Life is not Fair

Life is Not Fair

Life is Not Fair

Humans have a strong sense of fair­ness. To be fair is to be in bal­ance with one’s fel­low humans. Like any met­ric involv­ing humans, how­ev­er, fair­ness suf­fers from hav­ing too much just as much as hav­ing too lit­tle.

To lit­tle real fair­ness exists in the world at large. Protests, vio­lence, injury and death mark the chasm between black and white, rich and poor, man and wom­an, priv­i­leged and com­mon. It can accu­rate­ly be said that life, tak­en in aggre­gate, is more unfair now than at any time in human his­to­ry.

But this arti­cle aims to talk about the issue of too much fair­ness or being fair when it is uncalled-for.  This is the point where peo­ple look at their fel­low human and want to take an action to make things incre­men­tal­ly more fair between them.  Said this way, it seems like med­dling.

In defense of my the­sis, I’m not writ­ing about a protest to change a company’s poli­cies towards groups of peo­ple.  We must protest for fair­ness among large groups of peo­ple.  It is fun­da­men­tal to our health as a soci­ety that we con­tin­ue to cor­rect the­se issues.  Rather I’m con­sid­er­ing the urge, in humans, to change sin­gu­lar oth­er humans’ behav­ior.

All Men are not Equal

Are all humans cre­at­ed equal?  In respon­se to that ques­tion, I’d say it’s too broad and in fair­ness, too vague.  One could affirm that peo­ple are “equal” when one is talk­ing about oppor­tu­ni­ty or fran­chise or basic rights; but “equal­ly” one could reject “equal” on the grounds that peo­ple are not intrin­si­cal­ly the same.  This is not the place to argue nur­ture ver­sus nature, but regard­less of the source I posit that peo­ple begin life equal in some basic and fun­da­men­tal areas, dif­fer­ent in oth­ers and are only like­ly to grow more dif­fer­ent over time.

If the read­er is still hold­ing onto a mis­guid­ed notion, con­sid­er how utter­ly mun­dane and bor­ing a world com­posed of one per­son copy-past­ed how­ev­er many bil­lion times across the globe; nei­ther would they be hap­py nor would they be hap­py with each oth­er.  The joy in the world  is the pro­duct of the opti­mistic sum of our dif­fer­ences.

Cer­tain types of peo­ple can live with them­selves as spous­es and part­ners, but more often then not, the fabled “oppo­sites attract.”  While from out­side,  large groups orga­nize on sim­i­lar traits (skin colour, occu­pa­tion, the­o­ry of life or hap­pi­ness); from with­in, the­se groups tend to bond and peo­ple spe­cial­ize with their dif­fer­ences.  In terms of part­ners (life, busi­ness, or oth­er­wise), the trope “oppo­sites attract” exists because com­ple­men­tary pair­ings are stronger than sim­i­lar pair­ing.

The truth of the mat­ter is that peo­ple don’t wish to be equal.  In so far as 50% of peo­ple live below the mean (for what­ev­er mean you choose), 50% of them can espouse the idea that fair­ness would be bet­ter for them and the oth­er 50% of them can agree that, while their priv­i­lege would be reduced, 50% would be bet­ter off.  This is to mis­con­strue the goal of either group.  Indi­vid­u­al­ly, peo­ple want to bet­ter them­selves.  As a group, they can bor­row from many philoso­phies only some of which will bet­ter any of the group.  By def­i­n­i­tion, then, some can achieve “bet­ter” by equal­i­ty, but nev­er all.  By reduc­tion, equal­i­ty is a sta­sis where peo­ple are unhap­py.

My Brush with Equality and Fairness

This post was spurred on by two things hap­pen­ing: one to me and one in the news.  My own per­son­al brush with equal­i­ty serves to intro­duce the prob­lem: Some­one com­plain­ing about my roof.

Re-shin­gling your roof is expen­sive.  Not buy­ing a new car expen­sive, but con­sid­er­ing what I dri­ve, the roof is eas­i­ly worth two cars that are “new to me.”  I have known for some time that the roof is need­ing doing and the prob­lem has become increas­ing­ly more dire.  This is a prob­lem I share with my wife and we wor­ry about it.

