“Whatever’s fair” is a common phrase used by folks who are trying to apportion something of value. Fairness is abstract, not concrete. It’s all in the minds of the participants. I can recall trading a silver dollar for a cheap plastic bauble when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My parents were mortified, but at the time I thought the transaction was “fair.” Today…. I have a different view. Fairness is always a matter of perspective. The privileged child, for example, will complain of unfairness when asked to share her or his toys with visiting children. In today’s American culture fairness has come to represent a difficult-to-define form of entitlement.
Another old bromide states “life isn’t fair.” And that’s the truth. Sometimes despite our best efforts and agonizing persistence, things just don’t work out. On the other hand each of us has benefited from some serendipitous occurrence that has brightened our day or lifted our spirits. Life is not fair and certainly not predictable. Those who expect perfect equity in life are doomed to a lifetime of gross disappointment. So…..why is so much government power and government force dedicated to the illusionary concept of fairness? It seems as if whenever our federal government roams beyond its constitutional obligations, it becomes entangled in impossible pie-in-the-sky ventures.
Eliminate poverty? It does have a certain moral ring to it, but “poverty” is relative. If you have a dollar, and I possess ten of them, you are poorer than I am. On the flip side if you have $50 million, and I struggle along with $5 million, I am poorer than you. For more than 45 years the United States government has waged a war on poverty. Yet the percentage of those at the bottom of our economic scale has hovered near 20% for the entire half century. Progressives cry that it’s “unfair” that so many Americans are immersed in such dire circumstances. Yet study after report has indicated that all of our income quintiles (20% portions) are quite mobile. People move out poverty, and others drop in. Maybe the lefties should heed the words of the Lord: Matthew 26:11 reminds us that there are always people who are poor. Government has proven that it is incapable of resolving the issue of economic poverty, but it should never be involved with spiritual poverty. Life is not fair, but spiritual strength will overcome many of the barriers and disadvantages of life’s curveballs.
The word “fair” should be limited to a name or description of an event that includes animals, rides and amusements. It should be stricken from our lexicon of social injustice. Fair is not measurable. Fair is not definable. Fair is not achievable. Using fair to describe relative positions is not fair. It has been a given that when an innocent person is wrongly convicted of a crime it is unfair, but in today’s environment even the guilty claim unfairness for a number of extraneous reasons. We are using the ruse of fairness to excuse all kinds of uncivil and anti-social behavior. Lousy childhoods, poverty and AWOL parents are often cited as unfair elements that “cause” people to behave like social deviants. Nearly every person has some obstacle to overcome. Admittedly some have greater barriers than most, but our national narrative is replete with stories about people who have overcome distressing circumstances and thrived. They beat the fairness game. Fairness or its lack thereof cannot be used as a valid alibi for animalistic behavior. Of course the lack of good parenting does have a negative effect on young people, but that’s not unfair…..that’s life. Get over it. Rise above it. Stop complaining about it. Bad neighborhoods, lousy schools and nasty relatives can all be cited as excuses for uncivil or whining behavior. The ultimate truth is that you and I are responsible for our own circumstances. If the obstacles are huge, we must climb higher. If the opposition is numerous, we must fight longer. If we have been denied and deprived, we must struggle harder to overcome our late starts.
It is really not fair to abuse the word “fair” whenever someone hasn’t gotten their own way. Too many people confuse the term fair with equal, but any reasonable person can understand that equal rarely equals fair. Equality means that everyone is treated exactly the same. Won’t those who have “special needs” or “special circumstances” feel deprived if all are treated precisely the same way? So…logically, fairness requires some discernment and subjective evaluations which in turn lead to errors in judgment and misunderstandings. So…why don’t all of us stop playing footsie with the illusive concept of “fair?” It cannot succeed and any effort to promote fairness will result in a disaster of distorted perceptions. Everyone will be frustrated. The self-defined aggrieved parties will believe themselves short changed and unfairly treated while the other members of the society or community will resent the recipients because of their special treatment. It’s a lose-lose proposition, and we should stop chasing the rainbow of fairness. There is no pot of gold at the end…..just a septic tank of misery.