The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Maturity

No, it's not fair. You're in the wrong universe for fair.
- John Scalzi

By and large I have never paid much attention to age per se in talking with a person, as it seems to have relatively little to do in any absolute sense with intelligence, knowledge, or maturity.

However.

One correlate of maturity that seems in my experience actually to hold some substance is a fundamental belief in fairness. (Modify appropriately for personal bias based on personal societal constructions and belief systems.) No matter what the actual age, it always seems to come as quite a shock to discover that no, the world is not fair -- and often not one but several of these shocks seem to be required before it sinks in that this is not an aberration of this particular example, but is the norm.

Thus, a proposed hierarchy of growing up:
  1. The world is centred around me. This is a given.
  2. The world is not centred around me, but is expected to be "fair" to me.
  3. The world is not fair! Resentment. Rebellion.
  4. (a) The world is not fair! so I have every right to exert myself to make it more fair ... in my favour.
    [full stop]

or

  1. (b) The world is not fair. Shrug. Life goes on.
  2. I can make the world a fairer place for everyone through my own efforts.
Is it really "blind justice" that we desire? I touched upon it earlier: "classless" societies inevitably evolve classes. We claim to want equality -- but we never seem to bring it up when "equality" does not rule in our favour. It is something very deep in us that seems to be active in nearly every possible social dimension. We set up endless competitions, the vast majority of them meaningless. "Who was the best composer ever?" "Which invention was the most important?" "Who was the greatest [fill in the blank]?" Poor Schiller! immortalised by Beethoven, doomed by Goethe! We seem to want -- need! -- to be better than others, even if it means we are less than still others in turn. Too often, that need translates into the attempted dominance - the attempted absoluteness -- the attempted unquestionable fact -- of one's own value hierarchy.

Faced with a choice between that last step of social maturity and the perception of being better than another: how many would choose the road of social justice?

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