Equality is increasingly viewed as a utopian ideal. Even those who support it have realized its failings, giving primacy to rich society and community. But what is equality?
There is a difference between a political and a philosophical critique of equality even though they have a common goal, which is to make the position of the most vulnerable as good as possible.
Philosophers find the idea of equality strange because to them, it is impossible. In a world in which everyone would have the same is a world in which no one would have anything. Strange view, isn’t it?
Political philosophers also agree on a negative perception of equality. It is a mistake to regard as equal the share of the wealth distribution while neglecting to help those who need it the most.
Ideally, equality is the smooth relationship between individuals within a social community, with no vertical or horizontal differences in their social positions.
There are several elements of social equality:
– Everyone has the same reputation and influence, but do not have to perform the same jobs and roles.
– Everyone has the same opportunities to occupy different social positions.
– Everyone has the same rights, duties, and treatment.
– Everyone provides according to their capabilities and in proportion to the social position they occupy.
All relevant variations arise throughout a lifetime and are conditioned by social circumstances.
If we treat all people as equally worthy, it would be fair to give them an equal chance of achieving what they want.
No one deserves to be unfulfilled because they were born into a poor family or because of a lack of opportunity to study.
In modern society, literal equality in terms of evenness is hard to imagine.
Aristotle’s claim that it is the greatest injustice to equalize inequities is also widely known. In the same way, we can see it as unfair to treat people in unequal positions as equals, just because they are equal before the law. But isn’t that the whole point of equality?
Treating people equally is essential whether they are the prime minister of a country or an uneducated worker. Surely the job they do is different and of course, if you studied hard and tried to reach certain educational and professional levels you deserve to be rewarded. But who says that the person who is not very keen on studying but works equally hard and feeds 5 children in their family and offers voluntary work etc, do not deserve to be rewarded? It is just an unfair society and we see that every day.
On the other side, economic position and health are linked. As poverty increases, the likelihood that an individual becomes ill and dies young increases the likelihood of a similar outcome in their offspring. However, this does not necessarily mean that inequality is responsible for one’s health. By not enduring equality, in a society where people are starving, the health of its members is decreased.
We usually believe that governments can improve everything that is wrong. Or at least not to cause more problems for the people. However, it is important to understand how much we get from differences that we disagree with. Although we should all be equals, not everyone has the same skills or the will to be a useful and decent member of society. But again, being good where others are not, should not make you feel superior of them. Others are better than you on different things. We seem to forget that a lot.
In conclusion, a modern, fair, and free society should give everyone equal opportunities but how these opportunities will be realized in real terms, depends solely on us. On our talents, effort, commitment and what we want life to be. Each of us is a unique being, evolving according to our capabilities. We need to accept this fact to preserve the esteem of the people around us. Even in unfair societies we can show respect to others and treat them with the equality they deserve.