BBC Radio Wales - Weekend Word
10th May 2000
Listening to the news this week, I noticed a recurrent theme of concerns for the application of fairness in society. There’s been more debate about David Blunkett’s plans to make the sentencing of offenders fair in all areas. There should be fair pay for public sector workers. There are calls for the US to be fair in its approach to the Middle East.
But “Who says life is meant to be fair?” Where does this idea of fairness spring from? Because, when we analyse it, fairness is hardly a logical proposition. For instance, it’s not supported by what we see going on around us. Life very rarely seems fair at all.
Nor does the concept of fairness fit into the notion that we are the product of eons of survival of the fittest - where might is right.
And, it’s also contrary to our human tendency to be selfish. The case for putting our own interests first was best articulated by Yossarian, the star of the book, Catch-22, when he proclaimed “From now on, I’m only going to think about myself.” His horrified friend challenged, “but what if everyone thought like that?” Yossarian responded, “then, I’d be a fool not to.”
But despite such logic, somewhere inside us, we still feel that we should moderate our self-interest and try to be as fair as possible. And so, the questions about where the concept comes from and why we should be fair at all remain unanswered. I’m left to conclude that fairness must be a feature of spirit – something that is inexplicable from the material viewpoint, but which exists at our deepest level - like hope, trust and love.
The ancient spiritual text, the Bhagavad-gita, says that each of these qualities has its source in the personality of God. And it quotes God as saying:- “I am equally disposed to all living beings. I am neither vengeful nor negligent towards anyone. Nor am I partial to anyone.”
The Gita claims that we all have the ability to hear God speaking within our hearts. Most of the time we aren’t paying much attention, but occasionally God’s voice comes through as what we call conscience, intuition and inspiration. Our sense of equality arises from our awareness of the innate fairness of God towards His creation. And our effort to be fair is an attempt to model ourselves in the image of God.
Who says “life is meant to be fair?” God does. And I think a lot of us agree: It should be.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Weekend Word” on BBC Radio Wales.