Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Should life be fair?

Asked by ETpro (34552points) June 25th, 2013

Here’s what a snarky commedian had to say about fairness. And truth told we all know life isn’t fair. We know that a whole collection of raving a-holes with no concern for their fellow humans were gouging and cheating their way to fabulous wealth in Tokyo, and what did they get for it? A massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power-plant meltdown wiped out a bunch of poor villagers around Tohoku, 175 miles from Tokyo. It killed almost 16,000 people and left another 2,671 permanently missing and unaccounted for. Meanwhile, the rape-and-pillage set went right on happily pocketing OPM (Other People’s Money), the very best kind of money. We know George Carlin’s largely right in this rant about what’s wrong with America. But is it OK that Carlin’s right? Is it OK that life isn’t fair? Don’t we also believe that life should be fair, and that bit by bit it can be made more fair?

I ask this because if we don’t stop to think about it, we all too often accept unfairness as de rigueur. Isn’t it well to remember that life should be fair, even when it often isn’t? Isn’t it good to remember that as sentient beings, we have a choice between working to make life more fair for all, or working to thwart that goal?

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34 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

When it comes to “life,” there’s no such thing as “should.”

ragingloli's avatar

Life is not fair, yes, but whether life should be fair is a decision that a society can make for itself and then work toward that goal. My vote goes to “yes, it should be”.

ucme's avatar

Nah, where’s the challenge in that?

josie's avatar

An equivocation on the word fair.
Life makes no rules. The rules precede life in nature. Life merely follows the rules, and continues, or does not follow, and stops.

Pachy's avatar

I see life as neither fair nor unfair. Life simply happens. How we live it, how we handle its pleasures and challenges is our life mission.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Tell me what “fair” means.

There is no single, agreed upon definition. Fair for me is most likely unfair for you. And so on.

“Fairness” is one of those concepts that people believe in when they have no rational arguments. Sort of like religion.

tom_g's avatar

Well, I certainly believe we should make efforts to make life more “fair”. But here in the states, “fairness” smacks of socialism, and should be avoided at all costs. Even many of the secular among us become moral relativists in an attempt to avoid discussions of fairness and potential moral responsibility that may follow such honest discussions.

thorninmud's avatar

“Life should be fair” overreaches. “Should” applies to the moral sphere, the constraints on behavior that make social relationships function smoothly. So you can make “should” statements about the best ways for people to behave toward one another (or other beings), but not about happenings outside of this social realm.

In other words, it would be appropriate to say “The admissions policies of universities should be fair”, because this is a moral/social issue. But it would be nonsensical to imply that impersonal or random forces “should” be this or that. Yet, impersonal and random forces are certainly a big part of life.

Pandora's avatar

Love it! “The American dream is a dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it”. LOL
Yes, fairness should exist to a certain level, but not to the point where we become a socialist country. Once we do that then only the criminals will continue to thrive, and legal means to make a better life for yourself will be a thing of the past. Total socialism will just invite more crime. But it is not to say that we can’t at least wipe away some things like hunger, lack of education, and illnesses by leveling those playing fields.

captainsmooth's avatar

What would be fair for all?

linguaphile's avatar

Fair does not mean equal. “Fair” can seem to mean to give 25 kids the same amount of attention, time and resources… but we know that is not actually fair to some kids—some need more than others to be able to access equal opportunities.

I want the world and things around me to be fair, but what’s deemed fair seems to be a personal decision.

jaytkay's avatar

Life is not fair.

That is no excuse to be unfair to others.

glacial's avatar

“Should” does not enter into it. Life is not fair, and cannot be fair, because it does not have a will.

People can and should be fair; we have the ability to recognize and engender fairness, and I would say that we have a moral imperative to be fair. At the same time, it is impossible to expect others to always be fair, because individuals each have their own distinct reasons for behaving in the ways that they do. The best we can do is to act fairly, and teach others to do the same when the opportunity presents itself.

SuperMouse's avatar

Whether or not life should be fair is moot. The fact is that life isn’t fair. The sooner we all resign ourselves to this reality, the better off we’ll all be.

flutherother's avatar

No, because who would be the arbiter of what is fair.

gondwanalon's avatar

Biological life which of course involves DNA should not be fare. If there were no occasional random mistakes made in the DNA of plants and animal then adaptations to ever changing environments would not be possible. Along unfortunate mistakes in DNA that cause a weakened organism die young there are beneficial mistakes the DNA of other organisms that are helpful not only to the organism in particular but as it’s species in general.