How­ev­er, some time ear­ly this spring, a neigh­bour choose to com­plain about my roof to the city.  It turns out that, just like my lawn, the city has an inter­est in my roof — if only some­one would com­plain.  If nobody com­plains, as far as I can tell, things could go to heck in a hand bas­ket and only I (and my wife) are poten­tial­ly sad.

This, I believe, is the result of a mis­guid­ed attempt at fair­ness.  Ours is a new sub­di­vi­sion, so everyone’s roof has required new shin­gles at rough­ly the same time.  I frankly assume that it is as oner­ous a propo­si­tion to most of my neigh­bours as it is to me.  Just as frankly, and for rea­sons I won’t describe here, I haven’t yet been able to find the mon­ey to re-shin­gle my roof.

But since every­one has had this expense, one could con­strue it was unfair that I haven’t yet re-shin­gled my roof.  One could; but unfair to whom?  The city only seems to care that shin­gles are not loose (if hous­es were two or three times closer togeth­er, I could buy this argu­ment, but with at least 10 yards between my house and the near­est any­one but the paper­boy should come to my house, I reject it.

Sophie Trudeau

Sophie Trudeau and Michelle Obama at Canadian State Dinner

Sophie Trudeau and Michelle Oba­ma at a Cana­di­an State Din­ner

My own brush with fair­ness is some­what weak and I would not have writ­ten this arti­cle on the basis of it alone.  Indeed, that was over a mon­th ago.  How­ev­er, an arti­cle popped up in the news this week regard­ing cloth­ing worn by Sophie Trudeau to pub­lic func­tions.

First­ly, both wom­en look gor­geous and both are wear­ing dress­es that hon­our design­ers with links to Canada.  I’m not “in” fash­ion, but my own read­ing of the press gives kudos for both choic­es.

The “com­plaint” from some quar­ters is that Sophie should have to pay for her haute cou­ture.  When count­ed with the fact that some dress­es and gowns have only been worn once, have pub­licly shown the Cana­di­an designer’s work, and have been returned, the com­plaint is then that she should have paid some rental fee.

I get that there are rules for this sort of thing and I get why there are rules, but in this case, all the rules are fol­lowed.  I would say plain­ly that Sophie Trudeau is not equal to those who com­plain and, indeed, as the Prime Minister’s wife gets spe­cial treat­ment.  Her actions also con­fer spe­cial treat­ment back to those Cana­di­an design­ers.  I could con­sid­er a com­plaint by which some design­ers feel neglect­ed, but this has not been voiced.

It strikes me that it is hard enough find­ing peo­ple will­ing to be Prime Min­is­ter.  Even if the rules we have for this sort of thing are imper­fect, it is unrea­son­able to expect peo­ple in this posi­tion to not derive and plea­sure or perk from it, when offered gen­uine­ly.

Being Fair

It is human nature to appre­ci­ate being fair.  It is also human nature to appre­ci­ate being spe­cial.  Note that the nat­u­ral way to describe this sit­u­a­tion is that fair­ness is some­thing that applies to some­one else while spe­cial applies to one­self.  This is just one of the inher­ent stress­es of being human.  It is like­ly one of the rea­sons pol­i­tics is so dif­fi­cult.

The sin­cere truth of the mat­ter is that everyone’s sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent.  The cost of wear­ing clothes rep­re­sent­ing Canada’s fash­ion indus­try is like­ly beyond a Prime Minister’s salary.  Con­sid­er that a CEO of a cor­po­ra­tion of this size would make many, many times what we pay our Prime Min­is­ter.  Sim­i­lar­ly, my own sit­u­a­tion with regard to my roof is my own.  If you stopped to talk with me, I might bend your ear about it, but I might just as well talk about some­thing more inter­est­ing.

Being fair is not always (often?) right.

 

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One Response to Life is not Fair

  1. Sreedhar says:

    I real­ly appre­ci­ate you as you took so much time in writ­ing on such a good top­ic. Yes Life is not fair at all. I wish that every­one be hap­py and enjoy a lot.

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