I seem to be suffering from a philosophical breach between the correlation of the concepts of equality, fairness, and justice.
Equality, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.”
Likewise, fairness is defined as, “Treatment of people equally without favoritism or discrimination.”
And justice is defined as, “The quality of being fair and reasonable.”
It has always been my belief that these three ideas are interchangeable and, indeed, their very definitions weave the three words between themselves. The concept of heads and tails played out in words.
Ah, but life, they say, isn’t fair. In fact, William Goodman even went so far as to say that, “Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” I can think of nothing so completely inaccurate! Is there anything fairer than death? Is not death the greatest equalizer of all? Jim Morrison may have said it best when he said, “No one here gets out alive.”
But does that mean that life must be unfair? Our parents teach us to be fair to our siblings. Our teachers urge us to be fair to our classmates. The concept of sports is based on the rules of fairness. But as adults, we see fairness fade into a utopian panacea of equality we strive for but which few believe can be achieved which is itself then distilled into the feeble concept of justice we settle for and call law? Fairness is bastardized into law and laws are created by a political system that few trust. So then the answer is yes, life is unfair, unequal and unjust.
And so far, we have only touched on that which man can control. Nature is even less concerned with fairness. Here, biology, astronomy and the rest of the sciences are even less concerned with fairness and more concerned with physics and laws which pay no mind to humans or human suffering. The mechanisms of cancer in the human body, despite our best efforts, still march to orders little understood by medicine and unconcerned by fairness, wishes, or prayer. Cosmic gasses coalesce according to galactic influence, forming stars which burn, explode, collapse and die – again, all without concern for mankind’s wishes or prayers.
Ultimately, do we do our children a disservice when we tell them to treat each other fairly? Are we setting them up to become fodder for those less concerned with equality; leaving them to the sieve we call law, knowing too it is manipulated by the same usurpers who discard equality for their own benefit? And if so, what happens to society?
Governments, economies, races, religions or sexes, whenever we try to label an entire group we get into trouble. The United States is not a democracy; it is a constitutional republic on paper (with oligarchic underpinnings). There is no such thing as a purely socialist economy just as there is no such thing as a purely capitalist economy. A purely socialist economy will always fail because individual people are greedy. A capitalistic economy will only survive if it convinces the masses that they are all capitalists and not simply feeding the greediest at the top. And so labeling situations as purely fair or unfair for our children sets the expectation that, as adults, neutrality is the norm and justice is equality. Perhaps we are better off calling it what it is: building the flock.
We all want our children to succeed, but by engraining fairness into their moral and ethical DNA we are setting them up for economic failure, casting them out into the sea as chum for those sharks concerned with neither equality nor justice; acquiescing to our “better angels,” knowing that our children will be less “successful” but people we can call fair, equal and just.
And so they too will question the definitions of fairness, equality and justice as they struggle through life, seeing those less just than themselves achieve more than they and those more deserving struggle with less, as disease and misfortune picks off their beloved without warning or justification and the bigoted and ignorant thrive. The circle of an unfair life. But you can’t take it with you.