The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The long and the short of it

While in a discussion (debate? argument?) with someone, the concept of "fairness" was brought up. After much wrangling, we agreed that the concept is difficult to define and that much depends upon context or circumstances. We also agreed that human beings are often born with unfair advantages and/or disadvantages.

I am one of those who prefers the phrase "differently-abled" to the term "disabled". I have known way too many people labeled "disabled" who achieved some measure of success. The prime example of which would be Stephen Hawking. Mr. Hawking, as we all know, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as "Lou Gerhig's disease". He was diagnosed with this crippler at age 21 while still in college at Cambridge. He was already recognized by his professors and mentors as a gifted intellect.

ALS is a nasty disease, robbing its victims of motor skills and mobility and finally killing them. At the time of Hawking's diagnosis in 1963), there was (and still is) no cure and he was given no more than a few short years to live.

But, in my discussion, my counterpart spoke first of height and how short people suffered discrimination based upon it. I thought that an interesting emphasis. I countered with the names of a number of short people who have achieved great success. Both short stature and tall instigate teasing when young. I consider myself neither short nor tall at 5'11" (~181 cm) but, of course, I was not always this height. For many of my formative years I was "undertall", as I like to say. Also known as "small for my age", this could (and did) provide opportunities for bullying. My brother was the opposite, always tall for his age, and was also my main bully. Things did not change much for me until after I turned 16 when I had a 7" growth spurt in one year. So I know something of the discrimination of the short but not so much of the discrimination of the tall.

My father knew of that. As a 6'4" adult in a time when doorways were closer to 6' in height, he often had to dip his head to enter a room. At least as I recall it. My father was a handy platform for me when watching parades; I would sit on his shoulders (up until I was 4 or 5) and have a magnificent view. My mother referred to him as "my giant". My mother was maybe 5'3". I referred to them as "Mutt and Jeff" (an old comic strip duo).

Perhaps height is some indicator of potential. We tend to elect tall people (but not always... see US Presidents by height). I am of average height and have been average in achievement, for example. Or, as I like to put it, I have achieved the height of mediocrity.

I play golf. A couple of days a week, I play with two guys who are short by any standard. Both are about 5' 4" and both hit the ball farther on average and play better than I do. But I was never athletic and these two were and are. Some of that may have to do with natural ability and some with biases regarding height. My theory is that they had to work harder because they had to overcome the perception their lack of height would limit them. While I was expected to perform better because of my height. Since I was small for my age at first, I was not expected to perform well and then, all of a sudden, I was expected to perform well. Since I was not given much opportunity in my early years (and, admittedly, didn't have much talent), I had less experience and ability than the average later on.

I still don't know what "fairness" is.

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