Dogs have an innate sense of fairness, but there’s a catch. Or maybe a fetch, in this case.
Imagine you have two dogs. If you actually do have two dogs, you can skip that step. Everyone else, please follow instructions. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll call these doggos Pancho and Lefty.
Now, imagine you have two treats in your hands, and you tell the dogs to sit. They sit, and you give Lefty both treats. You don’t give Pancho anything.
How is Pancho going to react? If you have dogs, you know the answer. Pancho is going to whine, shift his weight back and forth between his front paws, and maybe bark at you. These are canine efforts to convey to a human that a grave injustice has occurred, vis-à-vis treats-to-dog distribution ratios. He’d just tell you that if he could, but you’ve never bothered to learn Dog, and he doesn’t speak English. He’s taking classes, cut him some slack.
How is Lefty going to react? Lefty is going to scarf down both treats, lick his chops, and probably sit and wait for a third treat. To put it in the vulgate colloquialisms of today, Lefty will not give a single fuck that you’ve shorted Pancho.
Pancho innately understands that the situation was unfair, and any human observer understands the same, but Lefty does not understand or care at all.
Fairness, as it relates to dogs, only operates in one direction. When a dog is aggrieved, it knows and doesn’t like it. But when a dog benefits from a lack of fairness, it greedily consumes the fruits of the injustice with no conscious guilt for its windfall. That is, fairness only matters in one direction.
Fortunately, the grand cosmic lottery of birth resulted in you being born as a human, not a puppy. Empathy for slighted beings is not the only benefit to being a person versus being a dog, but it’s a big one.
Your lotto win also came with some amazing kickers.
You were not only born as a human, you were born in the 20th century. This turn of luck brought such victories as completely avoiding the Black Plague, skipping the Spanish Inquisition, and never being unwittingly duped into indentured servitude in exchange for passage to the New World.
You probably were conceived by and born to English-speaking parents, given the fact that you’re reading a blog in English. Or you learned English. Or you’re just staring at a page full of words you don’t understand, in which case jackrabbit Mothra eyeball pitchfork guitar bulldozer arithmetic Optimus Prime inter-universally copulating with a GoBot.
And given my readership, you were likely born in the good old United States of America, granting you citizenship under our Constitution. You lucky bastard, you.
You didn’t do anything to win that lottery or any of its perks. Your parents got laid at least once, and that is “work” in the sense that they exerted energy to move something over a defined space…then retracted it…then moved it again, repeating thusly for 1.5 or 2 minutes, depending of course on pre-coital alcohol consumption and the relative hotness of the parties.
But that’s all beside the point. The point is, you didn’t do anything, you lazy S.O.B., just sitting there in your typical conception-moment zygoteness.
Like Lefty, the universe gave you lots of delicious treats for absolutely no work. You didn’t even SIT.
But most people didn’t win the lottery. Most people relate more to Pancho than to you or Lefty-Boy. Most humans were born elsewhere, in countries with terrible economies, minimal prospects for class mobility, and literally zero professional American football teams. Tragic.
Recognizing the incredible financial and quality of life upside possible for hopping the border, many people over the years have skipped the unwieldy process. They’ve instead come to the United States illegally. And not surprisingly, many of those self-starting, risk-taking, bootstrapping, administrative process-flouting immigrants have brought along their minor children.
Okay, pause. Back to dogs.
Lefty has had two treats. Pancho hates your guts and feels like you don’t love him. Then you give another treat to Lefty. And another. And another. And Pancho gets none.
Pancho needs your prayers, it’s true.
Just then, a thin mixed-race man from Hawaii enters the room. He heard there was some injustice happening, and he came to bend the arc of the moral universe back in the right direction. He whips out one-half of a treat, and gives it to Pancho. Prayers answered!
“Pancho, my boy. You are a good dog. And the world needs good dogs. You’ve been ignored too long. It’s not your fault you’re not getting the treats. America is at its best when everybody – shaggy or smooth coated, brown or black, brindled or golden, toy or herding, sporting or non-sporting group – gets a chance to be their best. Enjoy your treat, Pancho. You have earned it.”
Lefty, not understanding the inverse of dog-fairness, immediately starts barking. He forgets the countless treats he got but didn’t earn. He only sees that Pancho got half a treat from the new man and he didn’t get one. He is inconsolable at this gross injustice that has been thrust upon his heretofore arrangement. Who the hell is this new man, showing up and giving MY treats to Pancho? I hope that new man leaves and a giant orange buffoon who REALLY GETS IT comes to my rescue.
Okay, back to people.
America is not pie. You don’t get less America if we give someone else a slice. It doesn’t work that way.
America is, instead, a nearly bottomless bag of treats. Well, okay, maybe it’s not “bottomless.” Let’s call it a self-sustaining bag of treats.
It’s not important. The point is we have a lot of treats. A metric shit-ton. More amassed treats than any country in the history of the world.
When the guy came along and said, “these kids did nothing wrong, why they can’t have half a treat?” it really pissed off a lot of people. In between stuffing their face with endless treats, choking on the bounty the universe landed in their laps, they rasped out their protest. They whined, they shifted their considerable weight back and forth, they barked. In their minds, a great injustice had befallen them.
And everyone else around the world looked at them and rolled their eyes. Silly people, they only understand fairness as it pertains to themselves. It’s like they are dogs or something.
The guy left.
Then, a new person came in, promising to take all of the little half-treats back. The incensed “rule of law” seekers were ecstatic.
“Finally, someone’s going to put the natural order of things back the way it always has been!” they belched out in unison, almost choking on the abundance of treats upon which they were greedily chewing.
And then he followed through. He took the prized half-treats away from those who had almost nothing more. His fans cheered! Fairness, justice and the rule of law has been restored (as it applies to us, which is all that matters)! Screw those other people, they should blame their parents, not us!
The rest of humanity, of course, recognized the inherent, obvious, palpable unfairness of what he had done.
We all saw it instantly. Because the rest of us think like humans. Because the rest of us are humans.