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Friday, 22 August 2014

On the Kindle

We are currently kindling 'Journey toward Justice : Personal Encounters in the Global South' by Nicholas P. Wolterstorff. The greatest moral philosopher alive today. What he observes about injustice in Honduras is fascinating:
"..It is commonly said that the failure of Honduran officials to deal with crime against the poor is due to corruption—graft and bribery...Though there are indeed corrupt officials, the fundamental problem is not corruption but fear and a pervasive lack of trust. Poor people do not trust the police, the judicial system, or the bureaucracy. The police do not trust the prosecutors; the prosecutors do not trust the police. The result is that the poor are afraid to take action when they are the victims of crime or illegal treatment; they fear that if they file a report with the police or some government official, the person or organization that wronged them will retaliate. The police and prosecutors likewise fear that they will be the victims of retaliation if they take action. There is plenty of evidence that these fears are warranted. What I saw, more clearly than ever before, is that justice in ALL its forms is impossible in the midst of pervasive fear and distrust.

A missionary with whom I talked described the Hondurans as the most passive people he had ever encountered; he had previously worked in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. By the end of my visit I concluded that describing the Hondurans as passive is not on target. Nor is it correct to describe them as simply accepting the wrongs done to them. Though they put up with them, they do not cease to say, “This should not be.” Better to describe them as believing that, because government cannot be trusted, there’s nothing to be done in bringing to justice those who have wronged them.."
(Source : Journey toward Justice)

That last sentence in the first paragraph is worth reading twice. It says "justice in ALL its forms is impossible in the midst of pervasive fear and distrust". There cannot be economic, political, social or criminal justice in a climate of fear. This climate means that they cannot demand basic rights or hold supposedly elected leaders accountable. And where there is a fearful climate people will not reach their full social and economic potential.

The observation has strong resonance with Zambia. We have previously observed that at the root of Zambia's poverty is a poverty of power. The poor are powerless to change things. Wolterstorff's observation from Honduras seems to suggest that it is not just powerlessness, it is also simply due to fear. It is not that the people are cowards or docile. It is just that the where trust does not exist each one looks after number 1. So no one sacrifices for anybody because the cost is too great.

Question:

What book are you reading this week? And what insights have you picked up so far? Please share!


AUTHOR 
Chola Mukanga 
Economist | Consultant | Researcher 
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2014

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