In the modern world there are two cardinal truths to which all people adhere: these truths are wealth and poverty. Every nation’s power and influence is determined by the resources and capital at its disposal. The so-called third world is a way of classifying those countries on the bottom run of the global ladder while the first world powers are those nations that have true sway over the global structure. These classifications, however, are dated back to the Cold War (a war that is now over) and are obsolete. It is much more accurate to think of them as being core nations and peripheral nations. Core nations, as their name suggests, are at the core of commerce within a region and is the venue through which the majority of action takes place. Kolvenbach writes,
The former ‘Second World’ struggles to repair the human and environmental damage left behind by so-called socialist regimes. Industries are re-locating to poorer nations, not to distribute wealth and opportunity, but to exploit the relative advantage of low wages and lax environmental regulations. Many countries become yet poorer, especially where corruption and exploitation prevail over civil society and where violent conflict keeps erupting. (31)
The peripheral countries, as their name suggests, are on the periphery of these core countries and, as such, are largely dependent on them for their functionality. These periphery countries are often the places where the core countries import their goods from as well as a variety of other services.
Africa is a peripheral nation with England being in its immediate periphery. We observed the ways in which the African nation became subservient to the British crown and the effects that the supposed first-world has on the latter third-world. Achebe’s Okonkwo was a character devoted to his motherland and, as a result of his extreme devotion, he found himself opposed to the oppressive influence of the crown. Okonkwo perceived this influence as being a threat to his traditional way of life and desired to preserve his culture in the face of impending modernity. This is the central conflict of the peripheral nation insofar as it is in the nation’s best interest to emulate the core powers of the world but, in doing so, they sacrifice their old culture to make way for a newer one. Try as they might, though, there can only be so many core powers in the world and they require a supporting cast of peripheral powers to support this global infrastructure.
So how does justice fit into all of this? Why is poverty so often correlated with injustice if poverty is a basic component of our world structure? For there to be rich folk there must also be poor folk. In order to understand the pursuit of justice, it is best to observe the pursuers of justice. Today’s readings started with Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, in which letter King calls for an awareness of the injustices plaguing American society. King famously states here that Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and thus puts justice on the universal scale. Throughout his letter he harks to certain universal truths, the most important being freedom. He writes,
Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he can gain it… and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense of cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. (MLK 4)
As Martin Luther King suggests here, justice (in any sense, not just in the racial) is something that all men strive for. It is deserved among every person and the achievement of such justice is integral in the advancement of our global society.