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The Tragedy of State Violence: Kantian Reflections on Government Responsibility – Mahfuz Mundadu

Once again, and again, and again, we are sadly awakened to the rude shock of a state violence that echoes across the Nigerian nation, stirring the conscience of those who dare to remain proudly human and unapologetically humane. Drawing inspiration from the profound insights of Immanuel Kant, the philosopher of moral duty and human rights, we confront the tragic reality of a government failing in its fundamental obligation to protect their citizens’ lives.
In the context of political philosophy, the protection of citizens’ lives stands as a foundational duty of any government subscribing to the principles of justice and social contract. Immanuel Kant, the renowned German philosopher of the Enlightenment era, posited that the state exists to uphold the rights and dignity of its citizens, with the paramount obligation being the preservation of life. Similarly, John Stuart Mill, the celebrated advocate of individual liberty and utilitarianism, emphasized the importance of government intervention to prevent harm and ensure the greatest good for the greatest number.
Naturally, citizens do look to their elected representatives with the hope that their fundamental rights, including the right to life, will be safeguarded with unwavering commitment. However, recent events have thrust this tragedy into the spotlight one more time, as peaceful protests in Kaduna and Zaria city were met with brute force and lethal repression. On that fateful Quds day, citizens, emboldened by the spirit of freedom, took to the streets to demand accountability and justice for the Palestinians, only to be met with the cold steel of oppression. With this, the very essence of governance was and still is being called into question, as the machinery of the state turns against those it has/was sworn to serve.
For Kant, the moral imperative to protect human life is paramount, transcending the bounds and boundaries of politics and power. Governments derive their legitimacy from their ability to safeguard the rights and freedoms of their citizens, and any deviation from this sacred duty constitutes a betrayal of the social contract. In the face of state violence, Kant’s categorical imperative resounds with revolutionary fervour, demanding a principled stand against tyranny and oppression.
Moreover, Mill’s utilitarian framework underscores the detrimental consequences of state-sponsored violence on societal harmony and collective well-being. By sacrificing the lives of peaceful protesters in its mad quest to stand and be counted amongst the hunting dogs of the criminal enterprise of Zionism, the government perpetuates a cycle of fear and distrust that corrodes the foundations of democracy. The principle of utility, which advocates for actions that maximize happiness and minimize suffering, dictates that the arbitrary use of force against citizens engenders greater harm than any perceived benefit derived from quelling peaceful dissent.
As citizens grapple with the disillusionment brought about by the betrayal of their trust, the legacy of Franz Fanon, the pioneering thinker on colonialism and liberation struggles, looms large. Fanon’s critique of systemic oppression and the psychological effect of subjugation resonates deeply in societies where the promise of freedom and justice remains elusive. In his seminal work, “The Wretched of the Earth,” Fanon speaks to the inherent violence of colonial domination and the imperative of collective resistance against tyranny.
The constitutional responsibilities of government in protecting the lives of law-abiding citizens cannot be overstated. This tragedy underscores the urgent need for accountability, transparency, and a reaffirmation of democratic values. As citizens demand justice for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators, they evoke the spirit of Fanon, who reminds us that the struggle for liberation is perpetual, and that true emancipation necessitates the courage to confront injustice and envision a future grounded in dignity and equality.
To confront the tragedy of state violence through a Kantian lens is to embrace the spirit of moral courage and collective action. It is a call to action for all who cherish justice and liberty, to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and to challenge the abuses of power that threaten the fabric of society. Kant reminds us that we are not mere subjects of the state, but autonomous agents endowed with reason and conscience, capable of shaping our collective destiny.
Let us dare to imagine a world where state violence is but a distant memory, and where the principles of liberty, equality, and justice reign supreme. This is the vision that animates our struggle, and it is only through our collective efforts that we can make it a reality. As we bear witness to the suffering inflicted by state violence, we must heed the call to action embodied in Kant’s philosophy. Let us not be content to mourn the victims or lament the injustices of the world but let us rise up with the courage of our convictions and demand a better future for all. The tragedy of state violence can only be overcome through a revolution of the mind and spirit, where the principles of justice and humanity prevail over the forces of oppression and tyranny.

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