“Life is not Fare; get use to it.” -Bill gates

Inspired_2write's avatar

There are no guarantees in life.
No one would learn from making mistakes nor teach anyone
anything of value if everything was fair.
We are all here to teach and learn from each other,about compassion,understanding.loving,giving,meaningfull life,choices,etc

mazingerz88's avatar

Should life be fair-? Yes. But only certain aspects in life can only be made fair.

JLeslie's avatar

My first time in therapy in my teens I dwelled on how I could not handle that life is unfair. It would be really nice if it was fair, but it isn’t. Should it be fair? I wish it was more fair. Bad things happen to good people all too often.

Interesting to me that so many people are thinking economically fair. The fist things that jump into my mind are illness, theft, violence, stuff like that.

Jaxk's avatar

As many others have indicated it depends on your definition of fair. If you have a lot of money and I have little or none, it it fair that I take some of yours? Bernie Madoff certainly thought so. If I have a kidney failure, can I take one of yours. That seems fair. I guess we need a great arbitor to make these decisions for us. Let’s just hope his/her fairness is reasonable close to your fairness.

ETpro's avatar

@Sunny2 Presumably you are live, and thus part of life. The question is do you want it to be increasingly fair, or do you want randomness or even deliberate evil to rule? You do have a choice. All of us do.

@ragingloli Exactly.

@ucme There’s plenty of challenge in a fair system. It’s when we only play “Heads I win tails you lose.” that there is no challenge.

@josie We as living, sentient beings make rules all the time. Here’s a thought question I hope will put it in perspective for you. In the 14th century, you were either born a nobleman or a peasant. If I had a time machine available to send you back to the 14th century as a peasant, would you rather stay in 21st century America or go to Merry England and a live in indentured slavery? We humans made both sets of rules. They weren’t just dictated by chance. Which rules are more fair; those of Feudalism or Capitalism?

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room I’m asking here about the impact each of us has on fairness. We could, for instance, establish rules that would cull 10% of the population every year based on a random number generator, and give their wealth to the remaining 90%. Should we do that? Should we play Hunger Games? It is a collective decision, but each of us is a voice in making that decision.

@elbanditoroso We can split hairs about what is and isn’t fair. But I am glad I grew up in WWII America and not WWII Germany. To argue there is no such thing as fair is to claim that Hitler’s death camps and pogroms were just as egalitarian as the Peace Corps. You certainly know that is absurd.

@tom_g Here is a TED Talk that gets at the heart of how America has turned away from seeking fairness in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s outrages on our society.

@thorninmud Since I am obviously implying a moral sphere, I am not talking about the physical universe, but the actions of mankind. Should we strive to make life more fair or less fair. We absolutely have the power to do either one. Compare North Korea to life in countries like Sweden, Norway and Australia that consistently top the scale in happiness of individuals living there.

The hour is late, and I have more responses yet to visit. More tomorrow—erm, later today.

josie's avatar

@ETpro

John Rawls attempted to make the same point. In doing so, he rejected the philosophical Theory of Desert. Then, using the rejection to make his point, he re-accepted it to allow recognition and reward for those with particular skills. Nearly everybody who imagines “designing” a system of social justice commits the same error.

Nobody has ever successfully designed such a system, so we do not know what it would look like anyway.

But one thing we absolutely do know is that when attempts have been made to do it, it required concentration of immense political power in one place, and the results of that, history shows, are eventually destructive, and antithetical to human nature.

So I still say, fair is not a word that can be applied to a condition that precedes existence of humanity.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Well, one of the first things that we learn as children, is to be “Fair”. It is to treat other children fairly. Scientists have shown that even our closest animals, the chimps, are sensitive to the concept of “fairness”. That having been said, we all know that (for the most part) Life is far from being fair. Personally, I think it comes down to Honor. You have to honor yourself by doing the best that you can to treat other people “fairly”. You will be frequently disappointed by other people who will treat you unfairly, but you should do your best to treat everyone in a “fair” manner. As @josie pointed out, there is no way to design a culture or a society that will treat every member “fairly”. People are human & humans rarely embrace logic. Even the Bible said to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. It is called the “Golden Rule” (& although I do not believe that an actual “God” exists) – this is the one thing that I believe out of the Bible. You have to do your best to treat everyone as fairly as you wish to be treated.

mattbrowne's avatar

No unfairness means no biological evolution and no cultural evolution. Unfairness is one of the driving factors of progress.

tom_g's avatar

I feel like I just witnessed fluther’s embracing of social darwinism. Is that what I’m seeing here?

mattbrowne's avatar

Not social darwinism, rather the contrary.

