I Come To Praise Unfairness

Friends, Huns, Countrymen – I bring you bad news.  (Are you sitting down?  Do you have a glass of water handy?  You might need it for the shock.)

The world isn’t fair, life isn’t fair, you aren’t fair, and I’m not fair either.  Any attempt by governments, authorities, teachers or any other position mostly devoted to exerting power and force to bring about fairness will massively and painfully backfire and increase unfairness, usually in both reactions.

No? Look, every kid knows this instinctively.  This is why tale-bearers are despised.  Adults, too, now I think about it, when you’re very young.  They blunder onto the scene, where you’ve just taken your cookie away from little Joe who took it from you earlier (and who has already eaten his) hear Joey say “He took my cookie, it’s mine” and take it away from you and give it Joey again.  Governments do the same, but with police forces and nuclear arsenals.

And yet, those same kids, at the back of their minds, in their hearts of hearts, want life to be “fair.”  The cry of the nursery is “it’s not fair” – but if it only stopped there, we’d all be fine, right?  Only it never stops there.  Most adults these days, in our massively pampered and wealthy society seem to go through life engaged in a blue snit screaming fit of “It’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaair” and usually appealing to the government to make it so, as if the government would do any more than take your rightful cookie and give it to someone else… and as if that made it fair.

Look, even in the best of societies, where everyone is absolutely equal before the law (can we try for that again?  Pretty please?) you’re not going to have a fair society.  It’s impossible.

Let’s start with time (why not.  I need more of it, and that too isn’t fair.)  We each get an allotment of years on this planet.  And that too isn’t fair.  I had friends who died in their teen years; I had a cousin who died at three; my parents in their eighties have survived more than half their friends; and all of those are better off than a baby who dies hours after birth.  But leaving that aside, let’s consider the slice of time we get…

Sometimes I indulge in a fantasy of sending my current mind back in time to fix something I muffed.  Not to my childhood, though.  My childhood was uncomfortable.

The bathroom (it was a bathroom, not an outhouse) was outside the kitchen door.  Outside.  Think how wonderful that was when it was cold in winter.  And we had no heating.  The water on our glass often formed a crust of ice over night.  And the only clothes I seemed to have as a kid were wool.  I’m massively allergic to wool.  I didn’t know that.  No one else seemed to, either.  I itched ALL the time.

But wait, there’s more.  What about going back 30 years?  Remember metallic tooth paste tubes, that flaked paint on your fingers?  Remember, pre-Amazon, having to drive to the next city to find an article that was more out of ordinary? (Even ten years ago, my son’s shoes, because he wore size 15.  His feet have only grown.)  Remember having to go out to buy a book?  Running out of reading material/stuff to watch during a blizzard?  Remember having to consult five books to find the answer to a simple, factual question?

And as is, I grew up in massively privileged times.  How would any of you like to spend your (likely smaller) assortment of time in oh, Elizabethan England?  Even as a nobleman?  Black death, executions, no freedom of religion, oh, my.

Further back?  You don’t want to go further back.  Not all the treasures of Pharaoh could buy the comfort and joy to be obtained by someone in a mobile home park, living off social security, in the 21st century.  Is that fair?

What about geography?  I was born in Portugal, often called the second or the slippery-slope world in the sixties.  Would I have preferred to be born in the US?  Eh.  In most areas, sure.  How about the USSR?  No.  Nyett, nein, comrade.  As PJ O’Rourke put it quoting a Russian Joke, “Moscow state apartment.  Will trade for sleeping bag on the streets of NYC.”

Fair?  What’s fair got to do with it.

What is fair about someone being born with, oh, money, and someone else with mathematical ability?  What is fair when someone is so sickly that all they can do in life is be taken care of?

Fair?

Who promised you fair, friend?  They lied.

So – is everything bad?

Oh, hell no.  Some ways things will be unfair will necessarily be for you.  I live in a very comfortable time, for instance, even when we were dead broke.  I’m better off than 90% of humanity.  Go me!  I’m published and make money from my writing.  I’m better than a lot of writers.  Go me!

I’m sure if you look around you’ll find things you are better off than other people about too.  Remember, even if it were possible to make everything fair, it would probably mean you giving up stuff/comfort/happiness.

