I have begun to notice how important the concept of fairness is to me.
Good. And what impact does your concern for fairness have on your capacity to work on self?
I would say it’s pretty deadly. It gets me into all sorts of reactions and judgments which I don’t observe because I’m so identified.
Yes. From a work point of view, attachment to fairness is usually a deadly waste of energy that inhibits other possible states. It is also a wonderful source of friction, provoking body states that can trigger observation of self.
The concept of fairness is pervasive in our culture. In its simplest form, it means to get the same or to be treated the same. If you do the same work, you should get the same pay. How is this equivalency measured? And who decides what is fair? This implies some sort of authority or set of rules which are bound to be inflexible.
Is the same treatment really the right treatment given all the differences that exist among people and circumstances? Aren’t these differences the source of much of what is good and beautiful in human endeavour? What would sameness do to these differences? Fairness is our modern Procrustean bed designed to produce uniformity by arbitrary means. Procrustes, the bandit from Greek mythology, stretched or amputated the limbs of travelers to make them conform to the length of his bed.
In connection with oneself, fairness can be a great mask for envy and jealousy. Perhaps you want what others have and your justification is that it would be fair. Of course this is very superficial and subjective. You do not know what others have, not entirely. You only see partially. You think what you want is what you need; very likely this isn’t so. Someone else having what you do not have may be exactly what each of you needs to work with.
Can you be thankful for what you do have? Can you appreciate the blessings others receive? By asking these questions, I am not suggesting what your response should be. I am asking you to observe and discover something about yourself. I am asking you to see what your response actually is. Does my motive to be just and fair in my dealings with others come from the concept of fairness or something deeper?
Could we say that fairness is the enemy of thankfulness? It can support the thinking that you deserve what you have. It can support resentment and bitterness. But in work terms, you could be thankful for the concept of fairness because it is very fruitful ground for work.
Does dedication to fairness give rise to compassion or are they also antagonists? Compassion is a response of the heart, a sharing of the suffering that is the lot of every sentient being. Fairness is most often a mental measuring that seeks equality of means and treatment. Can they co-exist? Can an attachment to social justice co-exist with love? Fairness often seems to disagree with what is. Thankfulness, compassion and love flow from agreement, do they not?
I have only so much time and attention. Do I have enough to change myself and change the world? Attachment to fairness takes me out into the world to change what is. This costs me the attention I need to work. The other side of the question must also be asked. Is work on self just an excuse for self-preoccupation and a lack of concern for others? I do not mean to suggest that either choice is a bad one but I do not think they are compatible aims.