Monday, April 4, 2011

On Fairness.

Scott Adams (the guy who writes the Dilbert comics) is a blogger I follow sporadically. I missed the original, later deleted Men's Rights post, but stumbled on this post today. I was not offended by it. I accept that there are certain un-changeable reasons why men and women are different. And I also accept that these differences logically lead to some occasions where it makes sense to treat men differently than women. It may not always seem fair to those who wish to be treated differently, but then again there is the common quote "Life isn't fair." I always assumed that accepting that fact would be part of growing up. Then I suddenly remembered how I discovered the real truth about my inability to create fairness, even when I devoutly wished to, and the power rested with me if it rested with anyone: Every child has uttered the cry "That's not fair!" and vowed to change the source of the unfairness if such power is ever granted to them. Obviously I was no exception, and growing up in a family of 7 children, I witnessed many perceived instances of unfairness, and vowed to right the wrongs in my own parenting later on. Child number one arrived, and fairness was easy. Child number two followed eventually, and suddenly I realized the error in my thinking. Child number one had my undivided attention for the first 3 years of his life. It was impossible by all laws of the universe to provide the same to child number two. Child 1 suddenly faced a much limited attention share, compared to child 2. Was this more fair to child 2 (who received a great deal more attention) or child 1 (who still overall received more than child 1 would ever attain)? Even in the simplest of tasks of fairness I was defeated. Buy the 2 children identical toys. Sooner or later, one was broken or lost. Now prove who really owns the undamaged toy. Or deprive the other child of the undamaged one, when he did nothing wrong?? Solve this by buying one red and one blue toy, otherwise the same. A basic law of the universe (I believe Murphy was the first to define it) states that both children will prefer the red one, and scorn the blue one. How to solve that 'fairly'?? I believe that the only way to 'win' (defined in the loosest sense) is to try and balance for each individual that the number of good (i.e. unfair in my favor) times with the number of bad (i.e. unfair in the other guy's favor). Of course, for me, that means I get to hear the cry of "It's not fair!!" an equal number of times for both children. Which probably balances karmically somehow with the number of times my own parents heard it from me.