All is not well with the “body”. I am not referring to my body, though I will do well with getting in shape and healthier. I mean our “body politics” and “body economics”, if I may coin these words. France has been downgraded, losing its triple A credit by the ironically named Standard and Poor’s (S&P) credit rating pundits. Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal were made even lower (one notch lower than France) with Cyprus and Portugal given “junk” ratings. What have they been eating (pun) to get so out of (economic) shape?
One cannot help but think of Durkheim’s idea of anomie to describe our present state of affairs. The sudden change and breakdown of things, rules and systems that hold us as a society together cause a state of anomie. And this state can happen in both prosperity and in serious economic depression. Can it be that our financial crisis can serve as a necessary catalyst to mobilize us to initiate a different set of actions across all fronts? Or it may be that what we have before us is an opportunity to check ourselves from plunging into a state of anomie!
In the midst of all these developments, the notion of “fairness” is finding interesting ways to be raised in our consciousness by politicians, media reporting and by commentator. I am interested in the rhetoric around “fairness”, especially since it seems to be applied selectively and only in certain areas of our political and economic life. For those feeling the long end of the present government’s “castration complex” tend to be the most vulnerable in our society!
We need to scrutinise the use of “fairness” in these political conversations among the above. We may wish to ask: What is their understanding of fairness? Who determines it? Should it not apply across the board to all the other parts of our political and economic life? Is it fair that the taxpayers should pay for the follies of those who gambled away billions of pounds, and yet received (and are receiving) mind-boggling sums of monies for their incompetence? It is ironic that “fairness” (not justice) tends to be always articulated by privileged people (who rarely disclose their interest). Usually when those who are most vulnerable take to the streets or let their views be heard by protests they are branded as anarchists, selfish, ignorant of the complexity of issues and of not having the common good at heart.
Justice as fairness (Aristotle) must be affirmed. Perhaps what we need is to inject our “body politics” and “body economics” with more oxygen that will propel us to strive for fairness that is linked to the common good where the focus is on ensuring that the outcome is to the advantage of all. And perhaps what needs to underpin this is a virtue approach where we deepen habits that enable us to be and act in moral/ethical ways that will release and develop the best that is in all of us. This means that the Chancellor and all of us should be asking ourselves in these circumstances: what kind of person should I be? What will promote the best in me and hence my community and the common good?
Something is wrong with our politics and economics. And we can do something about it. As Margaret Mead once observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” In these anxious times, we need leadership that will calmly act to enable some radical reorientation to get the “body” back into shape and towards a more flourishing purpose. Can we live in such a way that when our children and their children (our grandchildren) think of fairness, justice and integrity, they will think of us and rejoice?
© jagessar January 14, 2012