By Ekenedirichukwu Anselm Alita
It is said that what differentiates man from animals is simply reason, even though the empiricist John Locke would go on to say in his discourse on person, that it is not just reason that marks man out from animals but equally the body structure. For him there are animals that through their action one can see that they are working with reason. So for him, the union of reason and body structure makes a man. Even as man basks in his reason and the freedom that goes with it, he is also saddled with responsibilities.
Thus Jacques Rousseau would say that man is born free but everywhere in chains. This simply explains the reason why the question of heaven and hell perpetually stares man in the face. This is because man being a free being, that is a being that can make choices and also being a moral being, who is responsible for all his actions, he is therefore culpable or blamable for every action he takes, thus the question of right and wrong, which as a sequel to the former raises the question of heaven and hell.
Our concern however is not about the question of heaven and hell, but that of rights and wrongs, injustice and justice and the scale upon which they are measured in the world especially in our country Nigeria. Our country Nigeria has for long operated on the framework that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Thus what is right is what the powerful or the government or powerful individuals label or call right, and vice versa. Our judiciary more often than not have stood as a perfect mockery of injustice, because the untouchables say who does what. Individuals are unjustly detained, our pressmen are always on the swivel singing the praise of the highest bidder. What more if not that justice and right become what the ruling party calls it. Therefore the question of truth becomes problematic; the question of right and wrong becomes pawns in the chess boards of the lords.
Where else can one trace the source of this evil if not in the seed groin of the sophist who crucified values on the Calvary of relativism? The above situation is the brain child and the position of a fifth century sophist named Thrasymachus.
Thrasymachus And The Question Of Right
Thrasymachus asserted that in all nations of the world that the question of ‘right’ is never the same, since –right-is simply what the people or person in power calls right. For him justice is a defect of character, something meant for the weak and cowards, while injustice is for the strong and the intelligent. For him injustice pays. He was of the opinion that people should aggressively pursue their own interests according to their own whims and caprices. He saw justice to be the interest of the stronger party, this boiled down to the famous statement that –might is right. So in all countries the laws made are often what the ruling class considers as right, which is primarily towards their own interests. So the conclusion that Thrasymachus gave following from the above is that “what is right is the same everywhere: the interest of the stronger party”. This philosophy is obviously erroneous, but unfortunately it is its cloud that hangs in our sky.
The Problem With The Position Of Thrasymachus
The major problem or error in the philosophy of Thrasymachus is actually the gross reduction of morality to power. That morality, the question as regards rights and wrongs rests solely on the shoulders of power. In doing so he denies truth, for truth remains not as we know it but as it is spewed by power. If we are to go in this direction, then man is reduced to the level of puppets and unthinking beings, that is dehumanization. This is because man continually goes against his own reason.
In a situation like this man is pummeled back to the state of nature, where what is right is only what serves the interest of one, where everyone let loose their own fangs of madness, and we are left to sink into the abyss of the survival of the fittest. Thus what the mighty or the strong labels right becomes right, what they label justice becomes justice. If they say that white is black and black is white everyone follow suit. How else does one explain dehumanization if not this way? Also if man is to toe the path of denying the traditional foundations of truths, whereas as human beings, we know that some things are wrong, if man obliterate this thin line, he actually reduces himself to the level of animals who more of than not act without reason.
The Modern World And The Position Of Thrasymachus
When one fully grasps the position of Thrasymachus, who left the question of right and wrong in the hands of the strong, and considered the unjust person as superior in character and intelligence, whence he said that injustice pays. One on seeing this can easily make a reference. In our world today, we celebrate the eclipse of the truth, the eclipse of right conducts, where what is called right is only what sits well with the powerful. Most often when that which is called right is objected to, the bruised ego of the powerful seek vengeance.
For instance, the issue of homosexual, lesbianism, transgender, incest and abortion, are things some western countries adjudged right. That at a point they had to force some other less powerful countries like Nigeria to pass it as law, upon whose refusal they tightened the loose ends of their grain bags. Coming closer to our country Nigeria, a look at our judiciary and the sinister posture of our government clearly reflects the position of Thrasymachus.
In Nigeria today, truth is something very difficult to come by, what the government or the ruling party proclaims the truth remains the truth and nobody can change that. One laments or attacks such position to his or her own detriment. Even when one laments, most do so in the comforts of their own homes, they can virtually do nothing. Take for instance the case of the corona virus, all we see are maze of figures, and this is the truth, because the government has said it, we must swallow it. When we talk about journalism, we see that most of the things announced have been doctored, but that’s what the government of the powerful want people to hear even when the truth is evidently clear. Do we talk about our judiciary already transmogrified into a spineless stooge that without pains births the seeds of injustice from the groins of the ruling party. Power obviously is might. When it comes the West, one is faced with the breakdown of morality, shoveled into the mouths of other nations especially African countries while when we come down to Africa, we see the lust of power and its gross abuse. Where citizens are entitled to their freedom of speech but are not sure of their freedom after the speech. Where people turn blind eye to clear injustice because little or nothing could be done about it. A world that operates on this scale is already at the tail end of its life.
The world has so much operated on the principle of might is right, which of course have turned many things on its head. This had led to the oppression of the less powerful nations and less powerful people. If we continue operating on the scale of right being what the mighty call it, if we keep denying the less powerful their justice and keep spreading the talons of our mighty fangs and our weight around, then we should be prepared to sink in the sea troubled by the storm we are building. What we cannot deny is the fact there are borderlines in life that man is free but everywhere is in chains, which points to the laws of reason that should guide our world. But when these things are neglected and we choose to go against our nature, then soon we would realize that though nature may not go wild but it can be very cruel a times. This is equally a time that individually we work on ourselves and tame our egos we have given wings, the many people we oppress in our places of works because we are in charge; the many people we deny justice because we are more powerful, the students we have failed many times simply because we have the red pen and the many dreams we have killed because we were in a better position. But I pray that nature would forgive us eventually, for the many evils we gave wings, for the women we damaged their daughters and the mothers we damaged their sons. God help us all.