One of the first interpersonal impulses we feel as children is the necessity of fairness–especially as it applies to ourselves. The matter of justice is strong in other species, too. People who have more than one dog have observed that it is smart to treat them all equally well. Any favoritism will be spotted instantly by the dog that is snubbed.
If we were fortunate enough to be raised in a family that took into consideration good etiquette, good sportsmanship, kindness, and ethical behavior, then the concept of fairness was instilled and expanded from merely being fair to oneself to expanding and extending fairness towards others. This type of upbringing seems obvious, but it is not always the norm in certain families.
Most people I know were raised in an environment that exemplified the virtue of justice. In school, we were expected to act like good ladies and gentlemen and to treat our fellow pupils with all due respect. During recess, the teachers and coaches instilled the concept of good sportsmanship. Aside from the bullies, most kids understood the value of treating others in a civil, fair manner. By my personal observations, this still seems to be the case with most children today.
In my former profession as a media worker, I aimed towards the journalistic ideal of objectivity. I learned early on that total objectivity is practically impossible because reporters are human beings and that human beings are always under sway of subjectivity. However, it is ethical to honestly aim towards objectivity. While doing so, journalistic ethics stress the need for fairness in reporting.
This does not mean that all sides carry equal weight in controversial issues. A good reporter develops healthy skepticism and learns how to detect bias, prejudice, and injustice in pursuit of fair reporting. The fact that there are less than ethical commentators and reporters causes harm to the craft of journalism. The lack of objectivity and fairness by some, has given rise to today’s popular distrust of “mainstream media”. Popular opinions about the media aside, I still believe in the basic journalistic standards of stating the facts as objectively and fairly as possible.
“You’re morally tainted if you don’t treat both the accuser and the accused with fairness and with respect, and with due process.”–John F. Kennedy
The Kennedy statement is strongly worded, and rightly so. Mid century United States was a less fair and just nation then than it is today. The pursuit of fairness and justice for all required more than a milquetoast leader. This is still true to this day because there are so many powerful forces that desire inequality, favoritism, and unfairness in society. The dangers of anti-democracy movements are ever present. It’s important to be wary of popular movements that downplay the importance of fairness and justice for all. To embrace fairness is one of the primary responsibilities of citizens who live in democratic republics.
There is a traditional Taoist saying that advises the student to never oppose what is fair and just. If the student ignores this advise, then the student will acquire a legacy of shame. The saying goes on to state, “One should not enter in among power brokers. The stain will last all of one’s life.” In my view, this restates the necessity to not violate the basic human desire for fairness.
The historical figures who are most admirable are those who advocated democracy, freedom, opportunity, and fairness. They advocated against oppression, greed, prejudice, and other injustices. They understood that for the best possible future that it was necessary to exercise fairness in their everyday thoughts and behavior–especially when it seemed most difficult to do so.
These are just a few of my reflections about fairness as a high ideal in a world that is frequently unfair.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Greek philosopher and sage, Epicurus. “Anybody can become angry–that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way–that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”