When a Harvard University study found that left-handers are economically worse off than right-handers, I was dismayed. Not because I’m a left-hander. Because I’m a right-hander.
If history is any guide, the media-academic complex and the judicial magisterium will blame me for the disparity. That’s what happened when feminists and champions of racial and sexual minorities pleaded their disabilities. Being male, white, and heterosexual can be a burden. If the Harvard study catches fire, being right-handed will add to it.
The study found that, compared to right-handers, left-handers generally take jobs that require less cognitive skill and produce lower incomes. It also revealed that lefties have more learning disorders, emotional problems, and behaviourial difficulties, and less formal education.
Approximately ten per cent of the population is left-handed. That’s a large enough minority for academics to swoon over the consultation and research opportunities, media to mount a new crusade on behalf of the disadvantaged, politicians to renew their commitment to affirmative action, and judges to discover that left-handedness is a constitutionally prohibited ground for discrimination.
I don’t deny that if you’re left-handed, living in a largely right-handed world is awkward, even dangerous. Implements from scissors and can openers to power saws and firearms can be difficult or unsafe to use. Even common activities like screwing in light bulbs and handwriting in left to right script can be frustrating.
Fortunately, the news is not all bad for right-handers like me. Although left-handers may be worse off than we are economically, I’m relieved to report that we may be worse off than they are athletically. Despite our being 90 percent of the population, we’re only 75 percent of the players in major league baseball and less than 50 percent of the elite performers in basketball. We’re also disadvantaged in cricket, tennis, boxing and fencing.
Even better, a St. Lawrence University study indicates that we tend to be less intelligent and eloquent than left-handers and not as good at solving problems. Better still, relatively fewer of us seem to be in creative professions like music, art, and writing.
As you may have noticed, the science is far from settled. But if results like those of the St. Lawrence study prevail, we right-handers could emerge as a disadvantaged majority and qualify for endless sympathy and financial compensation. I realize that it’s more difficult for majorities than minorities to prove discrimination and mount a case for victimhood. But, thanks to feminism, women managed it with aplomb. Maybe, thanks to handism, we can do the same.
A bigger obstacle to our gaining preferential treatment may be research indicating that we live longer than left-handers. Fortunately, the research is contested. In any event, thanks again to feminism, women continue to be treated preferentially despite their living longer than men. I guess societies that support abortion and clamor for euthanasia don’t consider a shortened life span a constitutionally prohibited ground for discrimination.
The biggest obstacle, I suspect, will be in trying to establish that we’re historically disadvantaged. Unlike the left-handed, we haven’t endured centuries of superstition about practices like black magic and devil worship. Nor have societies considered us unlucky or malicious and our handedness an affliction to be cured.
Why, even language testifies against us. Right, I’m embarrassed to say, also means proper and correct. That’s not the stuff out of which hate speech is crafted. On the other hand — you know the one — a left-handed compliment is unflattering or dismissive and two left feet means clumsy.
But scouting and military traditions testify for us. When shaking hands, scouts reject the right. They prefer the left, apparently because it’s closer to the heart, one of our most vital organs and traditionally associated with romantic love. On the other hand – you know the one – the right is closer to the appendix, a vestigial organ and traditionally associated with appendicitis. Clearly, scouts practice placism, discrimination based on location.
When marching, armed services personnel each discriminate against their right foot. They consistently start with the left and have done so for centuries. This is especially demeaning during ceremonial functions when untold numbers of civilians are watching, including children.
Our best hope of being deemed historically disadvantaged may lie in politics. Judging by the success of the welfare state, most voters consider left-wingers to be progressively compassionate, if not indulgent, and right-wingers to be regressively indifferent, if not inhumane.
Now, there’s a disparity that cries out for justice. Maybe it’s time we established a right-handers day to raise awareness of our dextrality, just as left-handers have established August 13 to raise awareness of their sinistrality.