Let’s Start Playing Fair

Throughout my life of learning, I've come across a lot of concepts that apply to today's politics and unrest, both in the US and the world. One of the biggest (in addition and in relation to empathy, which has also recently caught my interest) is the concept of "fairness".

When voters choose their political representatives these days, they seem responding to a bothersome feeling that the economy was to being "fair" to them. They didn't have the jobs they needed, or the healthcare they needed, or the respect they deserved. And they responded to any politician with the "right" message, the message that promised them a world that would be more fair to them.

It wasn't / isn't fair that CEOs get paid 1000x the salary of the lowest paid workers. Or that the wealthiest Americans pay a lower percentage of tax than the poorest. Or that Congress has access to high-quality lifetime health care when the average citizen does not. Or that after years of paying into Social Security, there is talk of changing or gutting the program.

There has been a failure of fairness between the haves and the have nots, a classic tale. In that story, the haves are taking advantage of the have nots in ways that prevent their life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. That's what we the people rail against, the unfairness of something who "has everything" getting even more at the expense of the people who "have nothing" (or at least, much, much less).

I come from a family that always "had a bit set aside". We weren't rich exactly, and we weren't poor. But we went through some tough times, when it was a little bit of a tight stretch to pay the bills. As an adult, I've also had some scary times when, even though I too keep a little set aside, I wondered how long there was going to be enough to keep my life afloat. So I have a small understanding of the desperation of those who aren't sure how to get ahead when the deck seems to be stacked against them.

Think of it this way: It's like those in power have a brand-new clean deck of Bicycle cards, and those without power have a old, dirty, dog-earned deck where some of the cards are missing, mostly kings (power) and aces (flexibility). You try to play poker together, but realize the disadvantage. "Let's BOTH use your deck," you suggest, but the people in power keep saying, "no, it's better if we each just use our OWN cards."

There is a flip side to fairness too. Sometimes, the have-nots start to talk about a complete leveling of the playing field. Everyone gets the same stuff, the same access, the same privileges. That somehow that make everything "fair".

Here's my take… It's fair that the owner of a business makes more money than the workers. It's fair that people with more education or knowledge (and I'm including the school of life here, not just formal education) get a greater opportunity to speak up. It's fair that those who take on more responsibility have gr after privileges than those who merely coast. It's fair that dangerous or strenuous jobs pay more than office work. It's fair that people who get engaged in their community have more of a say in policies than those who simply complain at home.

In my simple view, it's fair that "as you give, then shall you receive." The more you put in, the more you should be able to take out. By "more", I mean that if you volunteer at the soup kitchen, you should get an extra helping of bread. If you start a business, you should get to make a profit. If you lead a good life and help others, you should be first in line for help if you ever need it. And if you just spend your lifetime sitting on your couch or on your stoop or at your dead-end job, complaining angrily about how others have more than you do, taking no action to change or improve your own life, but only saying, "where's MY share?"… well, to me, it's perfectly fair that you are last in line.

Fairness isn't rocket science. Most of us know it when we see it. We recognize fairness even when we are on the short end of the equation. Giving in to fairness is a mark of good character. Grasping at privileges you don't fairly deserve indicates a lack of integrity that marks the worst failure of character, of humanness.

It's remarkable how easy it is to know the "fair solution," but equally remarkable is how hard those solutions are to achieve.

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