and cannot be solely owned or given to an individual. It is a virtue of social institutions thereby institutions must exist to dispense justice. To ignore the institution is to make justice subjective. If it has faults then it must be sorted out first lest others come and find it that way. If one continues using the institution to find justice but then ignores it when it grants justice, as it should not the way the way they want that is pure dictatorship. A dictatorship by politicians is a travesty let alone contravention of justice.


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