The rocky road to ‘fair’ in a multi-culti democratic society
Heated discussions can break out at the most unexpected times. Earlier this week, coffee-equipped and content, I settled in for a long-haul Skype chat with two writer pals on the opposite side of the globe. We do this regularly. Both ladies are fun-loving, warm-hearted and highly-intelligent gals. We exchange info, know-how and valuable writing criticism to support our careers, plus — girls being girls — swap news and gossip in general. It’s all very cordial and thoroughly enjoyable. A great time is had by all.
“So,” I said, with barely a second thought. “What do we think about Hillary running for President?”
Opinions ran high re. the pros and cons of another Clinton in the White House, whether any other Democrat would, or should, run against Mrs Clinton in the primaries and whether the Republicans offered a viable alternative Presidential candidate. The discussion then progressed to what did or didn’t constitute discrimination towards the gay community, religious rights vs. individual rights (and whether these two concepts could or should be separated), and ultimately, tax and the fairest political path for the US.
I hold these two women in high regard: neither harbour radical nor conservative religious viewpoints, both are tolerant, level-headed and compassionate. Both wanted the best for the people of America. And yet, even with this wide expanse of common ground and like-minded political wish lists, their means to achieving those ends were very different.
I listened more than contributed while both ladies made excellent points. And while both ladies advocated for a fair society.
When I stopped to think about it, the discussion ultimately boiled down to differing opinions on what’s fair and, perhaps even more contentiously, how fair can be achieved.
For example, is it fair to favour gay rights over religious conviction? A kerfuffle in the US recently centred on a Christian bakery’s refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. In a perfect world, the gay community would not need rights as all love would be equally accepted. This, sadly, is not yet the case. So rights were pitted rights against and the Christians lost. But would we make the same demands of, say, a Muslim bakery, or do some religious convictions carry more rights than others? That would be grossly unfair. Almost as unfair as discriminating against minority ethnic communities.
The discussion moved on to whether universities should be forced to accept a given quota of black students. A very tricky question. Is it right to reject a better-qualified white student in favour of his black peer? No. If I need medical treatment, I have a right to believe my doctor was among the top of her class. But is it right (morally and in terms of a country’s talent pool) to reject lower-scoring bright black students with obvious potential to score as equally well — and some no doubt better than some — if they received the same education and opportunities as their white peers? No. Hmmmm.
We all agreed that more resources should be pumped into equal education opportunities for all school children at a much earlier age, but what is the fairest system for students entering university here and now?
And how should we calculate fiscal fairness? Is it unfair to ask the rich — such as those who are self-made success stories, work 90 hours a week, provide employment for others and take financial risks — to hand over a larger percentage of their hard-earned dough to help support the unemployed?
And is it unfair to ask their beneficiaries to pay a chunk of this taxed cash in further tax when their benefactors die?
Or is it unfair to ask impoverished breadwinners to pay a similar percentage of their unskilled minimum income?
And assuming the richer do pay a larger percentage, is it fair that the system allows deductions which, creatively applied, may reduce their contributions to nigh zero?
As in this blog, the questions were many and the answers few. Life is not fair. And a fair system is impossible to achieve. But at the very least, we should strive to reduce the imbalances.
Both ladies listened to the other side while arguing for their differing cases with intensity and passion. And respect.
I hope the politicians involved in the upcoming political elections due to take place in several prominent democratic countries will do the same. And I hope all sides will consider the concept of Fair.
I strongly doubt it.