Thursday 28 October 2010

Is there real fairness?

Andre writes: 
To be unfairly treated is very hurtful.  When do I feel that I have been unfairly treated, how one defines fairness?  Is more fairness in a society always a gain? 

I would feel it unfair if I judge that I have been singled out for poor treatment or I have not received my entitlement; We make a judgement that triggers an emotion: that in itself is interesting.  It may be that because we are essentially social animals, the fact that we equate discrimination with rejection, raises very strong emotions. From birth we are hardwired to entitlement, the baby cry for milk is part of its survival kit. As social beings, divided into family cells, neighbourhood clans, nations…we have devised and re-devised rules and customs distributing entitlements and duties. History shows that these distributions invariably advantage the powerful people: that is the strong and cunning and disadvantaged the meek. Throughout history rules and laws have been established that perpetuate our hierarchical society.  That is where Justice lies today: the rule of law.

When the rule of law is ignored and we are denied our entitlement, we may have recourse to the court to redress some unfairness.

When the law tolerates or reinforces some discrimination; remedy may come in two ways: change the law democratically or if not possible, direct action which may lead to deadly conflict.  A civilised society is defined by its statute and by the way the law is adhered to and administered.  For every entitlement gained there has always been a struggle by a group or an other, against, often, a minority, who would fight to maintain their privileges. Fairness has never come as a gift to progress.
Does that mean that a society which treats all its citizen equally is a civilised society? A society that privileges a minority or even a majority, we would find abhorrent, unless it was deemed positive discrimination to redress unfairness.
There is some good news: A recent publication The Sprit Level (Why Equality is better for Everyone), shows that more equal society improve the life of all citizens, including the more affluent.

Related post:
Fairness vs Justice

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