The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. – Ecclesiastes 9:11.
There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves. (1)
Why if life is unequal do we aspire to live in a fair world? I believe it is because some part of us longs for a world different from the one we find ourselves in, a world of fairness and justice. A world where everyone has a fair shake. However, this ideal we cherish hits against the cold reality that our world is not that way. So what are the choices?
One, ignore the clues that the world is not fair and keep fighting. Eventually, this choice will lead to disillusion.
Two, embrace the unfairness, and the therefore meaningless and random nature of life. This is the approach taken by existentialist philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre. Realize that life has no point and try your best to come up with some individual meaning in the chaos. This approach leads to despair.
A third approach was taken by the ancient author of Ecclesiastes. He recognized along with Sartre that our physical lives are meaningless - he urged us to find enjoyment where possible - but he found consolation in the belief there was more to life than our earthly existence. He concluded that wrongs would be righted in the end. He wrote:
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (2)
The only way to make sense of our wish for equality in a world irreparably infested with all kinds of unfairness, is to accept there is a greater reality where fairness is more than an aspirational dream that we never quite reach. A world built on fairness and justice.
Click here for some thoughts on why our world is so imperfect.
Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up, I've updated this post with some other posts on equality. Here are some posts you should check out: Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Evolution at Faithful Thinkers and Was Adolf Hitler a Better Man Than Martin Luther King, Jr.? at Cold and Lonely Truth Blog.