“Fair” is an illusion of your back brain, because in hominid tribes, “fair distribution” was better for group cohesion.  But even there, the chief got more mammoth than the rest.

It’s also usually a cover for envy.  “Hey, it’s not fair.  He’s got more mammoth cookies than I have.”

In the name of fairness, entire empires have been built, multitudes exploited, the world despoiled and mass graves filled.

Fair?

Life isn’t fair.

And it’s a good thing.

 

144 thoughts on “I Come To Praise Unfairness

  1. You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.
    — Marcus to Franklin, “A Late Delivery From Avalon”, Babylon 5

  2. From Chapter 6 of the novel The Princess Bride by WIlliam Goldman:

    “I said, ‘How do you mean?’

    And that’s when [Edith Meissner] put her book down. And looked at me. And said it: ‘Life isn’t fair, Bill. We tell our children that it is, but it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s not only a lie, it’s a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it’s never going to be.’

    Would you believe that for me right then it was like one of those comic books where the light bulb goes on over Mandrake the Magician’s head? ‘It isn’t!’ I said, so loud I really startled her. ‘You’re right. It’s not fair.’ I was so happy if I’d known how to dance, I’d have started dancing. ‘Isn’t that great, isn’t it just terrific?’ I think along about here Edith must have thought I was well on my way toward being bonkers.

    But it meant so much to me to have it said and out and free and flying—that was the discontent I endured the night my father stopped reading, I realized right then. That was the reconciliation I was trying to make and couldn’t.

    And that’s what I think this book’s about. All those Columbia experts can spiel all they want about the delicious satire; they’re crazy. This book says, ‘life isn’t fair’ and I’m telling you, one and all, you better believe it. […]

    Look. (Grownups skip this paragraph.) I’m not about to tell you this book has a tragic ending, I already said in the very first line how it was my favorite in all the world. But there’s a lot of bad stuff coming up; torture you’ve already been prepared for, but there’s worse. There’s death coming up, and you better understand this: some of the wrong people die. Be ready for it. This isn’t Curious George Uses the Potty. Nobody warned me and it was my own fault (you’ll see what I mean in a little) and that was my mistake, so I’m not letting it happen to you. The wrong people die, some of them, and the reason is this: life is not fair. Forget all the garbage your parents put out. Remember Morgenstern. You’ll be a lot happier.”

    1. William Goldman. Oh, man. Such an incredible mix of great and awful. On the one hand, left-wing paranoid conspiracy theories abound (Goldman is probably the only thriller author ever to accuse the CIA of assassinating President Lincoln). On the other hand, “The Princess Bride.” And no one that I know of is better at describing hand-to-hand combat, and combat with swords and nunchakus and such. You’re about to throw “Marathon Man” at the wall from the conspiracy nonsense, then the little guy with the nunchaku ambushes the hero’s brother. Incredible, incredible fight scene. If you get your hands on a Goldman thriller, leaf through till you find the action scenes.

          1. The same way the CIA faked Pearl Harbor and snuck models of the wrecked battleships in to make people think that the Japanese had attacked. I learned this from a family member traveling with a patient.

            Apparently that was one of his tamer ideas. My med crew decided, after listening to him for an hour, that the family member also needed to go to a hospital. That or have his meds reevaluated. (No, none of those observations were ever written down or acted upon, AFAIK.)

            1. you know, when I was a kid the craziest guy I knew wanted to make a bridge across the atlantic, fashioned out of soap (So it would float.) Boy, was I sheltered!

              1. That’s okay. When I was younger, I convinced some neighborhood kids to dig to the center of the Earth.

                I blame Verne and Burroughs.

              2. Um, not all soap floats. That’s why Ivory was so special.

                (I’m not sure I believe the tale that the benefit of it floating was that you could find it in the Ohio.)

                1. Portuguese clothes washing soap floated. That’s what he proposed to carve to make a transatlantic bridge…
                  I wonder if he’s alive? If only we could have him as President… Mostly he drank coffee and carved soap…

                2. Ivory was an accident. Someone accidentally left the mixing machine on overnight and it whipped air into it. Not wanting to throw a big batch of soap away, someone came up with a scheme to market it, and it took off big.

