R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT


All’s fair
29.August.2007, 11.07 am
Filed under: life, pop culture, race, work

Been thinking lately about fairness… and have come to the conclusion that Americans (I can’t overgeneralize outside our nation, since I don’t have too much experience outside it) have a really overstated idea of it.

• A good number of black people are upset over the selection of a Chinese sculptor to fashion a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. As if Chinese-Americans don’t benefit from the civil rights movement.

• A sizable contingent in my own town of Bowling Green think it’s unfair to non-smokers that any business should be allowed to decide for itself whether or not to ban smoking. My libertarian sensibilities are glad that the majority of city commissioners aren’t buying it.

• Examples abound of non-Christians upset over any display of Christianity in the public realm, even if it’s not condoned or endorsed by the state. It’s unfair for a religious person, apparently, to talk about his articles of faith—even though faith by definition is something unprovable and based on opinion.

In my own workplace, similar situations are prevalent right now. First off, we have a now-demoted news editor and now-demoted sports editor. Both were told for years to shape up and made little if any attempt to do so. And both are upset over their loss of position and salary—not, it must be noted, over their loss of responsibilities. Secondly, I’ve sensed growing disdain from a fellow colleague or two over the hours I’ve been working lately. Justin’s not at his desk on Tuesday afternoons! Even though there’s nothing for him to do? Scandalous! The nerve!

And that’s where my own notion of “fairness” differs… namely, I rarely know anyone’s situations at all as closely as I know my own. If those colleague thought for a second, “Well, Justin in fact works 10-hour days two days a week,” and “Well, Justin in fact does the majority of supplemental work,” and “Well, Justin also runs a business,” they might (I emphasize that word) see that they actually have a much better deal than I. Flip the coin and you get the same result: I see all kinds of things, at work and elsewhere, that initially inflame my senses. “Why’s that guy got all this free time, and all this money? Why don’t I have it?” But sooner or later, it dawns on me that I have no idea what that guy’s going through, what he went through, what he will go through… and maybe, just maybe, I’m a lot better off.

That’s an article of faith, I guess. But it’s one I try to hold on to—my life is going great, despite the many difficulties. Because I’m sure it could be worse, and I don’t deserve most of what I have, and I don’t need half of what I want.

Sports and elections should be fair… and “life’s not fair” sounds nice, but it’s built on a flawed premise. Life can’t be judged that way… it’s not a game, and it’s not governed by rules that we made up and can hold others to. No… life is a mystery, or a drama, or a journey. But it’s not fair because it can’t be, wasn’t meant to be, and wouldn’t be much fun if it was.

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