Standing on the eve of a new decade (Happy 2020!) it is sobering to observe that we are so preoccupied with debating the best way to achieve equal outcomes for all people, that few question the ‘beauty and goodness’ of equality as a policy goal.
Equality cannot be beautiful and good in itself. It depends on what is equal, and why, and how.
There is neither beauty nor goodness in equality that has been achieved through tyranny and coercion: equal pay, equal opportunities, equal access to all good things, equal lifestyles and everybody laughing equally at jokes that have been carefully tailored to ensure sure that all the topics being joked about are equal. Everybody ‘all in this together’ as we wallow in misery and poverty – because at least we’re all equal so it’s fine. Never mind liberty or fraternity; we also don’t care about productivity or success or any of that as long as we are equal.
How did ‘equality’ come to be so entrenched as an ideal, when the only way to achieve equality is by force? The coercion of law is necessary to achieve equality because human beings are funny old creatures: some of them are stubborn and they just want to be left in peace to pursue their own happiness as they conceive that to be as long as they don't try to hurt other people or steal anybody's stuff. Unless everyone is forced by law to share their stuff, some people will want to keep what they have worked for to be enjoyed by themselves, their loved ones, and their chosen charitable causes. Unless they are forced out of their jobs and livelihoods, they will continue to work harder than others and end up being more productive than others. Unless their inventions are banned, they will carry on being creative and thinking of new and different ways to do things so that life works better than it did before. Unless they are gagged, they will tell risqué jokes, and there will always be people who find them funny. This is the messy world of humanity, and it will carry on that way unless more and more laws are passed to bring everyone into line.
Treating people equally is achieved by upholding the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law. Making people actually equal can only be achieved by making it illegal for anyone to exhibit traits that are not ‘equal’ with others. We are all being watched, to make sure we talk, walk, and behave exactly like everyone else, so that it’s Fair. This is known as Social Justice. It means that doing things your own way is not permitted, in case it gives you an unfair advantage over others.
People want to be equal because they're afraid. They're afraid that somebody else might be enjoying an 'unfair advantage' that they do not have, because that person has some winnings from the great lottery of life. Now they can't sleep at night, tossing and turning with worry that their neighbour might be enjoying a better lifestyle than them and how is that Fair?
When people demand equality, they are not usually trying to assert their common humanity. What they usually mean is that somebody is enjoying some advantages they don't have, and they would like to have the same advantages.
We are similar in many ways, and different in many ways, and it is not always easy to decide whether the differences or similarities are relevant or irrelevant to decision-making. Long ago, in the age of liberty, this was left to each person's moral code, to decide for themselves which factors they considered relevant to making decisions. Now, it is decided by law that differences are always irrelevant, and we are required to behave as if these differences did not exist.
The main claimants to Equality are those suffering some disadvantage or other. Therefore, in claiming your equality rights it obviously helps if you can identify a relevant disadvantage (the more historical, the better).
In a race to the bottom, where you win legal enshrinement of your Equality Rights if you can prove that you have suffered the most, everyone truly has an equal opportunity to be a winner. This is why today we witness epic battles for victimhood status. Everybody has an argument about why they’re a victim of society, based on their race, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, etc. We are all this miserable cesspit together! That’s nice. We can all argue amongst ourselves to see who gets the prize for being the weakest victim.
Even poor white boys are now recognised as victims, based on their multiple socio-economic disadvantages. This leaves only rich white boys to fend for themselves as the only people left in this world who have no legally protected grounds to complain about unfairness – although possibly they could complain that the tabloids are being unfair to them by showcasing their extravagant lifestyles and invading their privacy.
Complaining about unfairness is extremely important in the 21st century, and everybody tries really hard to find something to complain about and hone their complainypants skills. If complaining is the true path to power, then being unable to claim any legally ‘protected characteristic’ to ground your complaint becomes a real handicap. If your personal characteristic is not listed as a protected ground, like 'obesity' or 'veganism' or 'nudism' don't worry, you can always try to include it in some other ground that is listed and claim your Equality Rights that way so that your group is not left out.
It's hard to resist moaning and whining, in a world where claiming to be a victim of various unfairnesses is the easiest way to achieve your goals and aspirations. But do cut yourself some slack if you find yourself bemoaning your lot in life. The five-year old in each of us is always tempted to cry ‘it’s not fair!’ when faced with day to day tribulations, and it is a rare stoic who has never succumbed to tears of self-pity when faced with a challenge such as the excruciating pain of watching your neighbour enjoy an easier lifestyle with less effort. Human beings are frail creatures, for sure, and the tendency to envy others is very human, but our beauty lies not in our frailty but in our resilience – we should marvel not at people's ability to wallow in self-pity about historical grievances, but in their capacity to shake off their chains and press on with their lives in really difficult circumstances.
Beauty and goodness lie in truth, and the truth is that this beautiful world is characterised by diversity, not equality. Happiness lies in finding your own path and striving towards meaningful personal goals.
Live and let live. Don’t try to hurt other people by creating rules that encroach upon their freedoms. Don’t try to take their stuff by passing laws that redistribute what they have worked for. Be true to your own ideals and don't try to force your beliefs on other people. Don’t try to dictate what other people should think, what they should read or study, whom they should listen to, what they should say, or how they should live their lives. Embrace your freedom, and let others pursue theirs. Happy 2020!
Scholar, Writer, Friend