If you ask me: Why is life so unfair? I will tell you simply to look to living nature to understand the nature of life.
In all things, we must first be honest with ourselves. When a pack of hyenas ambushes its prey and starts eating the poor animal while it is still conscious, this is nature at work – and we recognize it as such.
Nature is a striving for continued existence; and, in nature, one living creature’s existence comes at the expense of another’s.
This truth is undeniable, and yet it is what we do with this knowledge that defines how humanity, powerful enough to subdue and overcome nature, powerful enough to intervene and prevent suffering, shapes its own future as a species.
“Considering what the world is now,
With all the misery, conflict, destructive brutality, aggression, and so on…
Man is still as he was –
Is still brutal, violent, aggressive, acquisitive, competitive –
And, he has built a society along these lines….”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
Nature Is Not a Good Teacher
Man is part of nature and retains more of the characteristics of a primate than we would often like to admit; and nature is by no means perfect. Anyone who looks upon nature as the supreme example of what humanity should be striving for is gravely mistaken.
The only attempt religions have made to redeem us from the unbearable injustice of nature was the invention of an afterlife. But we have moved past that point, we have realized that only we have the capacity to redeem ourselves.
As a species, we have not made our greatest achievements by imitating nature, nor by denying it, but by using the one faculty we have evolved that allows us to transcend nature: reason.
Compassion and Reason Distinguish Us
Most people are able to recognise and identify with the suffering of others, and, through the compassion which must emerge from our recognition of that suffering and the application of reason, we are compelled to behave ethically in our personal lives, and to organise society in a way that prevents or reduces the suffering that nature inflicts on us all.
We must let go of the illusions that comfort us in our own suffering, and in our guilt, for the sufferings, we inflict, directly or indirectly, on others. Nature is not reasonable and nor is God; and neither can be relied upon to do or invent anything that will improve our plight.
The only ones we can rely on to improve this world are ourselves.
At this point, we come into conflict with those who thrive in a society that uses nature as its ethical paradigm, and who, in this way, write off the sufferings of millions for the benefit of a few as inevitable, necessary, and justified.
We come into conflict with those that claim that the poor man is simply the man who is less fit for survival than the next. We come into conflict with those who claim that it is God’s will that some should be tormented and some exalted, and with those who tell the suffering merely to await their reward in paradise, in death. This is not to be endured.
The Price of Apathy
Will you justify spending hundreds of dollars on dinner for two, while millions are forced to work in abject conditions, day in day out, for a monthly salary that is not half of the cost of that meal? Tell me, who is remunerated in accordance with their efforts?
Who is working harder and for longer hours? Whose bodies are being destroyed on a daily basis for pitiful sums of money which barely sustain them in life? And for what great aim? To make an endless stream of luxuries to be consumed and discarded.
All of this…for vanity? If you met the men, women, and children who make your consumables and you saw what they are put through to make these things for you cheaply and competitively, would you put them through it yourself?
It’s Time to Grow up
Why is life so unfair in human civilization? Because we continue to allow it to be so. Because we justify the unjustifiable by invoking the brutish reality of nature as a guiding light for our ethics, jeering at those weaker than ourselves, forgetting that we ourselves owe our survival to the gifts provided by efforts to overcome nature.
Why is life in the 21st century still so unfair?
Because we continue to accept the unacceptable every time we shrug off suffering as the will of God, whose same divine will it is to create diseases but not cures.
Indeed, life is still so unfair because we continue to allow ourselves to be deluded – by fairy tales, and by arguments from ignorance and self-interest that distract us from doing all that is in our power to change things.
“What we are trying, you know, in all these discussions and talks here,
Is to see if we cannot radically bring about
A transformation of the mind – not accept things as they are.
But to understand it, to go into it, to examine it – give your heart and your mind,
With everything that you have to find out
A way of living differently.
But that depends on you and not somebody else,
Because in this there is no teacher, no pupil, there’s no leader, there’s no guru, no master, no saviour;
You yourself are the teacher and the pupil, you’re the master, you’re the guru, you’re the leader…
You are everything.”
Further reading: Ethics, Maxims and Reflections, Alexander Gesswein, 2016
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