Wednesday, September 25, 2019

No Fair

And when [Greta] Thunberg talks about this, especially in private, she sounds a lot like … a teenager. “We are not the ones who are responsible for this, but we are the ones who have to live with these consequences, and that is so incredibly unfair,” she said at one point.
Robinson Meyer “Why Greta Makes Adults UncomfortableThe Atlantic. Monday, 23 September, 2019
I remember when I viewed the world this way. It's part of the power of being a child; for many young people, fairness is simply an entitlement and you can be huffy about life not being fair because the compromises and trade-offs that fairness require are a combination of invisible and not their problem. Unfairness has no rights, and so if it's unfair that someone has something, then they should simply give that thing up... and problem solved. But fairness is not real; it has no existence outside of our own perceptions.

When I worked with children, in a past life, the unfairness of life was a daily concern. The children in my care had been taken out of their families' homes for abuse and/or neglect, and so they lived in a large brick building in the suburbs in one of five Units of about a dozen children apiece. They realized that this fate had befallen them, and that it hadn't befallen other children they knew, and they saw this as unfair. And it was. The children had done nothing to deserve the events that had put them on this path. One could say that their difficulties in holding it together well enough to be in foster care, rather than residential treatment, could be ascribed to them, but even that seems somewhat uncharitable. And they were in the same position that Miss Thunberg finds herself in; a situation that someone else was responsible for, but that they had to live with the consequences of.

My initial responses to their complaints was that "Life isn't fair." It's what had been drilled into me when I was a child, and I duly dispensed it in turn. But one day, it occurred to me that this aphorism wasn't useful, and so I agreed with them, instead. I confirmed for them that it wasn't fair that some people had parents that loved and wanted and could care for them, while they had to make due with a rotating group of random adults. They'd been dealt bad hands in a poker game that they hadn't signed up for.

But in the end, it didn't change anything. They were still stuck in a system of residential treatment, with no clear way out of it, other than running away and either living on the streets or finding someone to take them in. But there's no running away from climate change. But I don't know that anything will change, either.

Governments have difficulty being beholden to both their constituencies and other people's understandings of virtue simultaneously. While the costly changes that would be required to forestall serious alterations to the future climate may be within the reach of current legislatures, undoing them is within reach of the legislatures that follow them. And the people who understand themselves as having to pay the costs see the situation in much the same terms that Miss Thunberg does; they're not responsible it, but they will have to live with the consequences, and it's unfair.

Nothing will change as long as people are concerned with fairness. That's why we're were we are now. Having to bite the bullet is also unfair, even when it's the only way to change things.

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