Have you heard of the Just-world hypothesis or Just-world assumption?
It is a cognitive bias (fallacy?) that good things happen to ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ things happen to bad people (in the long-run).
We all know it just isn’t true. The facts are plain. William Shakespeare’s ‘mortal coil‘, that perfect poetic term that captures the troubles of daily life and the strife and suffering of the world, better captures what we confront in life. (btw it comes from the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet). So why would we believe in a ‘just-world’ and how has it come to be a fundamental part of the western belief system? Nearly every fairy-tale and Disney animation embodies the concept!
Firstly, it may be deluded, but it is POSITIVE in the sense that it gives us hope and a warm feeling of reassurance. Think about some of these daily expressions … “You’ll get what’s coming to you”, “What goes around comes around”, “chickens come home to roost”, and “You reap what you sow” … they all allow us to fob off contradictions to a ‘just-world’ by proposing that a future equalising event will occur to restore the good-evil balance.
Secondly, most of us believe we are fundamentally ‘good’ and we have our own definition of ‘good’. The Just-world assumption allows us to protect our psychological well-being irrespective of our biased definition of ‘good’. We see any event in the present, we define the good and bad in that event or circumstance by our own definition, and we can ‘make it right’ in an instant by applying the just-world hypothesis.
Thirdly, belief or faith in heaven or an after-life supports the just-world concept. If a lot of ‘bad’ things happen to a ‘good’ person and they leave this mortal coil tragically and prematurely, the after-life will surely balance the ledger???
The ‘ko-down’ on the Just-world assumption
As the title of this post suggests, ‘stuff’ happens! Let’s observe it, live it, accept it … confront it. Bad shit happens to wonderful people and low-life scum get lucky breaks. Suck it up buttercup!
Camus had a nice slant on things in the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’ … that we can accept and live in a world devoid of meaning or purpose!
According to the Greek myth, Sisyphus was punished for all eternity to roll a rock up a mountain only to have it roll back down to the bottom whenever he reaches the top. Sisyphus is condemned to an existence without hope of success. The God’s had thought, with some reason, that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour. But Camus provides an alternative mindset. So long as Sisyphus accepts that there is nothing more to life than his absurd struggle, then he can find happiness in it.
Life … observe it, confront it, accept it … live it!