          2. LOL. It was a novel called “Control.” Involved time travel, of course. I stopped reading when it was revealed that most of the first chapter had happened in the late nineteenth-century, and Goldman had just avoided any 19th-century details so we would think it was happening now.

            1. Mas Ayoob, who writes a column in American Handgunner that describes deadly force encounters, once wrote a column that described the OK Corral shootout using euphemisms that made it sound like an encounter between motorcycle gang and local cops.

                1. It says something really bad about me and/or the times that my reaction to this is “Great, the bad guys were guarenteed to lose!!”.

              1. There’s “news article” that’s been going around for a while that describes the Shot Heard Round the World in terms that make it sound like a current event. It catches a lot of conservatives, Republicans, and libertarians with poor reading comprehension. I’m then left going “Please, stay off my side” at their reactions. *sigh*

            1. I’m somewhat curious how you would convincingly write a character (or group) that can convincingly argue that the one thing the CIA needs to do with their time machine is kill Lincoln.

              1. As I said, his cheat in the first chapter was so horrible I didn’t read further, skipped ahead to find the Lincoln reference.

                1. Sorry, long time ago. you find out about the cheat a few chapters after the stuff about the CIA and the great, great fight scene, one of those I mentioned.

                1. Or it’s a predestination paradox. The CIA must assassinate Lincoln because they already live in a timeline where that has happened.

                  1. I hate those– they’re cheating. “It must happen because it did happen.”

                    At least have something creative, like research disorders that could’ve caused Lincoln’s deformities and find one that makes you go power mad. Or have him get dementia, and then fall under sway of someone that thinks the Feds need ever more power, so that the original good of ending slavery is shown to be able to be used to justify obvious horrors.

                    The hard part there is finding sufficiently exaggerated horrors so that it won’t seem like you’re (directly) ripping on this or that politician.

              2. I’ve done something like that.

                Time travelers come back, en masse, set up a base. Upon doing the research, they discover that absolutely none of their “recorded history” is how it happened. Which then leads to the quandary: Leave everything the hell alone, and let the future they know not happen, or go back and make the entire timeline that they “know” happen, the hard way?

                You could do it, and make it sound half-way plausible. Imagine being the poor bastard who had to make the decision to erase a history that actually made sense, in order to replace it with ours?

                Something like that would sure explain a lot of the absurdities we have in our own timeline. Start of WWI stemming from an initially failed assassination attempt on the Austrian heir, who then directs his driver to take the limo by the one cafe where one of the conspirators happens to be having a cup of coffee? And, then that turns into the biggest war in history, up to that point? WTF? If you were writing an alternate historical fiction novel, the actual facts of the story would never get published–It’s too damn bizarre.

                1. Oooh, that would be FUN!

                  “This crazy coincidence? Timetravelers.”

                  So… that mad Russian cleric Rasputin or whatever… Time traveler?

                  Folks who disappear and the bodies are never recovered– time travelers or stolen by them? (It would be hard to justify killing innocents, after all.)

                  1. It’d be nice to blame the insanity on some outside agency, I sometimes think–And, this is how I did it.

                    Imagine a world where all the craziness never happened. Where sweet rationality reigned, and the nutjobs never managed to get into power.

                    My guess? The occupants of said world wouldn’t be recognizable as humans. They’d be like boring hothouse flower versions of us, mostly sane, and the time-travelers who went back to find that reality would be forced to “stir in the crazy”, in order to make us what we are.

                    Of course, to really screw with the character’s minds, I think I might make it so they find out at the end, once they’ve made all the changes up and down the timeline, that they were working off a mostly fictional and faked-up history in the first place…

                    One thing I swear I’m going to include in any future history I write is going to be a widespread and mistaken belief that the Lord of the Rings is actual history, and that’s why they rule out Earth as being the origin point for humanity–No elves, no hobbits, and the maps aren’t right, either. Someone suggesting that Tolkien was a fantasy writer would get laughed out of academic circles. It would be incredibly funny for them to try to come back, and find some archaeological proof that New Zealand had some matching points with the histories, i.e., the movie sets and so forth, but when they can’t match the maps in the Lord of the Rings to actual terrain…

                    1. That’s going to be the argument–There’s just too much cohesive “evidence” in the retained documents for it to be some fantasy produced by primitives…

                      In all seriousness, though, I really suspect that the difference between “received and recorded history”, and what any actual time-travelers would find would likely be so vast that they’d rapidly lose faith in most data they had, especially for the little details. The big-picture stuff, like who was president when? Think about how much trouble we have figuring out the succession in various Egyptian dynasties, and how we’re still turning up tombs with names we don’t recognize… Will our records be any differently retained? Given the amount of crap we have now gone to digital on, I suspect that the late 20th Century and later on into the 21st are all going to be huge digital black holes, where the data might be there, but the ability to read it will be gone.

