To Be Fair
Tommy brings a bright blue ball to the playground and shows it to his friend Timmy. Timmy’s small little eyes dart fast towards the illuminated blue sphere. Timmy feels a bit of envy and wants to trade his dinky little red ball for the Tommy’s blue ball. Tommy flaunts his blue ball up high as if he was hoisting up a lamb he just hunted and killed.
Timmy feels even more inferior and asks if he can hold the blue ball. Tommy takes a moment of pause and then consents to have Timmy hold the blue ball. Tommy quickly drops his red hot as if it was a hot coal and grabs the ball out of Tommy’s hand. Tommy’s eye brows shoot up and his mouth makes a perplexed half grimace. Timmy is enamored with the glorious integrity that the ball emanates. After a few seconds, Tommy quickly grabs the blue ball and hands it to cute little Susan to his left. She is as "equally" enamored with the ball. Timmy gets flustered with the fact that Susan is having way more time with the ball than he did. Timmy shouts, “ Hey that’s not fair! She had it longer than I did!” Tommy glares at Timmy and simply shrugs his shoulders. Tommy obviously favored Susan and this angered Timmy.
Timmy begins to go on a rant on how it is simply not fair that Susan has more ball privileges that him. He crosses his arms and threatens to tell his parents that what he is doing is not right. Tommy begins to get uncomfortable and gently takes the ball away from Susan. Tommy takes Susan by the left hand and they both back away quickly and head towards the opposite side of the playground. Timmy remains silent with his arms crossed and frowns his brow as he sees them walk away. He looks down to see his red ball and kicks it towards the monkey bars.
Since we were kids, we were taught and encouraged to share and that fairness was a virtue for social interactions and the culture we lived in. This was a fine and dandy in theory, but what good has it done for us? We may feel bouts of envy and jealousy and think that by leveling the playing field towards something more “fair” will be an advantage for everyone.
In an ideal world, everyone would have the compassion and altruistic tendencies to share what they have equally or to even give more of what they already have. I understand that you get what you give, but that concept sometimes gets pushed aside and forgotten when implemented into the real world. Deep down we want things to be “fair”, because we want to avoid conflict and we want what is best for the most part of the people we choose to “get along” with. Are we setting high and unrealistic expectations?
Is there an evolutionary advantage for trying to make things fair and equal across the scope of humanity? People are inherently tribal and we have fallen for Us Vs. Them tendencies in the past to protect in group preferences, but has the idea of “fairness” evolved with the human species? If so, what would be the benefit of trying to manifest this imagined concept of fairness?
Was it fair for Susan to have more time with the glorious blue ball? Certainly, Tommy brought the ball and it was implied that it was his property from what we know. He may have not purchased it out of the fruits of his own labor, but if it was given as a gift specifically for him from a friend or family member, then most of us can agree that the blue ball belonged to Tommy. With that in mind, Tommy could have a say with what he wanted to do with his property. If Tommy refused to let Timmy hold or play with the blue ball, would that make him a bad or non-cooperative person? Would the withholding of the ball from Timmy reflect the values or lack there of of Tommy? Tommy could have certain insecurities or protections over the ball he owns. If Tommy thinks that his property may lose value or be damaged, he has every reason to not let someone hold it. Should we cast judgment over Tommy’s property choices when we don’t fully understand his relationship and history to the object he owns?
We are taught that “Sharing is Caring.” In a way, this little platitude holds some weight and truth. However, Sharing is Caring and Sharing should be Mandatory are two different types of concepts. One “should” be encouraged to share if it provides value for them. If it will bring value to share something that is owned, whether the value brings good intent, happiness or even financial gain, then sharing is a net gain for everyone involved. If for some reason a person doesn’t want to share, should we be so quick to write them off as people of selfish tendencies and low virtue? A person may favor sharing sometime with a person they trust more or favor. Is there anything wrong with this?
How does sharing relate to fairness? Certainly, if someone would discriminate how they share their goods with people, does that make it unfair for people that want to partake but can’t? Would it be fair to say that there will always be a great deal of unfairness? The very nature of sharing implies that not everyone would be able to partake in the sharing does it not? Sharing is certainly restricted to limited resources and the allocation of what is available to share.
How is fairness decided?
We must take into the account the vast spectrum of advantages and disadvantages people have in relationship with each other. When we think of what should be “fair”, we are coming from a fragmented point of view constricted to our own sense of ideals. People can discuss and arrive to a consensus of what is fair, but there will always be some type of conflict because of people’s varying ideological constructs. What one person sees as unfair, may be fair to the other person depending on the context. Many businesses and organizations operate under tenets of fairness in order to keep things in order and without conflict. This is a good thing, but there will always be a sense of “unfairness” if you look at it from a mindset built from a sense of lack and grievance.
