My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

(Un)fairness

One of the problems with being an avowed altruist is that it's hard to talk about it with other people without coming across like you're trying to claim you're better than them.

One of the problems with being an aspiring effective altruist is that it's hard to talk about it with other people without coming across like you're trying to claim you're better than everyone else, including other avowed altruists, and definitely including non-altruistic plebes.

(This, I think, is something of a barrier to effective altruism becoming a more popular thing, and I'd like to see it change.)

But if I can't write about this in the locus of the interval between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I can't write about it at all, and that would be really quite sad for me, so here goes.


In a story which is, at least, not completely apocryphal, tennis player Arthur Ashe was dying from acute AIDS when, in response to a fan's letter asking "Why did God select for you this fate?", he wrote:

The world over, 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals -- when I was holding a cup I never asked God 'Why me?'

And today in pain I should not be asking God 'Why me?'

Well, one's modus tollens is another's modus ponens[?] -- maybe we should be more in the habit of asking "Why me?"

But perhaps not necessarily to God -- neither I nor a unanimity of my readers accept such a rhetorical move -- so I'll try again.


I daresay we've all, at one point or another, thrown up our hands and asked in exasperation (to friends, to the world, or to ourselves) "Why is this happening to me? It's unfair!" It's a very human thing to do -- complain when things don't go our way, and cry out to anyone listening for justice. I've probably asked the "Why is this happening to me?" question four or five times in the past week alone.

But when was the last time you, reflecting on your life in the context of the 7 billion people today alive (or better, in the context of the 108 billion ever alive), realized just how lucky you are, threw up your hands and asked in bewilderment "Why is this happening to me? It's unfair!"

Hm, it's almost as if "It's unfair!" is used as shorthand for "I'm getting the short end of the stick, and that's unfair!". Hm...

Seriously, try it sometime. Or better yet, wait until you're doing something completely unrelated, and the feeling just hits you, and you're left spinning with vertigo, trying to contemplate the sheer magnitude of the unfairness of it all, the absolute injustice...

It's not natural. We (humans) are not used to thinking about things that are going well -- and for good reason! It's a waste of brain-cycles to take a minute to ask if you have a place to sleep tonight. It's a waste of brain-cycles to take a second to check if the water from the tap is safe to drink. It's a waste of brain-cycles to take an hour to wonder if your children will be able to afford a high-school education.

But maybe, if you find the time in the next week in and amongst Thanksgiving festivities and family reunions, consider wasting some perfectly good brain-cycles to take stock of all the moving parts in your life that you've forgotten about in order to keep up with and get through the other fifty-one weeks of the year.

And, if the mood strikes, throw up your hands and ask of no one in particular: "Why is this happening to me? It's so unfair!"


Comments

Comments