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    I wouldn't expect people who proscribe to the conservative end of the political spectrum to fully understand it, but there is a vast difference between Equality, the virtue of sameness, and Fairness, the virtue of difference.  After all, Equality is simple to understand: 2+2=4; you learn it in first grade and on, or earlier.  To compare two things that are the same.  But Fairness, the ability to determine from facts what must be unequal, is a much more difficult quality to discern.

Try this mental exercise.  Let us say we all live in the same town, and it has one school, which educates all of our children.  That school has seven steps leading to the only door entering the place.  As a taxpayer, you give a share of your income, as everyone in town does, to ensure the school is in operation for our children's benefit, and the benefit of our community.  That is an example of equality.  Our families all use it—and we all partake in keeping it in operating condition.
    Now, imagine you, of all the people in town, have a disabled child who is in a wheelchair.  In her physical condition, she cannot enter the school to obtain her rightfully paid-for education and usage of the building and educational services within.  Suddenly, your equal payment of taxes does not seem so equal, does it?  So what happens when something that was so simple, so functional, so equal, stops being so?
    Hopefully, we take advantage of the government afforded us by our forefathers and speak out at a City Hall meeting, and get tax money appropriated to build a ramp whereby your daughter can then attend school as she was promised when the school was built.  But wait, others may say...how can your daughter get an additional outlay of tax money to build a ramp that only meets her needs?  That isn't Equal...and that isn't Fair!
    Wrong.  So, so wrong it is perpendicularly aligned.  Fairness is not the same as Equality.  Fair is not (=) to Equal.  It is precisely Fair.  We as a town have been faced with one of the many inequalities in life that cannot be changed to equal—a handicapped, wheelchair-bound child that cannot ever be able to walk.  No matter how much we whine, cry, gnash our teeth, protest, call representatives, or write letters, it will never change.  It just is.  It is unequal.
    But, there is a part of it we can make nearer to equal, for the victim of the inequality.  We, as a community, can offer to shoulder some of the load of the inequality, from the handicapped child and her family, in our empathic duty to be good fellow townsfolk and citizens, and pony up an additional small tax from each of us, and have that ramp built just for her...so she can attend school just like our children, whom she plays with outside of the school every day, oblivious to her inequality, as they know her so well.  We could, of course, refuse to pay such an additional tax, and make all the usual arguments—all based on deep-seated self-survival instincts we have not lost, but tend to ignore until they come to the surface at moments when we can establish our credentials in either altruism or greed.
    Because, as Gandhi once said, a civilization can be judged by how it treats the least of its citizens, and we could refuse to pay the tax, allow the family to spend the money to pay for tutors—or not, depending on their income level—so that we, as citizens, get to keep paying our equal (not fair, remember) share, like everyone should, and be guilty en masse of simply being too selfish to permit a pittance of our own money to assist someone whose family was, through no fault of their own, blessed with a child who taught them to see things differently than every other family in town.
    Or...we could choose to pay the fair extra tax because there, but for the grace of God, go us.  We can see in this mental exercise so many similar situations reflected in modern society—at least those that pertain personally to us or our own families or friends—but how many do we not notice or reject, simply because we don't have a personal stake in them?  We have a social stake in them, if we are any kind of United States.  So, think about it... you may believe in Equality, but... are you Fair?

And thus ends my first diary here at DailyKos.

Community Spotlight... thank you for such an honor!

Originally posted to HamilcarBarca on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:47 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I would say that my experiences being a teacher (7+ / 0-)

    have given me most of my understanding of equality versus fairness, but I must fairly give credit to my parents.  I was raised by moderate Republican, Catholic parents--ones who preached that priests should be able to marry, birth control was okay, etc.  Unfortunately, they were bit by the evangelical christian bug later in life and now are squarely on the Tea Party side of thinking, but once upon a time, they had a more open outlook, long enough to raise my two brothers and I to become Liberals.  

    "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so." - Bertrand Russell

    by HamilcarBarca on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:48:43 AM PST

  •  Nice First Diary (5+ / 0-)

    Looking forward to the next one.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by Jim Tietz on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:12:10 PM PST

  •  As with many such arguments, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    misslegalbeagle, salmo

    the terms of reference are key.

    I my view, you have taken 'equality' and bifurcated it into equality of opportunity and equality of access, the latter you characterize as 'fairness'.

    The fact the school exists implies equality of opportunity. How it is constructed determines equality of access.

    To me, the only 'fairness' issue is whether the disabled child is treated equally in the academic realm, given equality of opportunity and access.

    Your experience may vary, but mine is that taxpayers don't object primarily to providing opportunity or access. They object to their perceptions of administrative bloat, excessive academic experimentation and social engineering. To educators, of course, this equates to flat-earth thinking.

