Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Of Fairness, Jealousy and Envy

I have come to loathe hearing the word "fair". Mainly because it is almost never said in a way that doesn't invoke a whiney child who didn't get exactly what they want.

The definition of fair is "in accordance with the rules", and "without cheating or trying to gain unjust advantage". But we have this group of people these days who use fair to mean "having an excess advantage".

My girls soccer team plays one of two ways. One is that we win - we absolutely dominate the competition. Second is that we lose big. The thing is, when the referee fairly enforces the rules, we are the winners. But in the two games this season where we've lost, a large factor has been that the referee did not not equally enforce the rules. Either the calls favored the other team, or simply prejudiced us. In either case, the other team not because of superior playing on their part, or poor playing on our part, but because the rules were not followed. (This is not to bash the refs - they're kids too, and they're doing the best they can.)

There are people in life, however, who see any advantage is being unfair. The wealthy having money while the poor don't, to them, isn't fair. There is no consideration as to how each wound up their respective positions however: did the rich person work hard, or did they come by their money as an inheritance? Worse still, did they cheat others out of money through dishonest dealings? As to the poor person, are they necessarily a victim, or did they squander their resources? All too often, people on both sides of the debate do not ask these questions, and simply make assumptions about one or the other.

The other thing I dislike about hearing the word "fair" is that there is alway some component of envy in its use. The noun envy is a sense of dissatisfaction arising from a desire to have what someone else possesses. This is not to be confused with jealousy, which is a sense of dissatisfaction arising from someone else gaining at your expense or rights. In recent years, jealousy and envy have been muddled, but their true meanings are quite distinct. Jealousy is a virtue whereby you desire to have what is yours. Envy is a sin in which you desire to have what is someone else's.

For the most part, a lot of the people out there who are advocating fairness are doing so out of envy. And that's what bothers me.

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