                      Try to imagine being the guy who has to try to stitch all that crap together into a timeline that results in his future happening, when he finds nothing recognizable “back here”. Fun times, no?

                    2. There was a famous Time travel story that I wish I knew the name and author of. A Time Traveler is a Religious Fanatic, and goes back to see Jesus, but finds out that the real Jesus is a retard, and so he has to step up and do the job properly.

                      (Oh noes! I said the R word!)

                    3. Ah, Moorcock. That would explain* the failure to understand the fundamentals of Christianity.
                      * I have not read the story in question; I’m going from the synopsis given and my past experience reading Moorcock.

                    4. Thanks. I had heard of it, but never read it. It sounds like the ideal set-up to declare Christianity a fraud, which, if it weren’t so old, probably would have won it a place on that IO9 reading list.

  3. Fair’s one of those words I grew up thinking meant something different than what it was. Well, different than what it means now, I guess.

    “Fair to middlin’ ” was a common response to “How are you?” It meant better than average to just plain average. Fair was used for pretty, too. “Fair lady,” and all that. You can understand how an easily confused child (I haven’t improved much in that respect) could conceive a notion that it was different. “Life ain’t fair,” was a common refrain to childhood complaints. As in, life ain’t pretty, suck it up.

    The idea that we can impose fairness form the outside is ridiculous. I mean fairness in the “equality” sense used these days. That’s another nonsense word used to mean everything under the sun, now I think about it. What constitutes fair, when even identical twins lead unique lives? Who gets to decide what’s fair? Not me? Well that’s not fair, either. *chuckle*

    I used to work for a guy, his approach to fairness was “I’m highly discriminatory. I discriminate in favor of whoever gets the job done and done right in a reasonable amount of time. I could give a $#!+ less what he looks like. If he’s a he. Or whatever.”

    Fairness looks a lot like sloppiness, in that respect. I’d say it’s much more effective not to be “fair.”

    1. “Life ain’t fair,” was a common refrain to childhood complaints. As in, life ain’t pretty, suck it up.

      It’s the ones who say “Life isn’t fair” when the fact of the matter is, life is not responsible for the children’s complaints, but the person saying that it isn’t.

  4. My common response to kids whining “It’s not fair!”. Fair is an agricultural exhibit held during the summers.

      1. Remember, a certain percentage of your students are going to be baffled by such a response. Agricultural exhibit? Huh?

        I come from a farm family, and farm and ranch communities, so — fond memories.

        1. It can be a learning moment. Some of them might even discover that food doesn’t originate in a grocery store.

              1. My mom ran into several teenagers who could not accept that milk doesn’t just magically appear at the store.

                They just had no concept of anything past stocking the shelves.

                1. I once scarred a friend, quite badly, by callously and carelessly (and, from my point of view, unknowingly) revealing to her that “Beef comes from moo-cows!”

                  She was in college at the time, and food came from the microwave, where you put the wrapper, or from the delivery guy. The idea of beef in raw styrofoam packages wasn’t there, much less the bullish origin.

                  She got better. really.

                  1. It is all part of the plot to condition us to acceptance of yeast-steaks and vat-grown meats.

                    The fact that there is a high degree of overlap of people who think food comes from “the store” and those who oppose GMO foods is just Life’s way of being unfair.

                    1. It’ll be much more expensive than real steak. I wish cloning were more advanced so that everyone who needs a transplant can get one.

                    2. I think you mean culturing?

                      Cloning would require that the person be built– culturing just requires that you get some of the cells.

                      Like a bone morrow transplant, but more organized and science-ie.

