(Originally Posted: 07/19/97)
equal adj. 1. of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another.
equality n. 1. the quality or state of being equal.
– Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition
There is no equality in the world. There never has been and there never will be. Nor should there be. I make such statements based on several real-world observations:
- At no time in human history has any society or civilization reached a state of equality,
- No matter how hard anyone tries to demand equality with someone else, they will always be different,
- The ethos of the American spirit is one based upon the idea that each individual can become better than what he or she now is,
- Arguments suggesting that equality is possible inevitably rely on wealth redistribution, curtailment of freedoms, and a general reduction in expectations of the society and the individuals that make it up.
Consider the following: at any given moment, two babies are conceived. From that very instant of conception, both babies are markedly different in every way, shape and form. Their differences are not confined to just skin color and gender. Rather, each has been endowed with a unique set of genes that gives each baby certain traits and abilities. (Some consider these to be gifts from God.) Each will have very different developmental stages during his or her time in the womb. When the time to enter the world comes, the babies may have very different experiences. One may be born in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, while the other may be born in the confines of its parent’s home, or in the back of a taxi cab.
From the day the child is born, that unique individual will have very different and unique experiences from any other baby born on that date. These different and unique experiences mold and shape the person, directly affecting growth, development, and maturity. The mistake that is made by many is to believe that we can change these experiences by making everyone equal. Regardless of how many times we try to make people equal, there will always be those who will have more knowledge, more ability, more intuitiveness, and more drive than the next person.
In 1964, Kurt Vonnegut, a futurist writer, wrote a very telling short story on the concept of equality. In it, he described in lucid detail the lengths to which a government went to equalize its people. A text of that story can be found here. In essence, the story was in response to the rhetoric of the time, the laws being introduced at the time, and the general reduction in values being witnessed, both here in the US and in Britain. We are still seeing this ideological push toward so-called equality today, but with a more sinister fervor. Today, there is a demand for everyone to be equal in terms of physical and materialistic wealth. No one, it seems, recognizes within himself or herself a richness that no one else has: his or her spirit. If anything, we find people caught up in, and literally dying for, the chance to be seen as materialistically better than everyone else. The name of that short story was “Harrison Bergeron.”
We, not only as a society, but as individuals, fail to recognize that equality is not something to be desired. It is the root cause of more strife than peace. Rather, we should recognize our unique qualities and abilities and apply them to our daily lives. This means at home with our families, at work, at school, and at play with friends.
What is most disconcerting, though, is how easily individuals willfully covet that which others have worked for and the unwillingness to work the same way. There are many things that are material in nature that I would like. Others have them. Because others have them and I don’t, does that give me any type of right to demand what they have worked for. Certainly not! If I want something, it is up to me to find a legal way to obtain that item. As a Catholic, I am taught very clearly that I shall not covet my neighbor’s wife, nor shall I covet my neighbor’s goods. In other words, don’t desire what is not yours. Unfortunately, though, many plans for equality have the government take away money and goods from those who have worked for them, and give them to those who have not. Is this equality of law? I would say not.
I am also taught that “The poor you will always have with you.” (Jn. 12:8) This does not mean that I must support the poor from generation to generation. It means that I must help as many of the poor today get out of poverty. Thus, it is my duty as a Catholic to work with the poor to help them better themselves. What does this mean? Simply put, it means educating them on how to use their talents, showing them how to become productive members of society. This is the way to better a person, not by giving them money. It means teaching them how to fish, not giving them the fish.
We must become cognizant and acceptant of the fact that there will never be equality in the world. When we dispel the myth, we can move forward and recognize the true issues that are before us: helping the poor become productive members of society, and building our reserves of social, intellectual, and moral capital.