One can speculate that the word is the short version of ‘equal quality’, - e-quality, and instantly the definition becomes self-explanatory. It is however defined as a status of being equal in aspects of social life or as a symbolic expression in mathematics for equation or symmetry.
Though one of the synonyms is sameness, another parity, these do not do justice to the meaning or interpretation as it is understood by the citizens of the western democracies. We as humans are the same, but different as individual human beings. We are equal despite being diverse. Equality is a social construct though in Sozieterna’s view there is no doubt that it is not only applicable to us humans. Equality belongs to all and everything coming from the same origin, created from the same matter and interconnected all the same, despite different appearances.
The social concept of Western democracies states that equality applies to all people of this world regardless of gender, race, religion, age, physical characteristics, education, status and abilities. It is well accepted and regarded as an essential element of modern societies, meaning all have the same rights, are the same in front of law, have the same opportunities of access to work, education, medical and social benefits. It still is not truly implemented despite legislation to enforce it, but that may be due to the fact that it has not been around long enough to become habitual.
It has to be acknowledged that the French Revolution was a significant milestone in the social and political development of the human’s communal construct but it takes far longer to change the collective psyche particularly when the individual one lags far behind. Let’s face it, the elevation from the instinct driven plain of survival to the mental plain of civilization is in progress but far from completion and may never be achieved. There is still too much biological restraint. Mind over matter, how many can claim they are the master of their own body, not to mention mind? Though humans do claim to be the master of every other creature.
While being the most successful, human society is certainly not the only complex society that nature has produced and we are also not the oldest. We feel superior to all the others, but that is a mistake and likely our demise. Do we ever consider ants, termites, bees, coral or any other colonies of animals, birds, and fish of having a social life? Most humans cannot even consider that intelligence has not been bestowed on humans alone, but is inherent in all living organisms. We do not consider equality at its most basic meaning. If we as an individual cannot do so, how can we expect society would? After all, it needs the individual to form a society. But we still need leaders to tell us what to think and what to do unable to shake of our herding ancestry. What right has the human race to regard itself better than anything else? Because God said so? Which God? No God would have ever said, abuse your power, ravage the world, be cruel to the animals and kill your fellow man.
Ants deserve the same respect for their sophisticated colonization efforts as we demand for ourselves. Bees can be as much admired for their professional specialization, as we take pride for ourselves. Corals can claim to be the most prolific urban developers, just under water, housing all in outstanding building constructions, being creative rather than destructive, as our own urban developments are. We do so, because there are only a few elements that can keep us restrained unlike other creatures having natural enemies that keep them under control. And we do so because we do not care for any other creature.
But equality does not just mean equal rights for us, equal opportunities for us, equal merits for us. We are all equals in the greater scheme, including animals and plants. As mentioned before, we are made from the same stuff, breath the same air, depending on each other, depending on mother earth, depending on the sun and the cosmic ocean. Claiming to have more brain than other creatures, more intelligence, more sophistication does not imply we are of more value and therefore we have more rights. What it really means is that it increases our duty to actually take care of the less fortunate. Our brains may give us power but it does not give us the right to dominate, nor to disregard nature itself.
Humans are victims of their own power struggles that take place in their own little brain. The more brain and brain function we have the more destructive the battles are and the more destruction we will cause around us, except our “ego” overload can be counterbalanced by another dimension that our brain is also capable of to unlock. Mind over body, power over ego will not help us to make the leap into a better life for us, nor for anyone else, as long as we continue to focus on how much more powerful we can become, as an individual and as species. The human race has already developed more power than it can handle. With power comes responsibility and there is little evidence of that being around. Unfortunately the ego is all for power, because the ego does not really have power itself. But it knows of power and really really wants to be powerful. It is striving for it relentlessly if not reined in. It does not want to know responsibility though of course that is exactly what it needs to subdue its ferocious appetite for power. The concept of equality is also helpful as a tool limiting the concentration of power in the hands of a few.
Equality is even for the western democratic societies a young concept. It is far away for the rest of the world’s population. Does that contribute to an optimistic view for the world’s future? I leave it to the reader to make his own conclusions with the advice not to blame but analyze, otherwise the emotions can become too overwhelming.
Let’s see how western democratic societies deal with equality. For a start it is remarkable that it warrants laws to enforce equality. It means that people don’t adhere to it naturally. With laws, there will always be the law breaker, the law bender and the ones who perpetrate but can avoid to get caught. It is however a positive frame work and hopefully the more it is enforced the more it becomes the norm.
Secondly it means that discrimination, coercion, double standards even in front of the law, bias selection, economic disparity are still very much part of everyday life but it is more difficult to be blatant about it. Unfortunately it leads to the most ridiculous and misleading interpretations of the law as well which is counterproductive to the value and purpose of equality.
There is also a lot of confusion about what discrimination is and the anxiety connected to it, because of the dilemma of wanting to be tolerant towards others but finding it hard or outright impossible. Multiculturalism shows exactly how difficult tolerance can be, though it does not have to be a problem.
The point is that countries have their own cultural identity, based on the consensual social and political construct of its citizens. Laws provide the measure of what is acceptable conduct and what not. In Western societies everyone has the same rights, the laws of equality apply and as flawed as they may be, they have substantial bearing on the way of life within a democratic society. To open up a country’s border to welcome foreigners does not imply the country gives up its sovereignty, nor its laws or way of life. It may feel obliged to accommodate the foreigner or not. Equality as a status of value allows for diversity, but equality in political and jurisdictional aspect is sameness for all. Wearing a funny hat or a head scarf is a matter of choice in a democratic society. There the law protects anyone from being forced to wear either, but breaking the laws rightfully will be prosecuted, no matter what is worn. Other countries have different values and breaking the law can have sinister consequences, but nobody can expect that any country changes their rules because the visitors don’t agree with them.
Cultures can fundamentally be so different that one feels discriminated against or offended and the other feels constantly challenged to oblige and to defend their own values. This creates dislikes and confrontations. Solutions may not be found easily. They must be handled with logic not emotions as they may get out of control with anger and plain violence in pursuit. Discerning judgment is required: To be tolerant is one thing but to be manipulated is another.
Multiculturalism is possible and feasible, but it requires a lot of tolerance on both sides, and adjustment by the ones who leave their own country in search for a better life. It is no surprise that the new country does not fulfill the dreams nor expectations and that the chosen country resists to introduce exceptions to their rules. Logic says that one party has to let go of false hope and the other of unnecessary fear. Both need to reconsider their priorities and make a clear commitment according to their chosen values without the expectation that the other has to oblige. One may need to leave, the other may need to strengthen their criteria. Double standards no matter where they are applied to never work. Even little children can see when parents say one thing but do another. It creates mistrust.
The concept of equality is undoubtedly a positive development for the human race in social terms. One can only hope that it will spread all over the globe, create new pathways in the brain and connect the biological realm with the intellectual to the benefit of all creatures, plants and things. It should not be difficult if only we remember where we all come from.