                    3. They’ve done some really awesome work with basically acid-stripping heart down to the connective tissue, then growing new muscle that matches the donor on it.

                      The US is really hurt by the FDA deciding that transplants are each a new medicine, when it’s stem cell based. (donor stem cell– dead baby stem cells transplants can be approved once per culture)

                    4. I had one of those glued breakfast steaks?– you ever eaten one. I was sick for 24 hours afterwards (nausea and diarrhea). So now I know that I can’t eat it. lol

                    5. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of meat glue. “Meat glue” is just some stuff that convinces the pieces of meat to adhere to each other. You probably have eaten it many times, especially if you eat deli meats. A lot of the turkey, chicken, ham, and some roast beef is actually multiple pieces of meat rolled together with a meat glue and then pressed and molded into shape.

                  2. I will have to try to find it, but somewhere I saw someone decrying hunters as being bad, because they didn’t get their meat from the store where no animal had to die to provide it.

                  3. At one point, My Sweet Honey and I were running a sort of halfway house for girls coming out of the foster care system for our state. Girls would come in to this apartment, and have to pay their own bills, buy their own groceries, cook their own food, etc.
                    One of the young women was a vegan, and slightly obnoxious about it, saying that she smelled dog food whenever the wife was cooking.
                    It was at this point that we explained to our 2-yr old daughter where meat came from, and took some small amount of pleasure in asking her (when this young woman was in earshot) if she would prefer eating moo-cows or piggies or chickens for dinner.

          1. I suspect it’s willful ignorance, but I’ve run into a shocking number of urban types that are oblivious to anything that falls under agricultural. I never no whether to feel pity or scream.

            Pitiful screaming?

        2. A certain percentage of my students are baffled by such common nouns as “textbook”, “assignment” and “due date”. Not to mention such verbs as “read”.

  5. The last thing I want is fair. In a fair world I would be on my way to my own private wing of hell; I would be living in a cardboard box on lower Wacker drive, I would have never had a woman come anywhere near me. Fairness sucks, and there is no example of “leveling the playing field” that has not resulted in abject disaster. Unfairness, on the other hand, is a tool given to humans by the Creator to pry our way out of the shit, if we’re clever or cunning or industrious enough. Please, G-d, have mercy on me, but do not treat me “Fairly” I don’t want anything to do with what I deserve.

    1. Problem is, for ourselves we want “fair” but only for unfair values of fairness. For others, we generally want justice.

    2. Whenever someone proposes “Leveling the playing field” it’s safer to assume they’re using the same verb as in “Leveling the building.”

  6. It’s not fair that Sarah makes more than me from writing. Of course, she’s finished more stories than I have. [Very Very Big Evil Grin]

  7. I want human justice to be as fair as possible. But this is a different kind of fair from what Thomas Sowell calls “cosmic justice”, and Sowell is as skeptical as anyone that cosmic justice is attainable by any human means.

    I actually think God is fair. But I also think God knows an awful lot more than I do.

    I didn’t actually think of The Princess Bride. I thought of Niven and Pournelle’s rewrite of Inferno, in which John Carpenter is promised a perfectly fair judgement by Minos. Which Carpenter wisely realizes is the last thing he wants.

    1. You might enjoy reading into some of the original Social Justice philosophy stuff– it quickly becomes clear why the term was stolen.

  8. On the one hand “That’s not fair” can usually be translated as “I didn’t get what I want”. On those rare occasions when the speaker is offering to forfeit some advantage, it should be examined more closely.

    On the other, I have found it useful to consider the proposed solution to the complained of unfairness. If said solution involves coercive intervention, it is highly suspect. If, on the other hand, it involves getting one or more coercive entities to mind their own godsdamned business it might well deserve consideration.

  9. Well, there is fairness and then there is fairness. If you and your best friend determine the best way to share a cookie is that one of you cuts it in half and the other chooses first, or you trade the cookie instead for the your friend’s matchbox car, these are fair in that they are personal contracts freely engaged in. The other type of fair, which is really unfair, is when a parent decides to impose an equality of outcome, by who gets how much of a cookie, not based on needs or wants but instead by perceived merit (you get less because you are too fat/a rich kid/in training/not my cousin) or disinterest in the actual desires and just wants the squabbling to stop, or the toy for cookie trade is invalidated in that a parent says no you can’t keep the toy car you traded because it was unfair, and in the attempt to impose fairness one kid winds up without a cookie or a car.
    Our beloved progs among us like to conflate the two concepts, and successfully confused our desires for the right to find our own agreements for the willingness to accept commands imposed from above.

