Monday, October 30, 2006



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Hello friends,


It’s been a while since my last blog, I know, but I have been rather preoccupied with exams lately. I am nearly finished, one left in just over a week.

In the last few blogs I’ve been talking about values – more specifically, the values that make up the 6 pillars of the Character Counts foundation.


Now, the values we’ve examined already are Trustworthiness, Respect and Responsibility. I had said that I would say more about responsibility – perhaps I will, but not this time. Instead I would like to look at the “F” in TeRRiFiCC – for fairness. Now this is a very hard value to write about, in my opinion. On the face of it, it would seem straight forward, treat everybody the same, without discrimination or favour. Apportion everything equally. I would suggest that this is far too simplistic. I do not know if I have a complete handle on this issue of fairness, in fact I don’t think I do, but once again, not being one who has all the answers does not mean that I won’t try. Recently in South Africa they had something called “Heartlines” – 8 values – 8 weeks – join the conversation. That’s what I want – conversation. 


One way to think of fairness is “people get what they deserve or require.” – so, the employee must be paid a living wage, commensurate with his qualification, experience and input. On the other side of the coin, the employer can expect that tasks are done as efficiently as possible. Does fairness mean equality? That is one of the meanings ascribed to it in the dictionary I’ve consulted. If it’s a case of distributing candy / sweeties at a children’s party, it’s easy enough to be fair. When we introduce the concept of division to children at school, we make use of their keen sense of “fairness” when it comes to sharing. The communist vision was that everyone was equal and entitled to equal income and equal assets. They overthrew the aristocracy, who they accused of oppressing the masses. (They did too!) Then they ran the country. However, far from developing a classless society, a new “upper class” arose! The ruling class. Who was it who said: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely?” I think that sometimes, fairness does not imply equality. Sometimes, one person needs a bit more than another to make up for other deficiencies. Most governments pay out “disability grants” to disabled people, to help them cope with the added financial burden of having a disability. For example, a paraplegic person may be able to drive a car, but their car needs to be specially modified, as they cannot use their legs, so they require automatic transmission, and a brake that they can apply with their hand. Such a car will be more expensive than a normal car.  This is only one example of many ways a disabled person needs a bit extra. 


In South Africa, Affirmative Action rules the day. I chuckled when I read on a certain website form “BEE status” and if you clicked on the dropdown list, you were offered Black, Asian, Coloured, White, etc. In other words, they wanted to establish the race of the person filling in the form, but they could not ask straight out. BEE stands for Black Economic Enhancement, I think. Affirmative Action and BEE are described as means to redress injustices of the past. Affirmative action however can only work by discriminating against certain people on the basis of their race. I think it is taking the old apartheid and turning it on its head. Some may believe that Affirmative Action is fair, I don’t.


Another meaning attributed to “fair” in the dictionary is appropriate or acceptable. We have the idiom, “to give someone a fair hearing” meaning to give somebody a chance to give their side of the story before making judgments. This is important. Regardless of the issue at hand, we must always realise that there can be circumstances of which we are unaware, that have at the very least influenced the decisions or actions of another. If we are going to make judgments about other people, let’s be ready to hear the different perspective.  Another idiom is “to give somebody a fair crack of the whip.” This means to give somebody a chance to prove themselves in an activity. I have just written an exam on Assessment in Mathematics. Assessment is about giving the learner the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. This is very different to the perspective on assessment that many of us are used to, where, it was thought that role of tests was to try and trick us into making mistakes. The value of fairness means that if you are having a conversation with somebody else, you do not try to dominate that conversation but allow the others to have a fair crack of the whip and put their perspective across. Fairness means being willing to listen before you speak. In the context of family, it means allowing the youngest member to have his or her say too.


One other aspect of fairness that we need to look at is not so much in the area of receiving, but in the area of giving. No man is an island, entirely self sufficient in every aspect. The communities we live in all require things to be done in order for them to function. Now on a national and even a town village scale these responsibilities are apportioned to people who are paid to carry out these services, but when we come to the home and church or club or workplace, there are contributions that need to be made both in terms of finance and effort to make our the places we live in function. The RESPONSIBILITY that each person bears to contribute will differ according to the person’s age and abilities, but almost everyone (babies and toddlers excepting) can contribute to some degree. Fairness dictates that we each do our fair share. The church I belong to meets in a school hall, that is, of course, used by the school during the week, and by the church on a Sunday morning. This necessitates a weekly set up of all the chairs and equipment for the service and after the service is over, chairs need to be stacked up and put away again, and all the equipment too needs to be put away.  Our church has set-up teams, to which every male member of the church is signed up (as a matter of course.) It amounts to two Sundays in the year that a person has to get up earlier and start setting up, and stay a bit later to make sure that everything is put away. I wish I could say it works like a bomb, but the fact is that there are always those few, who will try and duck out of doing it. It is very frustrating for the team leaders who often have to do their week as well as their own. Even if your church does not have such an arrangement, or is fortunate enough to have its own building so that a weekly set up is not required, there are always things that are needed around the place, and if you notice the need and are in a position to help, why not just do it.


How about our homes. Everybody can make lives easier at home by doing their fair share. Do we always need to be asked to do something before we do it? If we are asked by a parent, a pastor or a teacher, to do something, do we do it cheerfully and to the best of our ability or do we make a lacklustre effort and with a sigh or a groan? Could you confidently say that you would respond in the same way if Jesus, personally, were to ask you to do it? You know what, He is. Now I share this with you, not as if I am better than you in this regard. Probably far from it. We all drag our heals from time to time, but the thing is, is it to the Greater Glory of God? Remember A. D. G. M. (See my blog for October 2005 )


 I have a book on Character Foundation that is aimed at teaching values to children from a Christian perspective. On Fairness, they refer to what is commonly referred to as “The Golden Rule.” Matthew 7:12 – Jesus is speaking the Sermon on the Mount. He said: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” To my mind, these words say all there needs to be said about Fairness. Think about all the implications of acting according to this maxim.


However the F in TeRRiFiCC could also stand for FORGIVENESS and also for  FAITHFULNESS. Hmmm… Maybe it should be TeRRiFFFiCC.

We mustn’t forget FRIENDLINESS.






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