Using Your Unique Gifts
Don’t remember where I read it, but apparently Abraham Lincoln was once challenged to a duel by a political opponent. Standing 6’4” tall and being the challenged party, Lincoln was invited to select the location for the deadly contest, and to choose the weapons that would be used.
Preferring not to fight, Lincoln famously chose sledgehammers for weapons while standing in 6’ of water. The duel was called off.
That a fair enough advantage for you?
Yes, If it’s earned.
Don't worry I'll avoid my own version of the "life is unfair rant". ( I typed it and erased it. I'll try to stick to the question.)
No, certain advantages are intricately fair. Earned advantages are fair, but not always realistic and earned upon an even playing field.
For example, in situations where better preparation led to better performance. If I studied longer than you and I got a higher grade then the edge was fair and understandable by both parties. However, the playing field may have been leveled due to complications at home, stress levels, and differences in physical/mental health. But studying harder and getting better results is a logical progression of events. One that cannot be argued against at face value.
The Status Quo (A Modern Haiku)
The Status Quo
(A Modern Haiku)
Lack of empathy
rages like a tornado.
The Shopping List
In Loves Quest
It's always best
To make a shopping list
Curvy or Curley
Narrow it down
Know exactly what
You want in your love cart
Not a cheater....
Prefer a reader....?
Make a shopping List
It to your advantage
Take nothing for granted
You'll end up with Shit
In your cart
If you dont
Find your self worthy
Make your list
Point for Inspiration
I would strike the idea of determining fairness down as a null point regardless of the outcome of any debate. The concept of advantage and disadvantage implies unfairness, inequality, disproportionate odds of success; however, fairness, or the lack thereof, has little consequence in the universe we live in. But someone clever once wrote about how creativity thrives on limitations, and though their name escapes me now, I am reminded of the contents of that article.
For instance, if a group of filmmakers only has one day to make a ten minute film that only uses ten words with a limited budget, they sometimes create a masterpiece because of how much extra thought and consideration is required to accomplish the task with the time and resources available, but if you give the same group a year to make an hour long movie with a limitless budget and no restrictions, you might well end up with a billion-dollar flop because the artistic vision of the group relied on the limitations to give them focus and direction.
That was the gist of the article and the evidence presented in it. One could certainly argue that the original group was at a disadvantage to the later group as far as resources, but they were ultimately more successful anyway. I find it curious how disadvantage can actually stimulate success in the realm of art. On the surface it is a great contradiction to what we've learned about the nature of success and fairness, but culturally speaking, it makes sense. Why else would we always root for the underdog? To triumph in the face of insurmountable odds is an inspiring notion, and inspiration can tip the scales in all kinds of unexpected ways.
What is fair?
The definition of fairness often revolves not being biased, lack of discrimination, or lack of favoritism.
Intuitively, fairness seems like a simple and easy to understand concept. If someone wins a race from their own efforts, then they have won “fair and square”. However, if you dig a little deeper, you might point out genetics and upbringing differences that contributed to the outcome. You might argue that life itself granted more benefits to this person that was “biased”.
Someone else may point out that it is impossible to live in a purely fair world in which everyone starts out the same as it would mean requiring everyone to be the exact same copy of each other and growing and training in the exact same conditions, so the definition of fairness should not based on effort, but rather based on something else.
Someone may take this and run very far with this prior argument. They may define fairness in terms of equal outcomes rather based on effort. In a truly fair world, then everyone would win the race.
So who is right? That depends on how you think about fairness. The first argument defines fairness in terms of what influenced the outcome. If an outcome happens that is influenced by forces outside, then it’s really not one’s own effort. The second argument, however, pokes a hole in how we define fairness in terms of influence because there can never be a perfect starting point that makes things purely without advantage. How, then would you define fairness if you can never truly untangle the messes of genetic, socioeconomic, ancestry, and upbringing lotteries from personal effort? How much personal effort is needed? How can we decide what is personal effort and what is not? To what extent is anything personal effort? We can think about clear cases of unfairness, but how about the gray? The third argument abandons this question entirely as it is a lost cause to argue about what is personal effort when it is so deeply entangled with what is not personal effort. Instead, it posits that fairness is about looking at equal outcomes.