    1. I think this is closely related to the idea of asymmetric information. If one of the parties has more information than the other, that party is likely to get a better deal. Some people consider this unfair.

      Well, yeah, it is. So?

      Virtually all economic transactions take place because the parties involved put different values on the things being traded. Sometimes this is due to different levels of knowledge. In fact, almost all the time, this is due to different levels of knowledge. I hire a plumber because he knows more about sweating a pipe joint than I do. This is entirely rational: I could learn to sweat a pipe joint, but it’s just not worth the time when I do it so seldom. I’d rather spend the time learning more nuclear physics, or maybe arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet.

      Government efforts to remove the “unfairness” of asymmetric information are almost always misguided. One reason I’m no fan of the SEC. So you’re trading on inside information? Great. It’s not inside any more. You’ve just shared it with everyone following stock prices who has the savvy to interpret the market signals.

  10. I keep getting told that putting on a uniform while there was a war going on in South East Asia, and putting it away after Desert Storm makes MY life unfair.
    I don’t go to work every day, home school my kids, and have the option to say “No” to a lot of things that I don’t want to do…
    I’m not fully retired, but the basics are covered…
    Suck it up whiners… I’ve given up a lot to be where I am today, and not ashamed to have succeeded in living through what it took to be where I am now.
    “Fair” is way overrated!

  11. Sgt. Buster Kilrain speaking to Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – scene from the movie, ‘Gettysburg.’

    Equality? What I’m fighting for is to prove I’m a better man than many of them. Where have you seen this “divine spark” in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality? No two things on Earth are equal or have an equal chance. Not a leaf, not a tree. There’s many a man worse than me, and some better… But I don’t think race or country matters a damn. What matters, Colonel… Is justice. Which is why I’m here. I’ll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I’m Kilrain… And I damn all gentlemen. There is only one aristocracy… And that is right here.
    [points to his head]
    And that’s why we’ve got to win this war.

  12. One of my favorite corollaries to “Life Isn’t Fair” is “Life Is Hard … It’s harder when you’re Stupid”

    Don’t be stupid my friends.

  13. Fair? No it isn’t. But balanced? Maybe,
    It might not have been fair that I had a disabling injury in my early 30’s that cause a lot of pain and misery over the years.
    On the other hand, I’ve actually experienced my kids growing up, instead of just seeing them second hand, in the occasional minutes and seconds a father gets under normal conditions.
    It wasn’t fair; but over all, I’m ahead.

    1. In light of earlier comments, I was tempted to post a passage from O’Brian’s The Ionian Mission. I didn’t, thereby leaving room for other commenters.

    2. If the Buddhists are right, Life is fair, taking “Life” to refer to our cumulative sojourn in the realm of illusion. Barma’s a Kitch.

  14. *sniff, sniff* It’s not? *lower lip trembles, more sniffing*

    For which I think G-d, because if I got what I deserved I’d be in a lot deeper kimchee than I usually am. As my grandfather put it, “fair is where you go to show your steers and pigs.” OK, now I’ll go read the rest of the essay.

  15. If life was fair, we wouldn’t have had a cold snap in Calgary when the Occupiers took over Olympic Plaza.

    Unfairness, for the win!

  16. My concept of fair is not the same as I see on the street with the younger crowd, which is give me what I want when I want it. I felt that fair treatment in work and family was not too much to ask. I do know what unfair treatment is– from personal family experience. (So when I was in the Navy and was in a mild position of power, I would ask questions from a lot of folks involved in a problem before deciding on the treatment– yes, I did have to do that– I hate it btw)

    I do not believe in equality of outcome– EVER. That is not fair. But I have realized through the years that if I want fair treatment, then I need to give fair treatment… 😉

    1. Plus I suppose that it isn’t fair that I have a rare disease that keeps me homebound a lot. I do miss the traveling I did before. However, the upside is that I get to write more than I ever did when I was restless.

