Friday, December 23, 2011

Fair Scale

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Matthew 25:29

Why are some rich and others poor? Why do some throw food away while others starve? Why cannot my friend, Henry, take at least a turn on the WhiteHouse in his lifetime while some others go for two? Why do most people prefer buying brands when there are other equally good products out there? Are these fair? What is? Fairness is definitely a popular ideology in our culture today. Everyone make reference to it as though the ultimate judge of good and bad. “We have to be fair,” said one professor, “…if we are going to give you a makeup, then the rest of the class must get one too.” We all have heard sentences like that before. The theme of fairness is often on the conjecture that each person matters in him or herself and is more than a number – that persons are separate bearers of dignity and rights (BBC). For some others, it is the golden rule: “do to others as you would have them do to you.” Both definitions, however, hardly suggest equality since our perceptions of dignity and rights are not necessarily the same, also considering that what is good for one may not be good for another. Instead, the definitions seem to touch more on some kind of mutual compromise – one that can take on a most asymmetric nature.

Jesus once told a story, in the bible, about a man whose master gave five talents. The same went on to make an extra five talents on what he received; thus, making a profit. Another made a profit of two talents on the two that his master had given him. Therefore, both servants made a hundred percent profit. The last one, who did not make any gain with his talent ended up losing it to the one that had five talents; not even to the one with two. Hence, giving much more to the one that had much already, and at the expense of the person that had only one. As strange as this resolution might seem, it parallels in the world and nature: those with affluence and wealth continue to grow and more like absorb even more affluence and wealth while those that struggle with the little they have end up losing it to those that already have much more. Good students get preferential treatment, and consequently, they get better. Poor students, on the other hand, get neglect and, in turn, get worse in a twisted story that somehow ends with them being at fault eventually.

It gets even more interesting. We all enjoy a good conversation with those we feel close to, but not after a misunderstanding – the time that one would think we ought to talk even more and enrich understanding. Sick people, that ought to want food that will nourish and heal, often do not like to eat, while the one that just had lunch goes scrabbling around the pantry for a snack. It is amazing! It seems the more one has, the more he or she can have. The road that is more travel upon is widened and gets a better budget, and the one that has little traffic, instead of being improved, is converted into a shopping mall. These situations all look a little tipsy as one considers them. They make almost no provision for the fairness wrapped in balance and knotted with the neat little bow of equality; as we often like to imagine is present in nature. It almost seems like a natural law of fairness to give more to those who already have and take from those that do not have enough. Explanations for this odd phenomenon abound: some say it is a result of the specialization or proficiency gathered over time or the availability of the necessary means to the particular situation. These explanations often do more to justify the peculiar trend of the ‘haves’ having more while ‘have-nots’ suffer, but leave no account for the rationale behind the imbalance in the first place. In addition, many exceptions to these popular justifications has us wondering whether proficiency and experience is really all it takes. For example, one may judge that the rich get richer because of increased equity and experience in their line of work, but as far as fairness by equality and balance goes, how does this explain someone else who has similar exposure and geography but winds up in a gutter of many losses. Some might bring up the luck factor, but then why should luck be uneven? Is that fair? More importantly, should an evaluator consider both individuals the same – even though one of them clearly lacks the extra ingredient: luck?

As abundant as fairness is in our ideology today, it is not hard to see that it is hardly as objective in service as acclaimed in theory. Fairness builds on many variables like morals, culture, and ethics – all these virtues vary vastly among people and ethnicity. Even within a commonplace, abortion for example, there are a variety of values and opinions that come up when the collective ideology, say pro-life, is streamlined to the individuals within the ideology: i.e. people that push against abortion do so for very different individual reasons even though unanimous on their cause, pro-life in this case. This is the reason for sects and factions within an ideology even when collectively shared. These subtle differences can often lead to controversies about how the ideology is expressed or epitomized.

For another instance on something more trivial, we may all like pepper, but only on certain foods for various and well diverse reasons – even though we may have all said at one time, "I like pepper." The food industry once carried a research for the perfect spaghetti sauce and discovered that it just didn't exist. They concluded that there is no perfect sauce for everyone. Instead, what they found was a rather diverse range of spaghetti sauce with varying levels of the sauce ingredients and texture that suit an equally diverse range of people – some people, for example, liked more ‘tomatoeness’ than others. Consequently, it was impossible to pinpoint a standard that matched the preference of all. In the same vein, can there really be a perfect standard of fairness, or is it, like the spaghetti sauce, a predisposition spun by our opinions, culture, ideologies, and environment?