The word “advantage“ automatically implies undue benefit that allows someone to achieve an outcome easier than someone else. Abstracting away from this loaded term, we can think of certain circumstances that may have influence on someone that can be seen as unfair.
Considering that we live in such a complex world in which the simple rules that govern fairness are often ignorant of this complexity, one could argue that having certain circumstances that lend greater likelihood of a certain consequence is fair simply because diversity and unfairness is embedded into our universe. Unfairness is fair. No one was intentionally discriminated against, and as a part of an imperfect world, there will always be advantages. One could even argue that these advantages are even a good thing because they imply diversity that otherwise would not be there. Not only would a lack of diversity doom the species evolutionarily, but diversity is to be celebrated as everyone has something advantageous or un-advantageous over others, so everyone can play different roles.
If we define fairness in terms of an outcome in which all are equally likely to reach, then we would be talking about equity. In equity, some individuals would get more benefits to compensate for those innate or circumstantial differences. Fairness in this definition would see any circumstances that leads to a difference in outcome (whether beneficial or not) as a sign of unfairness. This position may seem extreme at first, but consider other scenarios more acceptable to this idea such as securing basic needs like food. Is it fair if someone has a greater advantage in securing the bare necessities because they were born lucky? People who think the world is fairly unfair might say that this is fine, but people who argue for equity see fairness in making sure that all individuals have the bare necessities.
How we define fairness may even need to change depending on the context of the issue we are discussing. While racing may be more compatible with a fair unfair world concept, securing basic necessities may not. There might not be a “right” answer to what constitutes fair because, at its core, it is a moral judgement about what is right and what is wrong. While some contexts are easily seen as unfair or unjust, such as comparing a child to an adult runner, other situations are not so clear. Just like the famous trolley problem, there can be many different interpretations, justifications, and gut feelings that govern why someone may think a situation is fair or not, but there is no “right” answer. It’s an area of gray that underlies most complex moral questions.
As unsatisfying as it is, if you asked me whether or not advantages can be fair in some situations, my answer would be: it depends. Tell me more, and then we can discuss.
some advantageous thoughts
ok, to get the ball rolling...
nothing about thos world is fair. there is no equality, no justice and not even hope, if you look at things from a long enough time span.
suppose one individual must compete with another. some advantages that a person possess are considered acceptible ethically , while others will be totally unacceptible and incongruous with the idea of a fair chance.
but will the choice of using the term advantage in itself imply unfair play?
consider watermelon-eating contests.
these are surly the most spiritually profound competitive venues that civilization has come up with. watermellons were carefully bred over thousands of years from small bland, cucumber-like fruit to large, sweet succulant perfection. this was a competition between individual specimens; all were eaten, but only the winners won the prize of continued propagation. thus, winners with an advantage were chosen, violently devoured, then spread across the juice-drenched soil. no one would want the advantage-less ones.
then a new advantage presented itself to the industreious cucurbit; the abilility to sound hollow and deep.
in ourvage of plenty, grocery shoppers are given a choice between conpeting specimens. the customers and attendants tap the engorged watermellon, struggling to devine their merits . some tap them hard, some place their ears upon the skin, and merely lightly brush. the delicate seismology of watermellon choosing is a beset with regrets, anguish but also jubilation and triumph. yet the watermellons, compete still. they care not for our pleasure, they care only for the reproductive advantages, and so they evolved further, to provide an acoustic enticement for their choosing. the right kind of sound is chosen, all else are sent to the dumpster. more advantages that are perhaps misleading, or outright falasious, and yet are a reward to the winner.
which brings us again to watermellon eating contests. these battles of mandibular prowess , these gastronomical skirmishes are epic and heroic. they symbolize all that is good and honorable about the perpetual search for and the gaining of advantage. i have watched these ceremonies , these rituals of sacrifice with great admiration and awe.
and yet i was never allowed to participate.
you see, my presence may be tolarated among humans , at least to a certain extent, but it is immidiately apparent, to all who see me, that my advantages regarding the rapid consumption of foodstuffs, talents that i had honed over years in the swamplands PRECLUDE me from ever participating in such a sacred and morally significant event.
why is that?
the high preists of the contests asserted many times, that the fact that i have five seperate digestive tracts, lengthy expansion areas in my stomachs, and eight pairs of mandibles , pose an unfair competitive advantage over other contestants. and so i am forever banned from participating in such events. the learned men question the fair-play of possessing the ability to rapidly devour and digest and label it as excessive, and in opposition to the spirit of event.