  17. Any eloquence I can claim ain’t available today. But here’s some internet stuff:

    Fair –
    In accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate.

    Without cheating or trying to achieve an unjust advantage.

    A beautiful woman.

    Recognizing the inherent cultural centricity necessary to evaluate the subordinate terms, I can live with those kinds of definitions. But who came up with the insidious (and ridiculous) notion that ‘fair’ had something to do with equality of outcomes? Others have done a wonderful job of illustrating the folly of that quirky idiocy above. Those involved in the rearing and warehousing of undersized ones ought pay attention.

    Having said that, I think a lot of the problem comes in trying to teach our children respect for others and empathy for their plight. We’ve just — gone the wrong way. And, as these things do, people who didn’t learn the respect lesson are using a cultural concept to scam, con and get one over on the rest of us. Then there’s all the askholds not in politics.

    As others have said, I’d prefer mercy over fairness. Truly. But I think some elements of our society need at least an introduction to what would be fair for their behavior. Maybe a graphic description. And a soundtrack. A little production to put horror shows to shame. Then we can say, “We know what you deserve, be glad we prefer a justly administered legal system.” (I’ve said many times, there’s a reason I’m not a police officer…)

    Now, the night went badly, and that ain’t fair. So in fairness, somebody should hand me a good day, right? Right? — Anybody? — — — Hello?

  18. Purely coincidental I am sure that this should come on the same day as the annual SOTU by our noble Leader (aka Obumer the incompetent) where it is speculated that his theme will be how unfair everything is and how he will through sheer force of personal virtue make things better by executive fiat.
    May the good Lord (the real one, not doofus) save and protect us all.

  19. When I wonder what dystopia is the most plausible, I think “Harrison Bergeron”, for this very reason.

    1. It’s customary to tip the cherubim? Dang– with what? Don’t go out at night alone? ummm. Don’t touch a hot stove? Let sleeping dog’s lie?

      1. I also observe that it starts with his first notion, which was of a gag-a-day comic. If you pick up the first book, you will find the opening that leads into the story that he began.

        (It’s currently seven books in print, including two prequel volumes. He’s making his living off it. And his original idea was to put a few comics on his website to help draw hits and hope they would go on to the meat of the matter, the articles. Mice, men, plans.)

  20. I can’t tell you how annoyed I get when my students email me with the “Its not fair!” line when the consequences of a previously explained rule are applied to them.
    “Its not fair” somehow got redefined to mean that the person is surprised that I haven’t broken a rule for their benefit.

  21. The 80’s movie ‘Labyrinth’, and the main character Sarah’s reaction when she has the revelation, after spending the first half of the movie whining about things not being fair every time something goes wrong. “It’s not fair.” “No, it isn’t. But that’s the way it is”. It’s a fun movie but even if it wasn’t I would love it just for that scene.

    Of course I have had problems dealing with that fact anyway. It’s not fair that I was born as somebody with all the potential I had, like having an IQ in the highest 2 %, but then also as somebody who belongs to that 1 to 2 % who gets the really bad SAD reaction (and then add things like being born in a very northern country, and just on the cusp when it comes to the discovery of that particular problem – it was something known but not very well known when I started having problems with it, and it took close to 20 years before I got the diagnosis). I have never fulfilled that potential and it galls. And I have spend enough time whining about that, and still do.

    But on the other hand, I did get the diagnosis, and have learned to deal with it at least to some extent. Maybe it did derail my studies and some other plans but it’s still more of just a nuisance than lots of other diseases, and I still have life left. Unlike two cousins of mine, one who drowned when he was nine and that older brother of his who first had to deal with the death of his kid brother, then lost his father, and then when it seemed things were starting to go his way, he had gotten the education he had wanted and had started the career he had wanted as a seaman working on ships on long distance routes, he went and jumped head first into an empty swimming pool he had assumed was full (unfair not just that he died way too young, also because it was such a stupid way to die and he was not a stupid guy).

