Wednesday, February 15, 2017


When I was a young girl, fairness to me meant that I would be able to have the same things my sister or brother had. In that fairness mode everyone had to wait for his or her turn – but they would get it if they waited – mostly patiently. Growing up fairness seems to be demanded and expected. As a child in the sixties Equal opportunity and Equal pay were being trumpeted by the media and discussed in school often. I grew up with the idea that everyone was trying for an ideal of fairness and that meant someday I would have my fair share in life. I expected that circumstances, wealth and opportunity would come my way because that would be fair – those around me had it in some measure or other and so should I.
 I found this picture on Facebook and just had to use it!

Life is totally unfair in the Philippines. Stark poverty and tremendous wealth live side by side and no matter who you are, the evidences are in sharp contrasts all around. There is no living in one neighborhood without awareness of the differences of another neighbor next to you. Beggars and ultra rich are on the same street, sometimes sharing a wall, most often a strip of land separates them. 

Shared space
You would have to live in your own house without ever going out to not see the prevalent unfairness have and have nots. Walking down the street the birth defects, beggars, hawkers, families living under an awning in contrast to those walking by with nice clothes, shoes and healthy faces, driving in a car. In fact in the wealthy homes, the care-takers, gardeners, and maintenance workers would still reflect the disparity of the have and have-nots. Filipinos just grow up with the awareness and acceptance of differences. I have never heard the idea spoken of here. One man told me they were free to do whatever they wanted unless it hurts another person.  At the pharmacy or other counters they do not form lines. They gather around and whoever is at the front is served. I wonder if that is why they have skinny aisles at the grocery store?  Politeness, smiles and nods are everywhere but assertiveness is just under the surface in order to thrive. There doesn’t seem to be a concept of a line or queue especially with transportation on the roads. Everyone just gets where they need to go, only waiting for those in front to move.
3 wheel bike making left turn in on-coming traffic

Is fairness an American concept?
I’ve heard in England that fairness is similar to the American version, but I’ve never been there. Germany, France, Ireland do they have the same kind of fairness ideals? How does Japan, China and India view fairness?

When ideas of fairness are not similar the discrepancies of expectations become stark. It is not considered rude to cut in front of someone or to crowd another out. No pushing or shoving goes on, though someone on your right my pull in front of you making a left or u-turn. Politeness is not noting who arrived first; it is waiting for someone in front of you to finish or move so you can move up.

1 comment:

Susan Eames said...

Is isn't fair that some of us are born wealthy, while others cannot afford to eat. Is isn't fair that some of us have all the love in the world, and others may live their entire life without ever knowing what love really is. Life isn’t fair. The most we can do is to put on a brave face, do what we can to help others lift the hardships they face, and appreciate the good times.

David Foster Wallace said "Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you"