Veil of Ignorance

I’m not the only one who thinks that the world is structured unfairly. The rich seem to find it easier to keep making money, and those who are living in poverty are the most vulnerable to life shocks which push them further into poverty.

How would you re-design things if you could? Who would have the wealth? Who would have the power? How would you shape society so that it served all who were a part of it?

John Rawls came up with the concept of the Veil of Ignorance. It’s a way to test ideas for fairness, whether it’s a new tax law to re-creating society as we know it. All you have to do is to imagine that you have no idea what position you would end up in on the other side of that decision. You could have your taxes cut, stay the same, or even increased. You could end up with all the power or none of the power. With that in mind, would you still be comfortable making the decision?

It’s a theoretical experiment of course, but the exercise is important to help create the kind of communities that all members want to be part of.

If you were to create a place where you would be happy in any role that you were given; any gender, any race, any social status, any level of education, any physical ability, what kind of place would you create?

Thinking of your life now, if you were born a different gender or race, or differently abled, or in a different country or social class, would you still be comfortable with the social inequalities of our world? I know I wouldn’t be.

I don’t think a utopia is possible, but I do think there are simple things we can do to begin to shift those social inequalities towards fairness. It starts with generosity.

How you treat those that have less power than you will shape the world we live in.

Generosity is Not About You, But it’s About You

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

– Frederick Douglass

It is generous to help those living in poverty, but not the way that you think.

Outside of the positive impact it creates in overcoming poverty (and the fact that it is the right thing to do), it’s generous to you.

But it’s more than how it makes you feel. It’s more than the health benefits, be they physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual (and it is all those things). It is about the world. Your world.

We are fortunate that there are so many benefits for us when we give. What makes it more extraordinary is that an act of generosity towards a just cause shifts the balance, one step at a time, from oppression towards freedom. It helps to remove the foot of injustice off the neck of those living in poverty, so that they can not only breathe but create a life that provides for their family and improves our world in the process.

We cannot be content with our progress and success at any level when there are those who are unable to meet their basic needs. Until we are able to fix that, ‘neither persons nor property will be safe’. If you want to overcome the problems we have in society, help lift those living in poverty out of that man-made cycle.

What do we do from here?

Make a stand for those suffering injustice. In whatever way that looks for you. Be it donating to an organisation that helps people work their way out of poverty, or finding your way to restore justice so that we can all be safe.