We tell ourselves that we are all equal. We teach this to the children at school. But coming from a society where we study mainly to pass exams, and not to imbibe the knowledge, it’s disheartening (but not surprising) to witness the injustice people at the bottom of the social ladder face on a regular basis.
Gone are the days when suspected lawbreakers are hurled to the police station for justice to take its due course and served when need be. Gone are the days when killers were assumed to be hardcore criminals who lurked in the dark and pounced on vulnerable people.
These days, in our so-called “modern society”, the people we see on our streets day in day out, all dressed up and about their business, could be reduced to heartless criminals in mere seconds at the sound of “thief!” Like the American TV series, the Vampire Diaries, it seems people switch off their humanity and beat the life out of the “accused” like monsters. Even animals are spared and given a quick death and not made to suffer that horrible fate.
Last week started on a bad note for all Ghanaians upon hearing the news of how a noble army captain was lynched to death by some locals. It wasn’t the first time this has happened but this story touched every heart that heard it because, for the first time, most of us got to see the agonizing video of how a helpless man was hit over and over again by his own countrymen.
I assumed that after the incident we were all remorseful and that people would have a change of heart, choosing not administer instant justice to anyone accused of a crime; but I was wrong. Just twenty four hours later, there was another story of a young man lynched in another city for allegedly stealing a phone. Then another story broke out of an old woman who was lynched because she was thought to be a witch. The latest is that of a 55-year old man who was also beaten to a pulp for allegedly stealing money from the woman who runs a pub, a place he frequented.
I hear all these stories and I wonder what went wrong. Why do people assume that the one who cries “thief” is always right and decide to take the law into their own hands by beating people to death? What happens during those attacks, when one’s pleas for mercy goes unheard and they are beaten until blood spills and breathing ceases?
Meanwhile the ‘big’ people in high offices embezzle huge amounts of state money and they get to walk scot-free, they’re even revered by the same laymen who would beat someone for stealing one Ghana cedi. How is that equality? Why are some entitled to have their case heard and others are not?
I can’t help but shudder when walking on the streets these days. I ask myself, so this guy who smiled at me when I greeted, would he turn on me and kill me if someone was to point a finger at me and call me thief? Are we all in danger? How can we be safe from such an enemy who we can’t see until it’s too late? Who would listen to us if we were accused of something?
Maybe it’s out of frustration towards our law enforcement system that people resort to such cruelty. A criminal is caught red-handed and is released after a short while over a “lack of evidence”. He comes back to harass people the more and, as such, others have made up their minds to put a stop to them once and for all. Even if he did something horrible, it is not up to us to take their lives away.
Let’s respect life and treat each other with dignity, even if they falter.
If there’s one thing I’ve realized to my utter dismay, it’s that we all have it in us to hurt each other if given the opportunity. I was shocked to hear educated people who should rather choose the rule of law, demand that the fate of the poor soldier be visited on the locals. If only we could tame that wild side of us and see each other as we see ourselves, human and worthy to be given a fair hearing, our society would feel safe for us to live in.