Posted by: Isaac Bruce | May 31, 2011

People Versus Systems

Casting our minds back some few months ago, a female thief arrested by student mob at the University of Ghana was the news on the air waves, television and the internet. The video (captured by student’s phones and camera’s) of this incident were posted on social media sites and other platforms showing the brutal abuse meted unto the young woman by the angry student mob. The news of this incident spread fast to all other campuses, media houses and even outside the shores of Ghana. I remember the debate on campus was intense and passionate among students and faculty.

It has been more than two months or so now that this incident occurred, and that is the main reason I am writing on it now. It has also given me enough time to personally ponder over this issue and sample the views of others. Note that, this is not to prove the action of the young woman on the night of her arrest but to probe into the underlying reasoning of the angry mob. So all this time has passed, but as a society can this same incident or worse human injustice happen yet again? From my discussion with other people on this matter, many believe education has no bearing on how an individual will react to such a situation and even those who believed, think education does have a bearing with their intention and not the outcome. For one thing that education gives is that, it places you in a better place to make decisions that positively affect you and others.

My basis for this argument is that, it does not make sense to me why the mere accusation of personal theft will incite full mob action but the blatant public theft and corruption doesn’t do the same. Therefore, I decided to find out the underlying motivation for some of these unacceptable actions, so that as a society we will be aware of ourselves and way of thinking. It was interesting to find out that most people think along the same lines but there is a problem when it came to implementing it. This reminds me of a lecturer’s comment that one thing I find interesting here is that, even if we all agree that telling lies is bad, there will still be a problem when comes to implementing the punishment₺.

A further probe revealed that we tend to be mesmerized and feel we don’t have the power to protest non-violently against someone who commits any form of human injustice at the high level (e.g abusing rights of the poor, siphoning public funds, etc.). So there is a general fear of harassment and worst of all imprisonment under harsh conditions by top officials in such situations. Thus, there is a disbelief in the authorities to make the right decisions and we prefer to take them on our own. Though this example might be limited to Ghana, the underlying concept might be the same.

It is easier for me to act naïve as if my personal reaction will be exactly different from these guys. However, as an individual I trust myself that I will make the right decisions for myself and others. But the main point is that if we have the courage to incite mob action against personal theft and injustice, we should be able to do the same to top officials or anyone in high office. That way, we will be able to create a more civil and just society.

Therefore the principal thing we have to do is to create a trustworthy justice and tracking system, so Amina (criminal in question) and the Kwashee boys (thieves on motorbikes) will face the full rudiments of the law. Otherwise, with reference to Dr. Mohsin Ahmed,  If you don’t have a working justice system, you will just end up ignoring big crimes and be happy with punishing small people who steal cell phones, leading to a satisfied mob and a poor country.


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