See Infra

Digging at the confluence of culture and everything else

The Futility of Fairness

My last post, a jumbled memoir covering my failures with foreign language and how that affected my relationship with my grandfather, left me in an unusual place as I committed the post Thursday night. Normally I go through the fairly cliched self loathing, and then either miss the deadline to clean up the piece, or simply commit and walk away. This is the first time in a long time I wrote something that was obviously inadequate, but I felt a responsibility to post as is.

Despite having a healthy ego as part and parcel of an otherwise unhealthy mind, I have a hard time calling myself “a writer”. Something about the words implies a level of both pretension and responsibility that I’m not yet prepared to face. There is no denying however, that I am engaged in the act of writing, and that does come with certain responsibilities. A typical memoirist differs from the typical autobiographer in that we are not important. We are not at the center of great events or public figures whose very nature is interesting. Instead, the memoirist uses writing skill to mine their own experiences, cutting a fine gem out the could-be-beautiful unhewn potential that all humanity shares. That, or you’re doing it wrong.

Sometimes, this time, that means exposing a lot of raw emotion. Writers are great charlatans, you see. No one talks with the clarity and artistry that you find in a good piece of writing. Not without preparation time and not when faced with something that truly matters. The experience of the moment is to be exposed, scattered and hurt. Humans, while being humans do not have the wit of a Aaron Sorkin character. Words tumble out, some brilliant, some terrible, some so very raw. They um and they er, and the err.

I erred quite a bit. Not just the quality piece itself, plenty of uncorrected moral errors abound. Many believe that the responsibility of a writer is to use their influence to promote fairness, or at least not to harm it. But what hold does fairness have over the truth? The truth is that the death of my paternal grandfather mattered more to me than the death of my maternal grandfather and my paternal grandmother. It isn’t fair. By an objective measure my paternal grandmother did at least as much for me, loved at least as much, tried at least as much, and died much more tragically. It isn’t just a personal unfairness either. No, my adoration of my grandfather is colored by deep cultural imperatives, gouged into my thinking. Is isn’t right to admire the scholar more than the housewife just because my cultural programming tells me to. There is a grave injustice that I value my grandfather more for fulfilling the gendered role expectations than I value my grandmother for doing the same. It isn’t fair that I love my paternal grandfather more than the others of his generation, but it is true.

This is where I am supposed to have some sort of prescription going forward. All I have is emotion in response to the demands for as all to be more just and more fair. In the the face of futility, all I have is despair.


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