  •  False thinking. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yet another liberal

    I think there is some faulty definitions going on here. First equality does not equal sameness as you state early on. If I knit my 9 year old a pair of mittens and do the same for my 2 year old, they are equal but not the same. Why? Because I use much less yarn for the littler gloves than the first, but the BOTH have gloves so they are equal. I don't want my older kid smashing his hands into smaller gloves or the younger child having his gloves fall off. Secondly, LIFE IS unfair. Otherwise why would bad things happen to good people? No amount of laws are going to protect people from life's unfairness. Should we be empathetic? Absolutely! And I think this is much more important than trying to litigate fairness, since it is virtually impossible. Is it unfortunat and unfair that the girl was born handicapped? Yes, and we should all we can to ensure she has the same OPPORTUNITY to learn as the others, but no amount of laws will take away life's unfairness, ever.

  •  They aren't absolute terms (0+ / 0-)

    Equality implies a comparison.  It doesn't stand by it's own.  We follow principles such as "Equality under the law", or "Equal opportunity".  It's only fair.

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:43:23 PM PST

  •  And I'd also to point out (0+ / 0-)

    That "sameness" could easily be applied to the idea of conformity, which would be the opposite of liberty.  You don't want sameness.

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:47:42 PM PST

  •  ONLY empathy matters (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:54:05 PM PST

  •  Re use of word PROSCRIBE (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ItsaMathJoke, linkage, salmo

    I doubt it's what you meant to say in the context of the sentence.

    A quick Google def. check yielded:

    Proscribe definition
    /prōˈskrīb/Verb
    1.Forbid, esp. by law.
    2.Denounce or condemn.

    Synonyms
    outlaw - ban - forbid - prohibit - banish - interdict

    You may mean "subscribe" meaning something more agree with, concur, etc.

    Araguato

  •  Welcome! (2+ / 0-)

    Excellent first diary.

    Reality has a well-known liberal bias -- Stephen Colbert

    by ItsaMathJoke on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:39:19 PM PST

  •  Thank You - N/T (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doraphasia

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 06:46:45 PM PST

  •  I'm in a (sort-of) managerial position (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, doraphasia

    and have had absolutely no management training. When I started, I though I should treat everyone equally, thinking that that would be the fairest way to manage. I soon realised that, as you say, equal is not the same as fair. Now I try to achieve fairness, realising that people are all different.

  •  I'm all for equality, especially marriage equality (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Light Emitting Pickle

    but I am ALSO fair. My dad taught me that.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:17:07 PM PST

  •  Equality and equity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doraphasia

    Very thoughtful diary. Librarians appear to have thought carefully about this:
    Equality and Equity from the ALA

    Years ago I saw a video of a special education expert addressing teachers' concerns that spending extra time in the classroom with special needs children was unfair to the others. He said something like, "Fairness isn't everyone getting the same thing; fairness is everyone getting what they need."

    It stuck with me.

  •  Nice diary, welcome. (0+ / 0-)

    I personally am not interested in equality. I don't want inequality, but I don't care for equality.

    What do I mean? I think the diary is missing the larger issue, especially with the example of the disabled child. What we should desire and work for is not equality or fairness, but justice.

    With justice, that building doesn't get built without first considering her needs. From my perspective, justice means we don't build a single building without first consulting with people who are disabled, and finding out what they need. Currently, this community is an afterthought, or thought of only in terms of policy builders have to deal with and navigate.

    Just a couple years ago, disability activists in Chicago had to chain themselves to city busses in an effort to get the city to install wheelchair lifts. This is absolutely disgusting to me that it had to come to this. But getting the lifts put on the busses had nothing to do with equality or fairness, it was about justice.

    People are not going to receive equal treatment, or have all the laws be the same, because not everyone is the same. We have power dynamics in our society that privilege some and oppress many others; they are rooted in white supremacy, male supremacy, social darwinism, and manifest destiny, among other false and violent constructs. So we should not strive for equality (or fairness), but rather for justice.

    Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. - Lucy Parsons

    by cruz on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 04:56:42 AM PST

  •  I remember my mother telling me once (0+ / 0-)

    about a study done with children of various ages, and their differing opinions of "fair"; they were told to do a particular task and then rewarded with points or candies afterwards.

    The youngest kids tended to think that "fair" means everybody gets the same reward, whereas the older kids were likelier to think "fair" meant that reward should be more or less equivalent to either effort or results in the assigned task.  If I recall correctly, this was the same whether the reward was something material or something abstract, like points.

    I said at the time, and still think, that I would be very interested to see the same study done in a communist country, and see if the older kids still thought "fair" meant the same thing.

    Meanwhile: I think you're absolutely right that those are two distinct concepts and must be treated as such.  I'm not sure I agree with your "equality" and "fairness" labels for those concepts, but that's much less important than the concepts themselves.

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