    So, yeah. I need to be compensated for my bad luck. So how about paying me the estimated income I might have gotten during my life if I had not had the SAD? Could be a pretty high sum you know. And harbors need to be enclosed with walls so that no kids can get on a pier they were told not to play on from which they might fall from (or punish all parents who let their kids go outside unsupervised). And forbid swimming pools. Yep. That might do it. 😛

    1. I watched Labyrinth again not that long ago, and I found I couldn’t stand Sarah’s whining. Luke managed to spoil the first (there are only three; I admit not others) Star Wars for me, too, with his whining – and I stopped reading Harry Potter right about the point that JK Rowling got Harry’s teenage whiny angst note-perfect for that age.

      This isn’t to say they’re not true to life, true to their age, or true to character – sadly, it’s only my own impatience with them. (Perhaps the desire to smack those who whine comes from an allergy built by too much exposure?) I remember when I was younger, the whininess never even made the slightest impression – I didn’t even remember it. So I’ll bet I must have been whiny without realizing it. My thanks to all adults who didn’t strangle me before I grew up!

      1. Heh. I often like whiny main characters provided they do get over it at some point. Of course it can be overdone, and it’s better if they do figure the deal out sooner rather than later so you can have part of a story when you can actually like them. But it’s also a lot easier for me to enjoy a story where a whiner keeps repeatedly getting kicked in the face – which does happen to Sarah a lot in the beginning of that movie – because if I like a character too much that can become distressing but if I dislike her… yep, can enjoy that then. Same as with practical jokes where the point is humiliating somebody, I can only enjoy those if I already disliked the victim. If he is somebody I either don’t know at all, or like, I hate them.

  22. Is it fair that women, having more subcutaneous fat than men, are less troubled by cold weather … or that they have greater difficulty achieving high definition abs?

    Is it fair that blondes have less problems with body hair than do brunettes?

    Is it fair that the articulate, the glib, the snarky manipulate democratic political systems so that their grievances get more attention than the sullen, the inarticulate, the reclusive?

    Is it fair that cell phone keypads are teeny-tiny buttons, causing fat fingered individuals to rely more upon (have their writings edited by) auto-correct?

    Is it fair that kids born in the Eighties are going to have to pay in far more to Social Security and Medicare than they are ever likely to get back, much less enjoy the fantastic rate of return on investment received by the “Greatest Generation?”

    Is it fair that smart, supremely aware drivers such as me have to share the roads with dimwits and wool-gatherers?

            1. I came down too sick to go to work last night. My husband, without a word, went and turned the thermostat up to 70 F.

              I’ve spent all day under at least two layers of flannel and fleece. He has, very lovingly, worn a t-shirt, shorts, and kept plying me with hot tea.

              I love that man so much!

          1. Finally, evidence to offer my husband that we’re cold blooded… he’s freezing at 68; I think it’s too hot. Our kids start crying when it hits 70.

            (Thankfully, only heater temps, summer somehow doesn’t count; on the other hand, we spent my daughter’s first winter with the door open and no heaters on, just from two adults, two computers and the fridge.)

      1. It’s odd, but 68º is the precise temperature below which my feet will get cold even if I’m wearing a sweater indoors. (Outdoors is different, usually because of activity level.) Don’t know why that is.

    1. That wouldn’t be fair. If she buried it, what would we have to whin, er, complain about about.

  23. I am of the One Percent, for that I thank God. His grace has put me in this time and place, not by my hand, but His. Perhaps, when I stand in Heaven and have the opportunity to look across all of time and space I may rail (if I’m an idiot of the highest order) that God didn’t put me 3,000 years into the future where life is so much easier, longer and more interesting than it is now. But for now, with 3,000+ years of human history to look back on, I know I’m one of the very fortunate few to live in this time and place.

    Life is not fair, aka the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

  24. “It’s not fair!” ???

    Where do you get off trying to impose your morality on others? Do you think that fair?

  25. It having been proven that men suffer diminished IQ in the presence of a beautiful woman — and Lord knows, we need our men smart — fairness demands that every beautiful woman should be required to wear a paper sack over her head. Because it would be unfair to stigmatize unsacked women, fairness requires they too should wear head sacks. Finally, because beautiful men may also have similar effect, all men should be sacked as well. Anything less would be unfair.

    Some of you will doubtless complain that there is more to female beauty than merely what is above the neck, and argue fairness requires all people wear clothing that disguises their shapeliness. I am confident that in time all will recognize the wisdom of that proposal, but we must start slowly.

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