Follow by Email

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fair is Fair – CREDO CXCVIII

I learned about injustice at a very early age when still a toddler. I remember it vividly. My nanny accused me of wiping my own bottom with toilet paper, which she deemed her own duty. I had not done this, but besides the undeserved scolding, the shock that grownups were not infallible was far greater – in fact, cataclysmic! And so from the age of three to this day, I have been careful not to project 100% certainty on another human being! Nor do I carry the total conviction that I am always correct in my assumptions, which is often harder! Thus I am a true Scorpio, I guess. There is a story of some witty ancient Greek who said, “If everybody lies, can my statement be true?”

Our own bodies carry this warning in that everybody’s vision has a blind spot!

This brings me to the conundrum of the word fair, which can be used in more than one way. To some, it means just and to others, lovely. As both come under the sign of Libra, which is ruled astrologically by Venus, the connection becomes clearer. Its symbol is the scales upon which we weigh and balance things, thus it rules LAW. The sequence being this: if a matter is fair, it is just, therefore harmonious, therefore beautiful, therefore fair! Aha!

There is a story the writer Pearl Buck, who lived in China at the time, tells. She was on a station platform waiting for a train. She noticed a grandmother with a little grandson and a granddaughter. She saw the boy do something naughty and when she scolded him, he blamed his sister. She then took the granddaughter aside and whacked her. Then the old woman saw that Buck had observed the incident with shock. So she explained, “I want my grandchildren to understand that sometimes injustice falls into the lives of everyone in life and that is only fair.”

Too true! How many times have I myself felt the outrage that many kids express shouting, “That’s not fair!” And not just kids, today nations are wrestling with strikes and mobs and outraged citizens all proclaiming the same emotion. We yearn collectively for justice, and perhaps we need to remember the notion of karma, the Oriental concept of fairness dealt to us through our own actions.

I have a confession to make; it is one of the greatest ‘sins’ I have ever committed. It was to use truth as a lie! I was eleven and in a Swiss boarding school. Across from the house we boarded in was a small candy shop occupied by an understanding middle-aged woman. We girls would steal across to it and buy candy with or without our pocket money. If we didn’t have cash, she would enter the sum in a notebook and I always paid my debt. This adventuring was called Auskratzen, and looking back as an adult, I must assume that the teachers knew all about it. Anyway, while on a group walk, I boasted out loud, “I’m going to the candy store!” The kids were appalled because the teacher heard this. Then they all assumed it was an idle boast. It wasn’t! Later that very afternoon, I crept across the road and bought gumdrops. I was not caught and savored both the Gummisalat and my devious device. I had told a truth to serve as a lie!

Now I am almost 89 and still feel guilty – not of the deed but of the ethical dilemma. May the Fates forgive me! I have never done such a thing again. So there it is: a public confession.

I sometimes wonder, statistically how many people in the world have been punished, imprisoned, or put to death for crimes they were innocent of committing? This brings up the tricky problem of karma, the concept of paying eventually for the mistakes we have made, in any previous life even. Is there a difference between an ignorant misdeed and an intentional one? And what of cultural rules such as polygamy accepted or seen as adultery? These are interesting questions.

Sometimes, it is a matter of individual conscience.

One solution in avoiding projecting guilt onto children which I have learned from my adult ones is a simple one, worth repeating (!):instead of telling a child that he or she is a bad boy or girl for doing something wrong, simply say, “That is a NO!” Making the matter objective can avoid imposing a guilt complex! I wish somebody had thought of this 84 years ago!

We know the negativity of the Ten Commandments. Contrast this with the Buddhist alternative. I rest my case by including it here.


The Four Noble Truths
There is suffering in this world:
All suffering comes from attachment and desire.
There is a way beyond suffering.
The way is the Noble Eightfold Path:

Free from superstition and delusion

High and worthy of the intelligent; worthy of man

Kindly, open, and truthful

Peaceful, honest, and pure

Bringing hurt or danger to no living being

In self-training and self-control

The active, watchful mind

In deep meditation on the realities of life

              – Gautama Buddha , 6th Century B.C.