I subscribe to many email newsletters. They have to do with current affairs, history, women, midlife, psychology, community, entrepreneurship, life hacks, and other sources of learning and personal growth. I love reading about ideas, old and new, and unique perspectives.
This week, in one of these newsletters, one idea was a real “aha moment” for me. It made me stop in my tracks and share it with our houseguests right then and there.
While it’s not a new idea, it is new to me. It was formulated by American moral and political philosopher John Rawls, and described in his 1971 book, A Theory of Justice. It’s a question that, if taken to implementation, would surely have huge repercussions.
Rawls puts forth a thought experiment, as follows: Imagine you are tasked with designing the society you will live in BEFORE you are born, and with no knowledge of what your circumstances will be at birth.
You might be born male or female. Black or white. Gay or straight. Abled or disabled. Trans or cisgender. Beautiful or homely. And everything in between.
You might come from a family that is religious or not, wealthy or not, educated or not, with one or two parents or not, and everything in between.
You might live in a community that is safe or dangerous, with good or poor public schools, with reliable access to good and affordable public schools, medical care, fresh food, and WiFi—or not.
You get the idea.
What kind of society would you build if you had no knowledge of what kind of person you would be in that society, with what kinds of privileges or lack thereof?
Pow! Yep, blew my mind. As a white, well-educated, cisgender, straight, married woman, this only reaffirms the amazing privilege I live with and my need to re-examine how I utilize that privilege given my position in our society.
Watch this short video for more on John Rawls’s idea.
YOUR TURN: How would YOU design your society if you had no idea who you would end up being in that society? Share in the comments!