There may not be any easy answer to the question on fairness, and the process of finding an absolute “Platonic” answer may require either an infinite amount of time or Utopia altogether – if there is such an answer. However, the definition of certain agreements within a closed context or niche is often used to develop a common ground of compromise for the members or participants of the group – whether or not the terms completely satisfies every member in the group individually. Enter Kant's revolutionary thought: that morality or fairness in this case, is obedience to a law we impose upon ourselves. Thus, Kant suggests that the position of fairness is more about the laws we agree to abide by, not by a universal compass. Thus, the 'stasis' questions within that group will be utterly based upon the rights and wrong around their own stipulations. Accordingly then, every position within the bylaw is weighed from the perspective of the collective regulation or agreement, and is only overridden by a super set of laws e.g. the federal law over a company policy. When in this context, an individual's beliefs or opinion are immaterial. In our world today, this kind of solution remains the most widely used in nations, organizations, and even families. However, for a spoiler, is this approach fair to new members and changing times? The model is, of course, not without its many flaws.

Universal laws are not any more conforming to the equality definition of fairness. Jupiter is big an uninhabitable, earth is small and habitable for life as we know - need I say more? Or how about some kid who lives an upright moral and healthy life, goes through school successfully, grows up, only to then drown in a nearby pool on his engagement night; which reminds me of Steven Crane's Open Boat story where another cries, “If I am going to be drowned—if I am going to be drowned—if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?” Little wonder that many find the universe very random and the gods crazy. Whichever way though, we know that neither the universe or those gods prescribed or defined our social laws or standards of fairness. In fact, nature appears to keep a passive observation of human developments as though too busy with its own cares to concern herself with ours. Nevertheless, in a world where people have created the ideology of fairness by equality, it will be up to them to live - without the concern of the universe - their own standards.

Yen, Duen Hsi. "Fairness." Http://, 21 Apr. 1999. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <>.

Gog, Jer H. "BBC News - Today - What Is Fairness?" BBC News - Home. BBC, 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <>.

Mcmichael, George, and James S. Leonard, comps. "The Open Boat" Concise Anthology of American Literature. 6th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2006. 641-652. Print.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflection Series: Aylmer and Georgiana are alive and well – cheer up?

Based on Nathaniel Hawthorne

"My poor Aylmer," she repeated, with a more than human tenderness, "you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!"

The last words of Georgiana before her demise are unbearably touching. Perfection has eluded Aylmer as it did many people before and after him to this day. Amidst a bright blooming field, Aylmer had chosen to preoccupy himself with a single sprout of a different flower. A man of science, plagued with the absolute, and flawed by his ideals. Here was something else he could change. Men of Science tend to see the body well, but are blind to the soul. The sweet-hearted trust of Georgiana to her fresh spouse seems flawless. There was no imperfection with this woman. On her face was a mark reminding her man to keep her happy; hence, its disappearance whenever she blushed.

 Once again, I will hit my high horses on the previously emphasized word, 'culture': perhaps, man's biggest achievement and deficiency. By what standards was Georgiana imperfect? Who was the decider? With what was this mark irreconcilable? Georgiana's story sadly lives on today. If only Nathaniel Hawthorne hung around longer, He will see how bigger and more pervasive Aylmer's lab has become. He will witness the evolution of Aylmer's minions - notably, how persuasively they now talk, and fast too; rolling many people into Georgiana's death room. Is cultural perfection only achieved in death? The pervasiveness of culture is grossly underestimated on how it affects our choices and ratings. In further complication of the subject, the media infuses a sense of cohesiveness of a popular culture with society - in an endless reckless loop. Aylmer would even shudder at the sight of the mark. Perhaps he should have considered blinding himself to it. He was indeed the person needing the help he so wanted to offer. How often does society shudder at us today?

