“It’s not fair!” These words are often heard in a household of children where there is competition between the siblings. I hear it every day. “I couldn’t run as fast because my shoes were coming off.”, or “I didn’t know we were supposed to do that. I couldn’t hear you.” Interestingly enough these words are heard from the lips of adults anywhere find the situation is unfavorable to the one declaring their injustice. “It’s not fair, I had seniority and he got the pay raise.” “If I had money for plastic surgery, I could look like that too!” It seems that “unfairness” is an epidemic found in all classes of society, on every continent, in every age of life for more reasons than I could list.
Why do we want things to be fair? Why does it matter that she got picked for Prom Queen instead of me, or that He made his way in business cheating insurance companies, and you remained honest but are struggling financially? What is it within us that wants justice, fairness, and equity? And don’t tell me that you have anesthetized yourself from the pain of unfairness by believing that life is meaningless, because you just don’t mean that.
Through the looking-glass of Facebook, I am often bemused by the postings of friends in a given day. One particular day, a friend of mine ranted on the ridiculous cost of health care and stated that his solution was to steal from hospitals and burn down emergency clinics. Those statements were followed by some anthem about it being his “American Right and Freedom” to do so. It was maybe a week later that the same friend ranted in sheer anger at the company he had contracted work with because their check to him bounced! He couldn’t believe that the State in which he lived would allow such an outrage. It’s funny how a “Right or Freedom” can quickly become a vice for evil when it is applied to us. If we are the only standard of good and evil, fair is only fair when it serves our purposes.
What about “Survival of the Fittest”? Fairness is not a tenant of that philosophy. Neither is care, compassion, justice, mercy, love, committment, or restoration. We teach the “Natural Selection” adages to our children in the schools and then become frustrated when they cheat on tests, pick on and bully younger students, and refuse to obey.
“Life isn’t fair.” My mama told me that, and I tell my kids that, but I don’t say it as a cop-out for bad behavior nor as an all-inclusive answer for the state of our world, but it is the working reality. Somehow built within the fabric of all of us is the sense that the world just isn’t quite right. That somehow it was meant to be better and that people were made to be fair and just to one another, and something has just messed it up. You can witness this “sense” when you watch an ordinary person risk their life for someone else without flinching at the cost. You feel it in your gut when you hear the stories in the news about the father that came home from work and systematically shot and killed each member of his family before turning the gun on himself. We just can’t escape the “sense”, the gnawing, the churning and the dissatisfaction with injustice.
So tell me, what is it? Where did it come from? Why is it found in everyone everywhere?
The need for fairness and justice compels us to set up governments and law enforcement. We elect judges and magistrates of all kinds. We train lawyers, and hire detectives. We build hospitals and fund causes. We pay to make public service announcements, and we send our sons and daughters off to war. Have you ever thought about it?
I will follow up on this blog later, but I would love to hear your thoughts.