March 23, 2004
One correlate 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.
4(b). The world is not fair. Shrug. Life goes on.
5. 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?
If a structure is fair only to some, I don't see it as fair at all: but then fairness -- like justice -- I feel to some extent to be an empty word behind which we disguise our personal biases. I do seek internal consistency, in myself and in others: believe what you will, with whatever flexibility you choose to have, but see it clearly and be true to it. (Recently I think I destroyed another's self-image of himself-as-pacifist: held up the mirror, showed him just how many "except's" and "but's" it contained.)
And I do feel that anything isolated from how one chooses to live one's own life, be it words or self-image or otherwise -- is meaningless.