Life isn’t fair – I used to be pretty passionate about this one. I remember hearing the lecture from so many of my elders over the years (usually after stomping my feet and exclaiming some situation to be unfair); and it certainly left its mark. Not all that long ago I was giving the same lecture to one of my boys… “life isn’t fair, get used to that and learn to accept it or you are going to have a disappointing run on this planet” (or something like that).
The thing is, as much as we don’t want to admit it… life is fair. The playing field is even the opportunities for success or failure are there for you, and the guy next to you, and the gal next to him. As people or as societies, we may set up cultures that favor one group or another (I currently enjoy all sorts of advantages as a tall while male in the United States of America); however, “life” doesn’t have anything to do with that. Plus, lots of short black (Asian, Hispanic, etc.) woman have been far more successful than I have.
I live in the wealthiest nation in the world, surrounded by affluence and opportunity; yet, the wealthiest person in the world hails from Mexico… a country in may ways the opposite of all of that, from an environmental standpoint. I spent the weekend touring Cornelius Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage”, all 130,000 sq ft of it. He started his life poorer than I. I listened to stories of his servants, beginning with their hard and impoverished lives in service to the Vanderbilt’s and ending in their stories of social and financial success.
Typically people get what they deserve, in one form or another. Our “rewards” and “successes” may not be what we want them to be, and others may be able to inflict us with circumstances we did not earn for ourselves; but these things are not unfair, they are just a part of the grand randomness of life.
An that’s just the thing. Life is completely random. You might be born a Vanderbilt, you might be born to me, and you might be born – with AIDS – in the heart of Ethiopia. You might go your entire life without being in a traffic accident or your life might be cut short by a drunken driver at the age of 5. the Earth has no agenda, no vested interest in you, it just goes about existing… randomly.
Lets say we are starting a new school and more people want in that can attend. What do we do? We hold a lottery… a random selection of who gets in and who doesn’t. Why? Because it is the only fair way to do it. How do we select the winner of the Powerball jackpot or who will sacrifice themselves for the greater good (i.e. “draw the short straw”)? Randomly… so as to be fair. We, as a society embrace randomness as fairness. Yet, when life acts randomly (and – more specifically – when it acts against our best interests) we admonish it for being unfair.
Life does not promise success, affluence, or comfort; those are constructs of modern man. Life promises a struggle for survival and the opportunity to revel or revile in the journey.
Success or failure in life used to be (literally) defined by life and death; and success was defined by living to a ripe old age of 30 or 40 years. In most of the world today, the worst case scenario is better than a successful life was then. There are some exceptions, of course, where ones life is still defined by their ability to survive to middle age. However, in my opinion, this has less to do with life being unfair than it does with the people living life (in more fortunate areas of the world) being selfish.
If you ask me, people are (can be) unfair, unjust and unscrupulous… but life… is random, unpredictable, and unquestionably fair.