An employer may implement rules that apply to all employees in order to show that all consequences will be the same for whoever breaks them. Is this fair? Would it be more unfair if a person within that company with a higher pay rate and status got different and less severe punishments and/or consequences? Should this supposed fairness take into the account the opinions of all who reject it or only be amended and mandated by the ones who are able to enforce their own set of rules and policies?
Fairness is built on division. You can only see something as fair or unfair by comparing with what the situation is at play. Since fairness is based on division, there will always be fragmentation and conflict. There can be no communion, consensus or relationship when there is so much division and conflict especially when it deals with illusory and imagined concepts like fairness. A person that sees a certain situation as unfair, will try to make a means to finding a solution to something more fair. When a person comes from a point of view of lacking something, they are not entirely seeing the what is of the situation. The need for dissolving unfairness means taking away something from the more “fair” and advantaged. Therefore, the party that is seen as oppressively “unfair” will have something taken away from them in order to even out to a status of trite fairness. If the person that was seen as being unfair does not cooperate, then the conflict intensifies. This is where the concept of fairness can be so problematic and subjective.
Can using a false dichotomy of what is fair and unfair lead to a destructive and distorted perception of the immense futility of what is?
Can there be truly objective fairness?
Fairness and Cheating
When someone cheats or doesn’t follow the rules to a certain situation or game, then someone might see that as being unfair. In a way it is unfair, but it more aligns with a violation of a code of conduct or some type of morality. We can all agree that cheating is wrong in this sense and that is creates a sense of wrongness in a certain scenario. For me, it is hard to see cheating as a sense of unfairness since it involves someone blatantly going outside the framework of what was agree upon to take advantage of the people or person involved. Consequently, this concept of unfairness or fairness is absolved since cheating is more of a moral breach of contract.
Fairness and Authority
Can someone have a specific authority to determine what is fair? If an employer thinks that a certain pay rate is fair for newcomers as compared to people that have worked for him for awhile, does that mean that that is fair even in the pay gap is quite big? If the employer chooses to limit raises to a few group of solid workers and not distribute funds “equally” through the organization, does that make it unfair? Some things to ponder.
When we strive for "fairness" across the board, we are wanting to level the playing field so that we can feel more secure with what we have compared with others. After all, it is moral to go by the golden rule and treat everyone the way we want to be treated and respect the boundaries and differences of other people. If you were unaware of the pay raise that your friend got for showing up a little early each day or if your coworker got a much bigger raise than you, would you even need to bring up the subject of fairness. Like said above, in order to construct this concept of fairness in your head, you have to be able to compare and contrast two different or similar things. We can disagree and agree with people’s ideas of fairness all we want and we may come to some hearty conclusions, but when we are at odds than our subjective views on fairness divide us even further from consensus and compassion.
What makes a fair punishment?
What makes for a fair set of rules?
Would rules and codes of conduct be seen as fair if everyone consents ( tacitly or explicitly) to them?
We can only operate under what is .
The laws of science and physics.
In the realm of the possible and the impossible.
In the realm of the seen and the unseen.
We do not all start from the same point. Some people with have special talents for things that we strive to get better at. It might take them way less time to learn something. Should we be angry at them for having a specific advantage over us? Should we put them down or place restrictions on them for their “gifts”? Should we try to enforce our will on people that we think are greedy or rich so that they can “share” some of their wealth? Is there a point where we can see fairness as a moral objective even if it doesn’t benefit everyone in the end?
Some of us make take the concept of fairness from a “morally superior” type of mindset. We may feel that by taking something from someone else, even though we have no business taking from them in the first place, is the moral and “right” thing to do. We may consciously or unconsciously try to guilt or shame someone that we feel is being unfair with their conduct, property or earnings. We may call them names or even puff up our chest and explain how that by leveling things to a sense of “fairness” is the path to a greater and more justified “good”. Do we really have any power to try to make things fair through force, intimidation or coercion? Can this concept of fairness be turned into a totalitarian and destructive ideology?
Fairness and Reaction
When you imagine the concept of fairness, how does it make you feel?
When you see something as unfair or you feel that you are being treated unfairly, how do you react? Is the reaction more emotional than rational? Is is more visceral than concrete? When we can truly observe what are reaction to what we “think” is “unfair, than we can start to understand the relationship it has with ourselves and people we surround ourselves with.
So when we can step outside from this illusory spectrum of “fairness”, we can observe and understand why we have tried to make things fair in the first place. Does it come from a center of rationality or emotion? Does it make you feel contempt towards the people you felt were unfair? Are we simply ignoring the contexts for these scenarios that we saw as unfair? Can we simply look at each contextual landscape without placing our subjective and deeply personal world view onto it?
Are we coming from a place of resentment, jealousy and anger?
Are we coming from a place of vulnerability and compassion?
( In relation to “Fairness” )
To be fair, do we really know what’s fair?