Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fairness of life - and the purpose of civilization?

This post is inspired by a post by a dear friend of mine...

"The only thing fair about life is that it is equally unfair to all!"

to which my reply was... "I really wish this were true." and I pledged to write a blog post about this.

That status message made me think a lot... about fairness, about equality, about people, experiences, society, and many other things. I'll try to make (and support) two assertions today:
  1. Life is unfair. And life is unequally unfair.
  2. We've all known Point 1 for a long time, whether consciously, or subconsciously. And we're all already working on this together, and we recognize it as a problem. The solution is called "Civilization".
I don't think we need much debate on whether life is unfair. We see plenty of instances of it in each of our lives - anything that you wished for, or wanted, and somehow, despite your best efforts, seemed to escape you - whether it's a meal, a job, a grade, a vacation or love.

We aren't born equal. Some of us are born without a hand, a leg, with a weak heart, or blind or deaf or dumb. Some of us are born with a predilection towards certain diseases or disorders, some physical, some mental, some triggered only when our life leads us towards certain circumstances. Some of us are not even completely born - dying in the womb before we see light. Some of us meet accidents down the road of life, often for the sole reason that a set of events coincided at a time in a certain way.

If we were all born in jungles, Mother Nature would apply its standard rule on all of us - "Survival of the fittest". Predators would attack anyone that "fell behind" in any way at all. And by this discrimination itself, Mother Nature would demonstrate that we are not born equal. And since all of these "weaknesses" were not ours to choose at the time of birth, it is indeed unfair as well.

This unfairness is also unequal. Even two identical twins may have very different lives. It could take just some camouflage on one fine day to end the fate of one while the other lives on. 

Alright, we're done with the sad stuff now. Here comes civilization...

Man is a social being. We don't believe in each finding our own way from birth to grave. We believe in cooperation. If you can pick berries and I can hunt deer, we team up and work together, so that we both gain. If you're good at growing crops, and I'm good at knitting clothes, we work together, and gain. This is the essence of civilization. We each find the things that we're good at, and we take care of each other. And if someone hasn't yet figured out what they're good at, we share and we protect them, because we care. 

This is the essence of civilization... that collaboration of the human spirit... which has inspired us to build societies of democracy, of egalitarianism, of chasing down every single thing that we see as the unequal unfairness of life, and to pledge our cause to understanding the nature of this unfairness and to try and bridge the gap... so that tomorrow we may all look forward to a world of less unfairness.

It is this same essence that has made us recognize the nature of discrimination of gender, caste, color, creed, race and religion, and made us enact laws that prevent such discrimination. It is this same essence that makes us work towards understanding health, to find and cure diseases as they break out, or to study the brain, understand how it functions and how to repair it when things go wrong. It is this same essence that inspires us to make bionic eyes for the blind, ears for the deaf, limbs for the paraplegic. It is this same essence that inspires so many of us to build new things, so that someone in another part of the world can save their time, or be saved from inconvenience or pain, or perhaps be given a smile once again, whether by curing an illness, or just listening to that song that touches our hearts.

Civilization is not perfect. Indeed, perfection is not what civilization strives for, or believes in. Rather, civilization strives for equality. It strives for being a voice for the voiceless. For giving each and every one the opportunity to act as they choose, as long as their action is not at the expense of others - and to protect those that face the ill consequences of the actions of others. Civilization is a process, not a state of being, and it will not end its continuous cycle of finding and leveling out the imbalance of justice that is inherent in nature - for civilization believes that "Survival of the Fittest" is not what should govern our existence, and that we can defy this "edict" and recognize the deeper value in each of our lives.

And with every stride that civilization takes, we are brought closer to an understanding that despite all our seeming differences, we all can and will work towards an environment in which we can not only peacefully coexist and prosper, but also bring equality and fairness to counter that unequal unfairness that Mother Nature so ruthlessly imposes on us all.

I will end with one final note. When you feel that life is unfair to you, reach out to civilization - whether it's your family, your friends, your loved ones, or a stranger who will lend an ear - not because we have all the answers, or that we have any miracle cure for what you're going through - we probably don't. But reach out to us - because we care.


rajuys said...

I like the thought that human beings try to reduce inequality or iniquity.But I wonder if mankind is really civilized or close to it? There seems to be a slip between the cup of 'should be' and the lip of 'is'.

Avan said...

Wonderful concern.

I believe we will continue to fight iniquity for the same reason that brings this skepticism in us... this is how we lend a voice to those that say "Nay, there is yet a problem to be addressed here."

Sublimation said...

This is a well thought out and well written post, but I have my own take on the main points stressed here and that is ‘Life is unfair’ and that the solution is ‘Civilization’. I do not believe that they are linked for whatever the level of civilization you achieve the angst arising out of ‘Life is unfair’ will persist. This angst is an individual state of existence and unless one reaches a stage of total acceptance of his own reality it can never be erased.
The human is a social animal, yes and civilization is an outcome of cooperation among us human beings. I agree when you say that the essence of civilization is the collaboration of the human spirit for finding solutions to the problems faced in our living. But the rest of what you have said about looking forward to a world of less unfairness is an utopian dream. This will never happen as long as man’s innate selfishness and the desire to dominate are brought under subjugation.
If you ask a theist for a solution to get over your anxiety he will tell you ‘Reach out to God’, an atheist would probably say ‘Well that’s how it is, make yourself authentic’ and an agnostic would murmur ‘I don’t know’.
But seriously speaking the only logical answer I have come across is in the theory of ‘Karma’, though I have my serious doubts about the method of meting out rewards and punishments. I have expressed my angst in a series of posts in my blog titled ‘Letters to God’

Anonymous said...

The human propensity to seek harmony, is really an expression of a deeper spiritual reality which shines among atleast sections of the human species.
The struggle, inequity, competition etc are realities closer to physical aspects of nature.
The more refined aspects of human nature find expression for the most part only after the physical nature has been transcended.
My little bit of wisdom.

vidyadhara buddhiraju