Posts Tagged ‘equality’

The United States Declaration of Independence carries within it the oft-repeated phrase “…dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

We know well that it was a lie when it was written, with slaves huddled in tiny attic spaces and tumble-down shacks at the field’s edge, with some children born into wealth and privilege and others – perhaps only yards away – born into poverty and bondage.

This is nothing new. But it hasn’t changed much in the last couple centuries and that, I think, is often overlooked. The fallacy of being “born equal” remains with us though each and every generation proves it is not true. What the phrase really means is, among your own class, you were born relatively equal.  If you were born to a fabulously wealthy family, you will have access to a reasonable share of the opportunities available to others born into fabulously wealthy families.  It’s as close to “equality” as you’re likely to get.  Likewise, if you were born to a poor family in the ghetto, you will have access to the same basic opportunities as your fellow ghetto-ites.  Across a given class, especially narrowed geographically, the “born equal” ideal holds up fairly well.  However, try to cross classes or geographic and/or political boundaries and it falls apart again.

So what’s the point?  Why even make mention of such an idea if it was unattainable when penned and equally impossible some 240 years later?  The optimist could claim it is a goal, a social principle to aspire to even if it is myth.  The realist in me clamors in rebellion.  Socially, governmentally, I imagine the closest we would come to this quaint fallacy would be a communist state.  Work is shared as equally as possible, gains are shared, losses are shared.  No one really “get’s ahead” but no one really “falls behind,” either.  But history has shown us the downfall of such societies and I daresay it’s not one we will soon repeat.  Our governments are hideously stunted, strangled by human imperfection.  Even in its best form, it fails, because we fail.  To err is human.

If it’s inevitable, why does it bother us?  Maybe because a man on a 20-minute lunch break in a 10-hour shift watched a wealthy yacht owner sail out of a quiet harbor with no certain place to be and no certain time to be there. Because a harried cashier watched yet another wealthy family of tourists spend more on baubles than she would see on her paycheck, without a single obligation or legitimate concern mucking up their day.  And I admit, my first thoughts when I see things like that are fairly hateful.  Given the chance, I would push Admiral Yachty right off his boat and run it onto the rocks out of spite, like a kid burning ants with a magnifying glass. I would smile at a slick thief liberating the parents of the Moneybags Family of their wallet and purse. Not because I knew them to be bad people or any such thing, but simply because they could swim away, walk away, and it would amount to nothing but a story for their next cocktail party, a momentary inconvenience.  They would go back to their well-appointed lives with little more than a few ruffled feathers while the common guy was sweating out another 10-hour shift and the cashier was ringing up the next belligerent, overbearing tourists.

I think we all want to feel – even if just for one moment – that money doesn’t matter and there’s no real worry, nothing will happen that a few phone calls won’t set right. We yearn for that level of unfettered, unencumbered freedom. Freedom to essentially do as we please, when we want, how we want, with no one to answer to but ourselves. …And maybe our accountant. My god that must be nice.

Born equal, indeed.

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