“Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.”
Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)
When I hear the phrase, “life is not fair” I often think of Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin complains to his dad about unfairness and his dad says;
“The world isn’t fair, Calvin.”
“I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my [favour]?” Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury
What is fairness?
Life is not fair for one of two reasons. The first is because of a problem with defining fairness. If one sees life as being unfair because you do not always get what you want or the things you think you deserve, tough luck schnook. Good fortune is different from fair.
The second reason is that many people find it difficult to treat everyone the same and that is why fairness is a strength. When a family of four has only two doughnuts (why you would do this is beyond me), the solution to fairness is simple. You cut each doughnut in half and then every member gets to have a piece and everyone’s piece is the same size (unless you cheat). It becomes harder to be fair when emotions, values and biases come into play. In the family dynamic, this is often very evident between first- and last-born children. The first child has a nursery out of a catalogue, with Pinterest worthy “Today I am one week three days and 17 hours old” special filter snaps. The last child has a mattress on the floor and for pictures, I think there is one stored somewhere in the cloud from when great-aunt Mavis came to visit. I am joking, of course, great-aunt Mavis died years ago.
Why is fairness a strength?
In this time of quarantine, I would like to encourage you to pay special attention to fairness in your living situation. Is everyone being treated the same? This is not as farfetched as you think. Like with everything, practise makes perfect. It is not so much a matter of time management as it is about mindset and behaviour. Ensuring everyone is being treated the same.
My daughter’s occupational therapist, Belinda von Wielligh, once suggested that my husband and I spend 15 minutes every night with each child one-on-one. I would spend time with our daughter doing whatever activity she picks whilst my husband would spend time with our son. After the 15 minutes, we would switch. I would like to tell you how dedicated we have been to this plan and how much we have each been enjoying it. I would like to, but you would be able to see my nose growing from right where you are sitting.
What does fairness look like?
My daughter’s occupational therapist is one of those people you marvel at. She treats everyone the same. You always feel like the most valued person in the room when you are with her and you feel so understood and supported. She never gives any indication of judgement, which is a blessing, because my daughter tells her EVERYTHING (for example, Mommy does not know how to iron – in fact, Mommy does not even know where the iron is).
She is a paragon of how inspiring but also healing, fairness can be. You watch her in action and you find yourself striving to be the same way. My husband and I honestly had every intention of doing this kids-time assignment. We were looking forward to it and had illusions of spending picture-perfect moments with our children. Naturally, it only took one miserable long day and then neither one of us were in the mood to do anything else but put the kids in bed and watch MasterChef. It has all been downhill from there. In the spirit of fairness, however, both children get put through their bedtime routine with military precision.
Not anymore. This time we are going to enhance our efforts towards fairness this week. We are going to strengthen this strength during the lockdown and we invite you to do the same.
are you fair?
Let us all use this time of isolation to build on our relationships. Not only with the people or animals living with us, but also those we are having to connect virtually with. Focus on how you are treating everyone. Are you being fair? Do you take as much interest in the life of your father-in-law as your mother-in-law? Are you showing preferential treatment to one dog over another? Are you dividing your affection equally between your goldfish? As you can tell, I know nothing about raising goldfish. I had silkworms once, and not to brag or anything, but I did not discriminate against any of them. I was disappointed in their lack of cocoon spinning equally.
Fairness after isolation
I hope you will find yourself behaving the same way towards strangers once the lockdown period is over. It does not mean you need to go out and befriend every person you meet; that would make you a weirdo. It means, treating every person as a person. Try taking a genuine interest in others. Remember, discrimination is discrimination. Full stop. It does not become okay just because you believe that a person deserves to be discriminated against. It makes you the pot calling the kettle a bigot. And with that I repeat Victor Hugo’s words to you; “Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.” Be the one that rises above it all, be the tolerance you crave to see in others.