If wishes were hearses

Beware the monkey's paw. According to near-unanimous declaration of fantasy and horror fiction, if you suddenly find yourself the recipient of three wishes, you're screwed. 

Would you like to be beautiful forever? Your skin will harden and you'll find yourself trapped in the shell of a store mannikin. Want world peace? You'll find it under the heel of a ruthless global dictator. And so on. No wishes go unpunished in our collective unconscious.

But why? Many of us live in a culture of aspiration, which looks kindly on those who dream big and risk everything. We often look down on people who are merely content to remain whatever they are, who nurture no desire to change themselves and the world.  Yet we fictionally punish those who rub the lamp and state their desires.

Maybe it's because we think they're cheating. They're reaping a reward without putting in the work. So let me pose this thought experiment. Suppose you're from a group that has experienced generations of discrimination. There's a very high likelihood that this has prevented you from reaching your dream, whether it's a prize-winning novel or some other achievement. Would it be wrong to use your wish to level the playing field, give yourself the same fighting chance anyone else has? Your wish would only restore fairness.

Then again, hasn't life been unfair to everyone at some point? Maybe its your turn to jump the queue.

Cheating is much more relative than we like to think. For cheaters, their actions merely take advantage of a pre-existing weakness of the system; exploits are part of the architecture. The cheat is an elevator in a building where most plod up the stairs, simply because a sign told them that was the only way up. 

Most of our systems are riddled with these chutes and ladders. We can be very selective about the ones we tolerate, and the ones we enforce.