Science and technology has always been on the defect of over estimating its power - a power it often acquires at the cost of many mistakes, lives, and property. Aylmer's book was full of failures that dwarfed his famous achievements, yet this man dared to turn his wife to one of his specimen. Saying the Aylmer did not deserve Georgiana would be extreme and out of the context of my attention in this text, but it will certainly be within the explorations of my mind on the subject. There is a saying that to a carpenter everything looks like a nail. Men of technology are like this too, to every problem, the raise the techno whip. For many of these men there are no artistic imaginations. They undermine the idea that humans are much more than mere rational beings.

As convenient as it might be to blame Georgiana's misfortune on her, it could not exactly be her fault. It was an attempt to gain acceptance and identity in her own home. This was her husband mounting the pressure; the only person she would have ever wanted to please and make happy. This man was supposed to protect her and give her an identity. How often does this incident replay itself today? Aylmer's criticism helmed the poor Georgiana in a corner and her decision might have been inevitable considering that she wanted a happy home, and divorce probably was not an option in those days, which is good. However, here, she pays a costly price. Today, peer pressure and industry force people to go on a bandwagon even when they have a gut feeling that their trip is aimless. How many tattoos have Aylmer inspired today? How many premarital sex has his 'be sexy' portion engineered? This will be the Georgiana problem: we have played the Georgiana role at one point or the other, and this is often done to protect an identity or social status. On the otherhand, have you ever played Aylmer?

It is an unfortunate story indeed with a pitiful ending that leaves one thinking and almost mourning. She became perfect in death, and just maybe she was happier too.

Mcmichael, George, and James S. Leonard, comps. "The Birthmark" Concise Anthology of American Literature. 6th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2006. 641-652. Print.

Reflection Series: Nature Contention

Based on Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
                                                                          Ralph Waldo Emerson 1836

There is a saying that we do not appreciate things until we lose them. I often look at the blue skies and stand in fascination at the grand piece of art exhibited right above us. It has the grandest scale anyone can imagine, displays to small and great alike. It is there - just there. We see it from childhood into our full development. Nonetheless, its splendor hardly catches the curious eye, and its majesty goes mostly ignored.

Every time I sit and absorb myself with the environment; every time I smell the fragrance after a rain; even every brief second I use to look at the birds in flight, I stand in great admiration of our world. It seems like the human taste has reduced greatly to petty flickering lights. Their obsessions with the progressive discoveries in a shabby effort to mimic nature preoccupy their minds, and leaves no room for anything that is not man made. A man of wealth will pay a great deal to have a near nature installation in his home, but will not as much as take a walk in his yard. It fascinates me how abundant beauty is around us, and how blind we are to it - almost as a curse on humanity for their little appreciation for nature's providence. The world of imperfection is preferred over the world of absolute bliss. This separation with nature has made man almost allergic to nature or any natural environment. One starts to wonder who the ancestors of this species are. They condemn any 'unprocessed' item as poisonous even though, by the same, their fathers bore them. They are a very different race.

Only the fear of loss draws their attention. When an organism is about to get extinct they buzz and protest about it as though they know the significance of the creature - until five years after extinction, then they move on never concerned with the loss, but for the fear of another loss. They never want to play outside until deprived of it. Nothing natural sparks much attention until a benefit is observed; then processed, and finally abused. They die of hunger whilst being surrounded by 'unprocessed' food. Now their dogs put on cloths, and shiver in its absence. Living among nature, nature has become their outcast; only known for unforgiving strength and disaster - if only they could learn to wield that too. Nonetheless, nature is relentless with its offer of reconciliation.

Nature still rises as the sun in the morning and beholds the inattentive world of people as they hurry to work and their kids to school - to learn to be like them. Nature pours as the rain and snow, and these people either celebrate the day-off or curse the bad weather. They get their fancy umbrellas to keep nature away. They are impossible, but nature is relentless and sometimes impatient. Nature decides to pull down their artificial refuges and rips their manmade shelters apart. It blows their shabby creations away in an angry appearance that is just as fascinating to behold. After nature's rage, it brings a gentle morning over the creatures who by now are disheartened and seeking comfort. Before long, they mobilize and restore their synthetic empire.

Notwithstanding, every night comes out with these envoy of beauty and lights the universe with their admonishing smile. 

Emerson, Ralph W. "Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson." Oregon State University. Web. 05 Mar. 2011. <>.