"if we admit you, and enter you in the list" one judge explained, seeing my anguish sympathitically "then surly we shall soon face other challengers, such as mechanical woodchippers, and black holes. placing HUMAN contenders among such ravenous singularities will be both UNFAIR and even UNSAFE!, why, if i accept you, we will not even be required to CUT the watermellons!!" he excalimed.
i protested that it was not my fault that i had evolved and am in possession of such attributes and that i intended to participate as a worthy competitor, eager to participate in observance of the strict regulations regarding the event.
"shall you fault my expandable stomachs? shall you sully the honor of my kind by alluding to miscarriage of rules, subterfuge, or non-compliance?!"
but the adjudicator was unmoved by my cries. "nay, i fault you not . i merely wish for you to understand that with humans and sporting events, we at times assign standards that shall remove a contender that will be unquestionably and invariably the winner. by enrolling you, i will doom all human contenders, to vie at best for the second place. they will have no possible way to contest your voracious appetite and so will not be fairly served by my office as the adjudicator. "
"but is not an advantage something to celebrate and exalt?" i asked, still struggling to reconcile the peculiarities of what the wise man was saying.
“oh, advantage is indeed celebrated in sports. But unlike other endvours where ANY and ALL advantages are accepted, the challenge of competition requires that the advantages woud be of a similar kind or within the kind shared by all contestants. In this case, all contestants have but one stomach, a single pair of mandibles, and only one row of teeth. Admitting someone such as you would be to sully the real , mental and emotional aspcet of the competition, and turn it to a matter of mechanics. Would you accept that the other contestants be given blueberries instead of watermelons, while we count the fruit in number? it would be perhaps proportional but still defeats the purpose of a watermelon eating contests, as that bluberries are NOT watermelons in the leadt. Nay, you shall not. You must forgive me, my friend. But perhaps i failed to explain this, as i construed that it was clear for you. A sporting competition is held in such a way that all contestants are put in an as much of an equal level of effort, as possible, and have as much of chance to win as possible. It is then up to their will , tolarance and stamina to succeed or fail over their peers. If either the specific conditions or contestants are fundamentally unequal, it is an unfair competition. We do not celebrate the advantage as a matter onto itself, but as a component that contributes to the success. Because of your grotesque physical capabilities, admitting you would be as much of an unfair competition as i could imagine.” he concluded and proceeded to envigilate the first round of contestants. As i watched them go through slice after slice of watermellon, it was clear to me that the judge had spoken true and that were i to enter , it would pose an unfair challange.
I then recalled challenges that i had participated in theprose.com . here my capabilities of eating watermellons rapidly had no bearing. Neither were any of my other advantages, such as secreting poison, or the ability to catch the scent of slamander eggs from a distance, neither were my acheivments in warming food in a microwave much of a contributing factor in the arts of composition. Consequentally i have grown to accept failure and tend to participate in challenges where no one else participates.
And how do advantages serve in affairs that are not mere passtime engagements?
Here things are even more complex morally.
Let me give you a professional example.
In these early summer months, students tend to be distracted and uninterested in the subject matter of myvlessons. like all teachers, I often face this challenge with frustration and unease. I am often tempted to exude some of my neurotoxin into the air. You must understand that I would never devour one of those cannibals. However, i often dream of the advantages of having a classroom filled with immobilized, stunned or temporarily paralyzed students. It is true that the students would not draw much of the material i hope to convey to them, being in such a state. Some perhaps will react more severely to this treatment.
But here i find myself at a disadvantage. I am not eloquent as my colleagues. Nor am i at all an enjoyable sight for my students, many of whom often shriek in terror as i approach heavily toward the classroom.
