Is life supposed to be fair?

I was having lunch with a lovely individual a while back and we eventually ended up talking about the inequality around the world and we briefly touched on the fact that one of capitalism’s many flaws is that its focus on maximizing productivity and wealth generation often leads to exploitation and a complete disregard of the people at the bottom end of the economic pyramid. And then, at some point towards the end of the conversation I uttered the following phrase:

“Yeah, well life is not fair and it’s not supposed to be.”

Being the reflective person that I am and taking into consideration the fact that this was the first conversation that I had ever had with this person, I realized that this blunt statement might have made me come across as a harsh, inconsiderate, self-centered person, which I definitely am to an extent, unashamedly – but this certainly does not make for a great first impression. Yet even after further reflection on my statement, I still firmly believed that the validity of my somewhat harsh perspective held true.

The objective truth – we are just animals living on a floating rock

When you adopt the view that we as humans beings, or more technically, Homo Sapiens, are just one particular species of the Homo genus that currently co-exist with a multitude of other species of animals, vegetation and organisms of all shapes and forms, living on a giant rotating rock, orbiting an even bigger star in our solar system, located in an arbitrary galaxy that forms a relatively insignificant part of the ginormous and ever-expanding Universe, which is estimated to be about 14 billion years old. Then technically speaking, yes, life, which statistically speaking is a complete and utter miracle in itself, is not fair and the truth is that it was never meant to be fair. Nature, or more specifically, natural selection is all about survival of the fittest, not survival of the fairest, the kindest, the most democratic or the most loving, caring and just, as harsh and unfortunate as this sounds.

The subjective reality – I am a human, and I have feelings and rights

As conscious – and supposedly – self aware human beings, some of us are born into a world of poverty, famine, disease, financial exclusion and are seemingly predisposed to face limitations in many different aspects of life, while others are born into luxury, wealth, high social status and access to top quality education. Is this fair? No, it is not. Is it supposed to be fair? Well, this is the underlying belief that has formed the basis of many of the revolutions and anti-ism movements that have taken their course over our recent history and are still taking place to this very day.

Who am I and why am I asking this question?

I was born in the early 90’s in Mbabane, the capital city of Swaziland, a small landlocked monarchy in Southern Africa where the King always has the final say. I was raised in a Christian family, attended church on a weekly basis and I was taught the fundamental precepts of the Christian ideology from a very early age through a multitude of bible stories, scriptures, hymns, songs and choruses. Then, upon completing secondary school at Sisekelo, a boarding school deep within the sugar cane fields of Big Bend (Swaziland), I ventured across the border into South Africa with the intention of completing my tertiary education at The University of Cape Town, a world class academic institution located at the southern tip of a democratic country – who’s deomocracy was only two years younger than me at the time – which was still struggling to deal with the wounds and injuries received from years of economic, social, physical and psychological oppression bestowed upon the natives by the colonizers and the ruthless Apartheid regime.

Forward to a few years later, and I have since been introduced to the brilliant, insightful and extremely informative works and teachings of the likes of academics and intellectuals like Richard Dawkins, Jordan Peterson, and Sam Harris – to name a few – whos books, debates, and lectures have introduced me to entirely new concepts of morality, neuroscience, religion, and evolutionary biology.

This whirlwind of a tour over the past 26 years of my life has brought me to this current stage of my existence where I have this uncontrollable urge to ask the question of whether life is supposed to be fair?

Disclaimer

There are a lot of movements that have happened and are still happening in the world right now which I do not want to discredit or take away from in any way, shape or form whatsoever. I just want to enquire from perhaps a more philosophical perspective on whether this world that we live in is supposed to be fair? Or are we, as the narcissistic human beings, who once literally thought that the Universe was centered around us and our petty planet, just imposing our subjective ideals on a completely objective, competitive, cut-throat environment?

All comments are welcome, because just like Sway, I ain’t got the answers.

#T4aM

 

4 thoughts on “Is life supposed to be fair?

  1. Excellent, a worthy topic to write about.

    An Existentialist might reason that fairness is a meaningless term, a redundant concept, since the world and events in it are purely arbitrary. I take my fundamental basis of belief (or non-belief, haha) from Kirkegaard – ‘Fear and Trembling’ (not in Las Vegas) 1843
    “Take the leap of faith into failure and absurdity.”

    As we attempt to: “make sense of the arbitrary cruelty of the world” – J. G. Ballard

    And from me, an extract from my diary, September 25th 1991:

    “I come bearing questions like: When does eternity end? Show me the meaning of existence and I can only ask, how? Qua? Quien es? Wadir of nadir is burdened with questions about the Toltec psyche. Show him how he came to be, Descartes. Impelled to construct a personal totem symbology. The myth started when the sea met land…. trailing fronds of sea grass…. nascent essence of distilled intelligence carried in binary code…. Empowered to commit the folly of being, spawn a myth. The self glorification of the species through love, it’s a many splendoured thing, it has to be, we make it so in order to distinguish between ourselves and the primitive, because we are unique and special. Our monstrous conceit has grown; justifies its excesses thus …I … individual…. I … am…. In…. “

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  2. First of all, regarding your diary entry from 1991 – it is quite epic that you can refer to your state of mind from a whole 17 years ago. I aspire to have written archives like that.

    I particularly like this part: “The self glorification of the species through love, it’s a many splendoured thing, it has to be, we make it so in order to distinguish between ourselves and the primitive, because we are unique and special.” And that basically goes to the root of the issue – we as humans have been trying so hard to see ourselves as special and different in a world where we are just one of many. I also particularly like the quote by J.G Ballard and I do fully agree that we are trying to “make sense of the arbitrary cruelty of the world”. But with this in mind, on the other side of the coin, I guess we also can not really call it ‘cruelty’ if everything in itself just is. As Alan Watts would say, this is all just “a happening”, with no real ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

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  3. interesting blog Ben! your indeed right, life is not meant to be fair, that’s not how it was designed. But I do believe, as Karma would propose, that we are meant to treat everything in life fairly, in order to receive that fairness back in return in some way or the other. as the saying goes, you reap what you sow! the part missing from that statement is that sometimes its as if you reap what you never sowed, but the trick is to still sow fairness nonetheless. #T4AM

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    1. I agree 100% Amanda, and furthermore one could also argue that from a more integrated perspective since we are all one, you might be reaping what you personally never sowed as an individual but what humanity/your family/your people as a whole have sowed as a collective (with or without your involvement). At this point, you then to question where the line is drawn between me, you, us and them because, at the end of the day, we are all branches of the same tree.

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