The older I become, the less I believe in the concept of fairness. Nothing has ever been fair and nothing will ever be fair. The only reason we think things should be that way is because were are born in THIS time period in THIS country. At one point in time, every country embraced the practice of slavery.

They didn’t draw their slaves from a lottery where everyone had an equal chance of being subjugated. Instead, they chose the weakest group of people, conquered them, and used them to bolster their society. Of course, this made it easier for them to collect more slaves. I’m not expert on slave languages, but I wonder if they had a word for the modern idea of “fair” or “equal”.

A great book on how fair the development of society has been.

The other reason fair is a ridiculous concept to entertain is because if fairness and equality really existed, then there would never be a winner of anything. Each person would have exactly the same set of abilities, education, and opportunity. Since most things in life are zero-sum games, there are only two possible outcomes: either we would all get everything we want or we would all get nothing (or a fixed amount).

The former isn’t possible because everything has a finite limit and the latter is what communism is supposed to look like. But even in those attempts, there is someone with more power and wealth.

Life is like poker: play the hand you’ve got to the best of your ability and over time everyone will get the same cards. Eventually, you’ll get an opportunity to win big, but only if you have the skill to play your cards better than the rest. That’s because it appeals to the circumstances I was born into.

It’s a comforting idea to think that I am not doomed to the same fate of those around me if I want to change bad enough. Given the society and time I was lucky enough to be born into, the poker analogy is true. But what people who quote this analogy forget just HOW true it is.

First, there are some cards in some situations that will never win hands. For example, there are many reasons why I didn’t end up repeating the fate of so many others in my neighbor, but the three largest reasons are beyond my control:

  • I have a higher than average IQ and by sheer luck, someone with power noticed and put me in a different learning setting
  • My father kept in contact with me and showed me a better way to live
  • My ghetto wasn’t that large or that rough (compared to ghettos. Not regular neighborhoods. It was still a war zone)

If was of average intelligence, maybe I never get put in a different school with a different set of influences. If my father never exposed me to the beach, skiing, foreign languages and jazz music, maybe I never develop ambition. If I’m born into a city-sized ghetto like Compton, CA then maybe I get sucked in because there is almost no way to get exposed to something else and thus I know nothing else.

I got some shitty cards, but I also hit a few “outs” that gave me more opportunities. However, if I was stupid and sheltered no amount of good playing could win with these cards.

Like the analogy says, everyone gets the same cards over time. This is 100 percent true, but it assumes you have an unlimited amount of time and money. Yes, if I would play poker until infinity and everyone played their best poker the whole time, no one would ever win. But this is not the case and this is exactly why the game isn’t fair. Before you catch good cards that can actually win, you may run out of money.

The game is set up brilliantly this way by forcing you to pay “blinds”. For those of you not familiar with poker, blinds are the amount that two players have to pay regardless are whether they bet or not. In some games, players are even forced to pay an “ante” plus the blinds. An ante is an amount every player is forced to put in at every hand. It’s entirely possible that you will lose all of your money to blinds and antes before you win anything. Such is the game of poker.

Likewise, sometimes you are beaten out of the game of life before you get a chance to make a difference. You can never make enough money because you always have bills to pay, or you get sick, or things keep coming along to eat away at your reserves. When the big hand finally comes, you’ve got nothing left to make moves with.

The game isn’t always fair, if for any other reason than nothing is guaranteed. It’s all a function of probability. We know that you’re more likely to die in a car crash than an airplane crash. But every year someone dies that way and every day someone survives a car crash.

The only thing that is fair in this world is that events happen impartially to everyone. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Even when we try to create the illusion of fairness in games of sport, people come up with new tactics and methods that push the limits of what we consider within the “rules.” Those rules are based one what another person considers fair.

That person usually was on the losing side. Anyone that observes rule changes in sports knows that the only time rules are modified is when someone gets too good at doing something they are allowed to do. Then a rule is put in place to limit or eliminate the use of that specific tactic. The losers griped while the winners pushed across the finish line.

This is what fairness and equality are really about. A way for those with less to compete with those who have more. Once rules are established, someone will find a way to excel within the rules to the point where it’s considered cheating. Then a rule is put in place to try to make it fair for everyone else who can not compete at this higher level.

If you look around with open eyes, you will see this approach is present in every aspect of society. Only by shedding the expectation to play fair are you able to excel. It’s like the old saying in sports goes: “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.” This is not a moral or ethical consideration. Merely a practical one.

Working harder and sacrificing time in other parts of your life isn’t cheating, but it damn sure isn’t fair if you can’t afford to make sacrifices that your opponents are unable to. If I come from a family with money that can afford to send me to all the best sports camps and your only instruction is from a coach that never excelled in the game, then obviously I have an advantage. A huge one. Someone might even call it unfair, considering the differential in skill that it will create.

It’s the same with private education or people that spend all of their time working out instead of living a balanced life. We’re born rich or poor, intelligent or dull, good looking or repulsive, or in good or bad times. All men are not created equal, nor do they live equally, and they certainly will not die equally. Forget the idea of fair. It’s only an illusion.