If necessity is the mother of invention, it’s the father of cooperation. And we’re cooperating like never before.—John Ashcroft

josie's avatar

There is no such thing as social Darwinism. It is a political slogan.

gailcalled's avatar

A therapist friend of mine once said that if life were fair, we’d all be in Darfur anjd eating garbage.

ETpro's avatar

@josie You’re using a dodge to avoid the question and erect a straw man in its place. I asked if life should be fair. I went on to explain that we make choices that can make it more or less so. Instead of taking that up, you are answering “Is life perfectly fair?” and since the obvious answer to that is no, you are then going on to conclude that any attempt to make it more fair is doomed to fail. To argue that is to argue that Adolph Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi were equally egalitarian leaders. You know that isn’t true. But I suspect you also know that accepting that we can make life more fair through policies we enact works against a system you hope will make our country’s current unfairness favor you, and you don’t want the playing field leveled.. Either that, or you aren’t as smart as I give you credit for being, and you’ve been duped by those that want the deck stacked ever more in their favor.

linguaphile's avatar

@josie I disagree, strongly. There IS Social Darwinism— any genetic modification or eradication of undesirable humans, currently employed through selective abortion, is a form of Social Darwinism.

Case in point… Hitler didn’t start with Jews, but with disabled babies. He convinced the Germans and the parents that disabled babies were a drain to the economy—anyone who couldn’t work was killed and others were forcibly sterilized. Today, people are aborting babies with Downs or another genetic abnormalities. The only difference between what Hitler did and what is going on today with the abortion of disabled babies is that Hitler got rid of them after they were born- beyond that, the concept of eradicating undesirables is the same.

I know this exists because genetic engineers are working around the clock to get rid of the Deaf gene. This might not mean anything to most people, but for me it means the eradication of my community and culture—something I care about deeply. I feel it’s akin to the near annihilation of the Native American community and culture… nobody cared prior to the 1970’s so it was a complete non-issue that the government worked really hard to get rid of them—or in other words, Social Darwinism. Is that fair? Clearly not.

To deny that it exists is very scary—makes me think of Neimöller’s quote…

But nevermind anything I said. Most people think I’m just a silly alarmist.

glacial's avatar

@linguaphile The phrase “social Darwinism” is somewhat frustrating. As a biologist, I don’t like to see the term “Darwinism” used, because the science of evolution has moved past the ideas that were once collected under that term. When people use the term “social Darwinism”, they are implying the application of those outdated ideas to sociological issues – which at best is a clicheed way of criticizing whatever policy they don’t like, and at worst is also an insult to the science of evolution and natural selection.

I understand that you are upset about genetic research as it relates to deafness, and although I can’t imagine wanting a child to be born deaf, I can understand not wanting to see your own culture eliminated from society. It’s a difficult issue. But by applying this pejorative term (which is often used to support creationist philosophies), you actually turn off a number people who might otherwise be willing to listen to what you are saying, and possibly lend you their support.

linguaphile's avatar

@glacial Okay, I understand what you’re saying. Does the same attitude apply to the term “eugenics?”

glacial's avatar

@linguaphile I won’t claim to know much about either philosophy or sociology; I know what you mean when you say “eugenics” – I don’t know how people in those fields react to the current use of that term. I have a hard time imagining anyone using that term in a current scientific paper on genetics unless they were giving a history lesson within the introduction.

The thing is, it is so often evoked to take undeserved potshots at Darwin, that I cringe whenever I hear it. Likewise, the eugenics programs that we know occurred under the Nazis were motivated by such hatred, that it is difficult to use the word now without it sounding like dramatic hyperbole.

JLeslie's avatar

I really disagree with comparing Hitler to a mother who chooses an abortion when something is wrong with the fetus she is carrying. There is a big difference between a fetus and a full term baby to the people who do choose to terminate the baby. There is also a big difference between the parent making the decision and the state. A woman wanting to terminate a down syndrome fetus is not in anyway also saying that she thinks all downs syndrome people are wrong or bad or unworthy of life or anything similar.

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