Fairness, Equality and Muffins

Standing in my local bakery waiting for my morning coffee I was captured by a conversation as a woman enquired about the variety of muffins available.

I’ll have two chocolate and raspberry she requested to which the owner replied “I’m sorry I only have one”. Anxiously she responded “oh no! the children would fight, I better have something different that are the same”. The transaction completed she left with two identical muffins.

Walking home I was surprised at my level of interest and frustration as I pondered the implications of the exchange. Of course, I know nothing of this family and am sympathetic to the desire to minimize conflict with everyone locked up together. However, it made me reflect on the dangerous confusion that occurs between sameness, fairness, equality and justice that thread through our world from the family to the broader society. The exchange seemed to indicate that not having the same treat would constitute a breach of fairness and be valid grounds for conflict. The incongruity of this mother’s need to ensure her children were equally treated compared to our willingness to accept gross breaches of fairness and equity in our own country was striking. Where is the line between mild and transient disappointment that we did not get exactly what we desired and those matters that are unjust? Perhaps differences that humiliate, demean or destroy another person or the world in which they live should be our yardstick. In these circumstances it is right and just to take action to redress the inequality.