Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Not Fair

I just got word that a friend of mine is going to lose her battle with Leukemia.

My first reaction to this news was unprintable. It was a variation of one of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on the air. My second reaction was the classic lament of “It’s not fair!

But as I drove along in the van, digesting the news, I got to wondering about what exactly “fair” is. Are there different definitions of “fair?” Of course there are. We all know that what’s fair to you might not seem fair to me. But is there an objective definition of “fair” that we’d all have to grudgingly accept, no matter how little we like it?

If we define “fair” as things always going the way we want them, never having bad things happen to people we love, and only ever having bad things happen to evil people, then life is pretty unfair most of the time. But suppose we look at “fair” differently? I’m a math person. Suppose we look at it as being a relatively even random distribution?

According to the figures I was able to get from Wikipedia, which may be wrong, in the year 2000, 256,000 people around the world developed some form of Leukemia. With a world population of 6 billion, that works out to 1 in every 24,000 people or 0.004%.

If this is the case, then if 0.004% of people are diagnosed with Leukemia, wouldn’t a “fair” distribution be 0.004% of nice people, 0.004% of evil people, 0.004% of children, 0.004% of people I know, etc? Isn’t the very definition of “fair” the fact that it doesn’t seem to just land on one group of people, but that it inflicts its pain pretty evenly throughout the entire population with no partiality?

Looked at that way, while it may not be the way I'd like things to be, it may be perfectly "fair" that people I know and are really nice people get this as well as people who I believe the world could well do without.

That is, of course, if that’s how you define fair; and I may just be rationalizing.

A friend of mine is going to lose her battle with Leukemia. It may be statistically fair, but I don’t like it one zbgure-shpxvat bit.

No comments:

Post a Comment