Justice, equality, and fairness are the ideals people from different cultures in different parts of the world have always aspired to achieve. They are the values that not only have inspired people to speak up and fight against oppression, cruelty, discrimination, and abuse but also encouraged innovation and progress, bringing positive changes to communities. However, like many other ideals, such as freedom, fairness is a term that can have different interpretations.
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Hence, it is a topic that is always open to discussion. People have varying views on what is a fair society and how it can be achieved. Hence, the cost of any progress would be temporary regresses, disputes, and compromises, but societies should have an overall idea and direction to understand what they should struggle for. Sometimes one of the best ways to evaluate a concept is by contradiction. Therefore, deciding to address the idea of justice, one can turn to the best dystopian works. This paper will discuss the concepts of fairness and equality based on the ideas developed by Margaret Atwood in her novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Similar to many other ideals, justice can be interpreted differently: it can be manipulated, replaced, or suppressed by dishonest ideologies. Offred in “The Handmaid’s Tale” once thinks that “freedom like everything else, is relative”, and the same can be also said about equality and fairness (Atwood 222). The book itself can be a vivid illustration of that idea. It describes a dystopian society where women are reduced to housewives, servants, or enslaved breeders for the elite. Yet, the same women who are oppressed support the regime. Many females volunteer to serve as Aunts, instructing future handmaids to become obedient slaves.
The novel offers an explanation for their readiness to join the oppressive ideology: “when power is scarce, a little of it is tempting” (Atwood 288). Aunts indoctrinate women, suggesting that “there is more than one kind of freedom, (…) Freedom to and freedom from.” (Atwood 39). They emphasize that not only they serve the greater purpose improving the birth rate, they are also protected and liberated. This illustrates how some ideals, such as freedom or justice, can be manipulated.
Therefore, the main problem of the constant struggle to achieve a better society is that people have different views on what is fair. This can also be explored on the example from the real world. Compared to previous historical periods, modern society is more just than it has ever been, but it is not a utopia – there is still inequality and oppression. Some individuals have more power and money and treat poorly those with less access to these resources.
However, while people increasingly fight against sexism, racism, and other discriminations, there are still ones who defend financial inequality. Some of their claims are based on meritocratic principles, some on Ayn Rand’s objectivism, but the overall idea is that poor people are responsible for their poverty. However, one should understand that resources are often distributed unfairly in the first place. For instance, while some people have access to quality education, others do not. This example of modern-day inequality can serve as a powerful illustration of how certain ideologies can suppress the struggle for justice.
However, while unfairness can never be eliminated completely, it does not mean that societies should not aspire to achieve it. There are reasons to believe that people will never stop striving for the better. Even in the most desperate circumstances, oppressed females in “The Handmaid’s Tale” survive and treasure their hope: “We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?” (Atwood 19). Many have to adapt and work with the regime, yet they seek ways to fight it, forming underground organizations resisting the totalitarian system. One, Mayday, is a “quasi-military” organization that “infiltrated the Gileadean power structure at the highest levels”, the other – “the Underground Femaleroad”, responsible for “rescue operations” helping women to escape to Canada or England (Atwood 290).
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This idea is similar to the ones discussed in other dystopian novels: people always find ways to fight for the right cause seeking to end oppression. The concluding part of the story also emphasizes that progress eventually wins, as it shows that by 2195 the Republic of Gilead has long fallen.
Overall, such concepts as fairness or freedom have always been interpreted differently depending on ideologies and political needs. As “The Handmaid’s Tale” illustrates, people can believe that even oppression can be justified for the greater cause. However, as history shows, all manipulation eventually becomes exposed, and totalitarian regimes fall. To consider it from a less extreme perspective, every society has a potential for progress and regress.
Although the latter occasionally happens, as time passes, the former prevails. Generations after generations, people have fought to build better, more fair societies, and the results can be clearly seen. There are still some problems to be eliminated, some aspects to be improved, but there are reasons to believe that despite the possible costs associated with challenging harmful ideologies and reaching agreements, people have the potential to make their communities even more equal and acceptive.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Vintage Books, 2017.