Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[cancer] A potentially significant epiphanette concerning fairness

Yesterday, Lisa Costello and I were discussing the emotional infrastructure of cancer, as we are sometimes wont to do. I was on my oft-told riff about allowing myself to experience the emotions of this process as honestly as possible. Grief, rage, loss, and so forth. (The emotion of the day happened to be peevishness, which is one of my least favorite for its sheer pettiness.) I repeated my comment that the only emotion I don't permit myself is a sense of unfairness. The universe just is, fairness doesn't enter in to this.

Except then I realized that the whole question of fairness is a more sophisticated concept than that. It falls within the realm of those human elements without correspondent empirical manifestation — justice, mercy, honor, and love, for example. My whole life is unfair in some significant ways that happen to benefit me at the expense of others. I am tall(ish) white man of WASP extraction born in mid-twentieth century America. The degree of privilege and ease that has cloaked me all my life is a form of unfairness to others so pervasive that most people in our society never recognize it all. I was in my twenties before I first began to glimpse my own good fortunes as a social justice issue.

So is cancer fair? No. Neither is my nice, well-paid, white collar job that permits me to work sitting down at home, preserving both paycheck and health insurance benefits in the face of cancer's unfairness. Instead of taking a leave of absence or becoming permanently unemployed because I don't have the capability to do my job.

This seems important to me. I don't know what it means yet, I need to think more, but my denial of unfairness is beginning to feel simplistic and unsophisticated to me.

Your thoughts?

Tags: cancer, culture, health, personal, radiantlisa, work
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