Fairness. How abstract. Can it really be defined or is based on individual desires? The Oxford dictionary describes fair as ‘Treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination’ but historically, the concept of equality itself has been twisted out of spite. Equality should not even be a concept but rather a natural occurrence. From an anthropological point of view, this social disparity is largely based on race. After centuries of discrimination towards people of colour and favoritism towards the white race, is it fair to switch the roles in an attempt to balance out the mistakes of the past or is that just history repeating itself?
As result of slavery and further discrimination after that, black people start the race of life metres behind the white man. Favouritism would fix the distorted race of life but would it be fair in the eyes of the white man? Some could say yes as it means that success is more attainable for everyone but others could argue that it would be unjust for white people to suffer from the decisions their ancestors made, however the hypocrisy of that statement is overbearing as black people have suffered and are still suffering from decisions that their ancestors didn’t even get a say in.
Fair is a noun, meaning ‘a beautiful woman’ but fair is also an adjective meaning ‘light’ or ‘blonde’. Collectively, these definitions indicate that the ideal beautiful woman is blonde with a light skin complexion… Even the english language is damaged. What even is a beautiful woman, who decides what is beautiful and what is not, society? But society is just a group of people with individual desires so why should we follow beauty standards? We are all sheep and validation is the shepherd. We make society and yet society controls us.
The common self-centred personality trait present in a child has bled into the idea of fairness as an adult; What is ‘fair’ for one person may not be ‘fair’ for another and yet we use this word to highlight injustice. How do we know if something is fair or not, is it personal knowledge or is it down to a community of knowers to decide? If so, who is a part of this community? It is part of human nature to want the best for yourself and others in the same situation as you so if one community of knowers made that decision, would it really be fair? Negotiation is key. This compromise resolves the issue in a way that both parties are satisfied with the outcome. Yes an impartial person could decide but that takes away that sense of authority that one should have over their own life.
From an economic perspective, fairness is not easily defined : Capitalists say that capitalism is fair because everyone gets what they work for but as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and class privilege becomes a problem as the gap between classes widen resulting in an economic divide. This issue is quite relevant in the land of the free – America. Children from ghettos are less likely to succeed as their schools are of a lower standard than children living in wealthier neighborhoods, and with a lack of academic opportunities, they are stuck in the poverty they grew up in. Here’s where systemic racism comes into play as a majority of the families living in these ghettos are black due to slavery in the 17th and 18th century and segregation (The Jim Crow laws) in the 19th Century.
Communists say that communism is fair because then basic necessities are affordable for everyone but then life becomes monotonous and the motivation that human beings need in order to work hard is removed. People are quick to say that it is worth the sacrifice but we already struggle to follow rules in a democracy, therefore, communism would just wreak havoc on society. Communism led to Maoism in China and Maoism led to tens of millions worked, starved or beaten to death, proving the unfairness of that kind of system.
If a fair society was a reality then double standards wouldn’t exist. Why is it when the French language is spoken it is considered beautiful but someone speaking Mandarin in public is frowned upon? From a behaviourists point of view, one believes this because everyone else does but from a cognitive point of view, this happens because of the way you think as an individual. If the way you act is affected by the way you think then maybe fairness stems from the mind and not society, linking back to the question ‘Can fairness be defined?’. Since everyone’s minds work differently, there can’t be a fixed definition of what is considered to be fair.
Moreover, equal is often confused to mean fair – equal means everyone gets the same thing regardless of their needs while fair means that the distribution is tailored to the situation / individual.
Example analogy : Two people contribute money to buy a pizza with 10 slices, person A pays 60% while person B pays 40%. It would be equal for both person A and person B to get 5 slices each but it would be fair for person A to get 6 slices and person B to get 4 slices since that amount corresponds to how much each party contributed. Now say person B is less financially stable and 40% of the price is all they could afford to pay, it could also be deemed fair for person A to get 4 slices and person B to get 6 slices as person B has less money to spend on luxury items such as pizza.