Life is not Fair

“Life is not fair” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore | Photo: Farabeetylerjake

“Life is not fair” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore | Photo: Farabeetylerjake

“Life is not fair” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore | Photo: Farabeetylerjake

“Life is not fair” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore | Photo: Farabeetylerjake

Walking through the snowy Vienna streets so close to April, it’s hard to ignore the many complaints. That’s nothing new from the Viennese, but one comment made me smile: “It was so warm for a few days and I got used to it, this snow is just not fair.” Fair? Really? Since when is weather supposed to be fair?

Coming from an Anglo-American culture, unfairness in the workplace, or in life, usually earns the response: “Well, life isn’t fair”. This is a concept that only works in competition-based cultures.

In Austria, on the other hand, “That’s not fair!” is an acceptable complaint. Fairness when it comes to wages, benefits, workload, the treatment of employees, these are all things that people believe are worth fighting for, or at least highlighting as serious problems.

On the other hand, in America, bosses assume, “You work for me, you play by my rules”. In a culture where survival of the fittest is an accepted assumption behind upward mobility, fairness almost seems unhelpful. If you have taken an advantage for yourself (or found a loophole), you’ve gotten ahead. That’s part of the race: Finding ways of taking unfair advantage.

So I was surprised to learn recently that in Austria someone who is marginally employed (geringfügig, like many waiters, coat-check staff, food vendors, etc.) has the right to a paid holiday.  Are they serious, American voices echo? At such a low salary, they pay no taxes. Should they still get a paid holiday?

But now another voice argues back: Is it really fair that those jobs are paid so poorly? Or that they get no health insurance?

Only in this country have I ever gotten into these kinds of discussions. And now, even if I’m not always sure where to draw the line, “life is not fair” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

 

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