Is it then an unfair advantage that my fellow teachers have over me, that they actually possess a human form and that their voice is not the bubbly gurgle which i struggle to produce? Should they handicap themselves just because i have tentacles and that the laser pointer is not easy to grasp with the suction cups?
Of course not!
It is good that they have abilities that allow them to successfuly teach human younglings. My attributing these abilitis as “advantages” intrinsically necessitate a comparative state of mind to my observation. Consider then, that If i did not falter personally and observe their success thusly , then these abilities would not be definable as advantages but merely skills or talents or good fortune. It gets worse, because if i am saying that these are not only advantages, but “unfair” advantages i am also assigning some kind of blame of the failure that transpired on them rather than on my own shortcomings.
The ethics of competing in other forms of human interaction are even more gray. What of the advantages of one company over it’s rivals? Of a warring state over it’s enemies? Residents and their neighbors? Much of what is the code of laws is based on the conception that there must be some restiction to the way people and other entities interact. The codex defines for us some advnatages that are allowable and legaly acceptable, while other paractices that are wholly unethical, or even criminal.
If someone was to open a business, say , a manufactury for collecting the secretions of the angler- newts and attempt to cater for the growing market of their galndular secretions.
It is certain, that having an expertiese in the entrappment of angler-newts and the careful milking of their glands, would be starkly advantageous over those who have never attempted such a feat. This advantage will be an objective one. It shall be counted in liters of ooze and possibly in severed limbs. Having experience in the field for many years of slithering in the lower reaches of the swamp, I shall be one of those who draw upon such an advnatage. I shall not restrain myself, nor disrupt the efforts of others, and yet probably succeed more than others in this venture. You might question the ethics of the obtainment or the usage of such a dangerous substance, but can not doubt the fact that possessing knowledge and experience, and a tolarnce to radioctivity is an advantage in this neich market.
This advantage, would be an unfair advantage , if during my endeavour i will flood the nesting sited with the bottom tar, leaving my competitors stuck and at the mercy of the enraged, revently-milked newts. that would be unfair of me, and possibly even homicidal. here unfair advantage and criminality are in overlap.
i shall conclude by reminding participants that words are not meaningful within themselves. their importance draws upon the field of definitions , connotation and representations that hide behind them, and deep within our minds.
What is Fair?
Since fair is one of those concepts which depends entirely on perception, we will never be able to agree on a global definition.
Russia thinks its war on Ukraine is fair. Ukraine definitely does not.
A person who works hard to better themselves, and therefore gains monetary might, considers it fair to have material possessions of their choice. The man who lives in a cardboard box under the bridge leading to the rich man's property wonders why he doesn't share.
Fair is different for those who struggle to keep themselves afloat with no life preserver, than it is for the man sailing by in the mega yacht.
Fair will always be defined differently by have and have not. Whether it's health, wealth, privacy or fame, the balance point of fair is never the same for both sides of the equation.
Therefore, there can only be arguments about what is fair. There will always be someone who yells at the top of their lungs, "THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!"
Fairness will always be relative.
Timely trends dictate the society's expression of distaste or praise, rewarding groups and individuals. Truth holds little value in a wider scale because reality- including the distribution of advantages- is manipulated by perspective in one hand and powerful structures in the other. Since some advantages are ingrained into nature, advantages will not inherently be unfair. There is beauty in disparities in the heights of trees despite the fact that that excess growth may coincide with diminished sunlight and nutrients for others.
Through the establishment of societies, however, nature has surely been corrupted. Structures that cause disproportionate advantages to some while harming others (white supremacy, patriarchy, etc.) give insight into the more catastrophic effects of advantages. The lack of an advantage can mean inability to care for oneself or one's offspring or even to have one's life. Even to the beneficiaries of these structures, they continue to unknowingly experience the degradation of their own hearts and limiting their own true capability. These imposed advantages that destroy the will of individuals go beyond unfairness but threaten the stream of consciousness that rope all humans in this world together.
Advantages are what you make of them. For most who think they have mastery over them, will be chained by them. In the words of Bob Dylan, you're gonna have to serve somebody. Spread your advantages and you will only gain more.