Justice and Equality

Fairness: To each according to his needs. Richard D. Lavoie

There were many times I heard my clients telling me that life treats them unfairly. These were inmates who face the pressure of discrimination and stigma as they reintegrate into the mainstream society. They are a bunch of people who also taught me life’s important lessons during the course of group therapy. Whenever the time comes for them to face the inevitability of their release from incarceration, I would hear many complaints of how the world is going to be unfair to them. This is perhaps how many ex-convicts view themselves. I do not blame them, because I work with them, and I hear their stories.

The issue of fairness, or unfairness, kept me thinking about life. Much of our lives revolve around the things in this world, and therefore, the next question is: Is the world unfair?

I believe that deep down inside of us, we have a sense of balance. This balance is the yearning for some kind of justice – a way to ensure that everyone gets what they deserve, whether it is a reward or a punishment. This sense of justice is part of our need to be human. Likewise, our need to derive a sense of morality, or the need to feel civilised. Therefore, if our needs are not met, we will feel a deep sense of injustice and think that the world is unfair.

I have many needs just like every one else, and I may or may not see my needs fulfilled or satisfied. On the contrary, I do have a choice to seek after things that satisfy my needs. If I don’t, that can also be my choice.

If my needs are not satisfied because of external factors, perhaps life is unfair. All the same, on hindsight, if my needs are not fulfilled due to a choice I had made, does it still mean that life is unfair?

Life is unfair to all of us because we don’t get what we need sometimes. We face uncertainty, and accidents may happen. We may lose things and people along the way. We cannot choose where to be born. We cannot choose our parents, siblings, or colleagues. We cannot choose our fingerprints. The hard truth is that we are already who we are, and we have limitations. Our needs and desires can never satisfy us.

I always tell my clients that life is also fair to all of us because we are all given the right to make a choice for ourselves. We are in control of how we react, how we think about things, and how we cope. That’s equality.

The equality of having a choice to be our true self.

The way I see it, life is unequally fair to all of us, because we are all different. And because we all have equal rights to make choices, we turn our attention to making choices for others instead. The choices we make for others can sometimes deny them from their rights to be responsible for themselves. That’s when unfairness begins.

And that’s when discrimination starts.

Sometimes, I ask myself, why do we tell others what to do, when we are already struggling to make up our own minds?

Fairness is when everyone gets what they need.
Fairness is when everyone gets what they need.
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