Quote of the week

I’ve written before about some people’s exaggerated sense of entitlement, thusly:

I don’t automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.

Megan McArdle expounds on this in the context of the current financial situation:

When I was laid off for a long time in 2002, I felt as betrayed by the universe as if the law of gravity had suddenly ceased to operate. I had worked hard, gone to an excellent business school, and I was supposed to have a job, just as an apple thrown into the air falls back to earth. I was angry, but also deeply shaken, by the notion that I could work hard, do everything right, and still end up unemployed.

We’re watching the entire investment banking industry go through what I endured seven years ago. They aren’t going to be paid so well in the future, even though they made the colossal mistake of giving up the best years of their lives to the finance industry. It feels — and it is — massively, nearly unfathomably unfair. On the other hand, that’s a pretty good description of the universe: massive. nearly unfathomable. unfair. Just ask any manager at Chrysler with two swell kids and a nice house in a Detroit suburb.

The last word on the subject, though, goes to Babylon 5’s Marcus Cole:

You know, I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

Which, the regulars will note, I’d already quoted here.


  1. smitty »

    24 April 2009 · 8:44 pm

    Fa(ir|re) is what you pay to ride a bus.

  2. Michael X. »

    24 April 2009 · 10:46 pm

    “Fair” is a weather forecast

  3. Mark Alger »

    24 April 2009 · 10:52 pm

    The universe isn’t hostile. Worse: it’s indifferent.


  4. Francis W. Porretto »

    25 April 2009 · 5:18 am

    Ah, that favorite sound of the preadolescent: “It’s not fair!”

    The prevalent human conception of “fair” cannot be squared with natural law. The explosive growth and popularity of superhero fiction and movies is rather revealing on this point.

  5. Tatyana »

    25 April 2009 · 7:03 am

    Yes, but as long as I don’t assume the function of universe’ representative in being unfair to others, unfairness of the universe still seems unfair to me.
    Yet, I’m not changing into Vengeful Angel of Universe’ Indifference any time soon.

  6. fillyjonk »

    25 April 2009 · 7:31 am

    Somewhat like the quoted Babylon 5 character, I suspect if we got what we REALLY deserved, most of us would be in far worse straits than we actually are. (I guess I’m the eternal cockeyed optimist). So life isn’t fair, but for most of us (Well, at least those of us in the developed world) it’s unfair in our favor.

    I’m reminded of one of the old Calvin and Hobbes strips: Calvin, having committed some minor infraction, is sent to bed early. As he bathes (in clean water heated to a desirable temperature), dresses in clean pajamas, and finally gets into his bed (in a safe suburb), he protests to his parents about how life isn’t fair. They agree, and then he complains, “Why can’t it ever be unfair in my favor?”

    I guess I was already a grown-up in some ways when I read that strip, because I immediately got what Watterson was going for.

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