No Fair! The Rich are Taxed Enough?

26 Oct

I’ll actually be simply writing about fairness, of sorts. The rich tax stuff was simply meant to be provocative; earlier today I finished listening to the Intelligence Squared debate on the topic of The Rich are Taxed Enough. That actually fits into the fairness topic in many ways, but I won’t be addressing it. (smile!)

I’m heading to a Taekwondo tournament tomorrow hosted by a school in a sister association. Black belts of all ranks are involved in judging forms and breaking routines, and refereeing sparring matches. Particularly in judging forms, emptying one’s mind and simply judging what is actually presented, is very important if one is to judge fairly. It requires a certain combination of self-awareness and honesty, as well as to know the forms well and understand the judging criteria. However, truth be told, this doesn’t always happen.

In particular, I take note of tournament judges’ biases for or against students with whom they are familiar, most notably students from their own school, or even their own association. Usually it is a bias for your own, although I’ve at times had to personally fight a bias against my own students, particularly if I was expecting better of them.

I don’t think the judges consciously decide to give higher scores to students they know; I think it happens from the aforementioned need to empty one’s mind and actually see what’s there, to forget history and impressions, emotions and hopes. This is harder to do than one might think. But, you have to do it, and it is a conscious choice. It doesn’t necessarily happen automatically.

So, what’s this have to do with anything else? Well, let’s see . . . how might parents differentially or preferentially treat their children? An interviewer review job candidates? A supervisor manage, support and review employees? A judge offer a verdict? A teacher give instruction to one student or another?

We work with this last area in our martial arts instruction because we have a full range of students: the perfect student and the challenge student; the boy and the girl; white, native American, black, and other students; liberals and conservatives; hippies and marines; old and young; strong and agreeable, disabled and, occasionally, disagreeable.

Our task is to give the most proper instruction to each and every student, based on their needs and not influenced by our emotions, impressions or opinions. It sounds easy but it can be hard. It has to be done with awareness and intention. That’s not to say that I might not deal with certain students in certain ways intentionally, but that’s another subject.

The last thought I want to share regarding intentional and aware interaction relates to a matter all around us at the moment: supporting and critiquing political candidates. Who is honest? Who lied, or was misleading? Who won the debate? Who has integrity? Who deserves to be elected and why? Perhaps more than in any other area of life people, myself included, tend to forgive in the political candidates we support the exact same, or even greater, levels of transgression for which we damn the opponent.  Why do we do that? It seems often to not even be unconscious, but rather be a conscious choice to take part in biased assessments and efforts to just be right and win. I won’t explore that any further here today, so let me simply end with the following assessment:

If we want to do our best, be our best and, particularly, work toward the best, we have to do so with conscious awareness and intentional fairness. We have to have ears that hear and eyes that see, with real clarity, what is before us, and to judge and act accordingly, based upon the same information and judging criteria (just like in judging Taekwondo forms). Otherwise, we’re operating on autopilot, and our autopilot software surely has some bugs in it. Hopefully, they are bugs that can be suppressed and not a virulent strain of something that wreaks havoc on our personal, and collective, systems.

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