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Conference on Fairness

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Dear Friends,

I recently attended a conference on Fairness at Emory University. I had the good opportunity to meet Jimmy Carter (ex- president of the US of A). At 88 he is vibrant and clear. One of my earliest memories on TV is seeing him being sworn in as 39th president. I have a clear image of it (not that I am that old so it must have been at the end of my last life). The next memory is of Elvis on TV. Anyway, back to fairness. A hot topic, just what is it? It is most common for children to scream, “that’s not fair!” and many activist groups or scorned adults utter the same. Who is right? As Carter pointed out, he put a policy in place while president that he considered extremely fair for the public only to have the next president change it. Is fairness that subjective?

My point to him was that we can really only tackle the issue of fairness on a micro, (meaning individual, personal) level. This is two-fold: first it is part of our character, our set of values, how we choose to treat people and handle situations. That can only be engendered over time, ideally through positive role models and direct experiences accompanied by reflection. We could say the whole meaning of the Yamas is to be “fair”. Even with such an approach someone else will always consider it not to be fair. Second, we as individuals can, either on our own or through cooperative agency, provide the opportunity for others to grow and develop. They may, as individuals, work hard, study hard, but still doors are closed due to policy, bigotry or circumstances. We can help that. Perhaps on a macro level that is what government tries to do. Yet history shows that it has not succeeded to date. It was interesting to hear Carter’s views on the current politics and what needs to be done.

Perhaps most interesting was his last comment where he learned, from direct experience and contact, through his home building for charities in Haiti and elsewhere, that these people needed a chance, that he was not any better and that now he could help and give others opportunities. As he said this he became immensely human and humble, before being incredibly articulate and charismatic. This last part touched me and I salute his work. Though we may not all agree on what is really fair we can do our best to keep it forefront in our minds as we interact with others and look at the plight of the less fortunate. And as we say in Ireland, well, sure, that’s right, to be fair!


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