February 22, 2005

Equality and Diversity

Equality and Diversity: two mantras of modern times. I am passionately in favor of both. Which, ironically, puts me out of step with current fashion, for current fashion somehow manages to interpret these two words in a way which is diametrically opposed to what I believe. How did that happen?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

United States Declaration of Independence

The framers of the Declaration of Independence, when they wrote these words, were well aware that people are not equal (i.e. "the same") - as were millions of Americans in the centuries that followed. Yet these words were taken at face value in most people's minds, without need of interpretation or elaboration. What could they have meant to these people if, in our day and age, they seem so hard to illusory?

The answer is really quite simple, and it shows how far we, as a society, have moved away from our traditions. Equality, of course, didn't mean in equal in qualities or circumstances, but in our humanity. Or, as someone at the time would likely have put it: "Equal before God". It is this essential equality from which we derive equal rights. But remove God from the picture (as most of us moderns do) and we are left with the nebulous idea: humanity - a belief in which is no less faith-based than a belief in God.

But that is not the end of the story. Take God out of the picture, and there is nothing left with which to judge a life worth lived than "qualities and circumstances". In contrast, followers of the Judeo-Christian tradition (and many other traditions, I am sure, as well) assert an essential meaning to life, our qualities and circumstances being transient and mysterious to human understanding. A follower of these traditions is comfortable with the idea that each of us has our own challenges in life, whether qualities (laziness, anger, pride...) or circumstances (poverty, persecution, death...) and are lauded not for the achievement of some arbitrary standard, but for overcoming our own particular challenges. Still, we are expected to adhere to a universal standard of morality, with the assurance that meaning can be found in any life, no matter how hard. Take away the sacred standard of meaning and morality, and you are left with a new essentialism - the belief that we are intrinsically, mundanely (as opposed to transcendently), qualitatively, equal, and that all appearances to the contrary are due to mere circumstance. Clearly, this is a new religion, inasmuch as it replaces one axiomatic notion of equality with another.

Religion, by my definition at least, is part of the human condition. (My definition of religion: that which we believe but cannot prove. Preferably the "we" does not refer to the individual in question, but to inhabitants of this world.) Therefore, the rejection of one religion necessarily requires the adherence to another. So, it is not surprising that, considering our commitment to the axiom of equality, once its transcendent definition is discarded, a new mundane definition must be found. It is from this need that we derive the current definition of diversity.

Diversity, by this definition, is that which makes us seem different from one another, despite the fact that we are equal. So the real crime is noticing it in any way other than to make sure it is not noticed. In other words: since we are all equal, any deviation from equal results must by definition be the result of immoral recognition of diversity and thus the only moral response (fighting fire with fire) is to recognize diversity in order to fix it (by quotas, reverse discrimination, etc.).

This is what we have come to. While once we could delight in the diversity of the universe (God's creation, by some), now we must believe that diversity is an illusion. There is no other way to square diversity and equality. We must give up on one, at least in this world - or give up on the notion of equal rights.

So which are you?

1. Equality is transcendent, diversity is real

2. Equality is real, diversity an illusion

3. People are not "endowed with equal rights"

4. Something else?

Posted by David Boxenhorn at February 22, 2005 02:32 PM
Comments & Trackbacks

Diversity-we are all different, different talents, needs, weaknesses, etc.
Equality-we all deserve the opportunity to develope and thrive, regardless of our diversity.

If someone needs special help, it shouldn't be called "crutches," "dispensations," or "hakalot," it should be called accomodations, "hatamot."

Posted by: muse at February 23, 2005 05:21 AM Permalink

Diversity--we're all different (duh)
Equality--we're all dead in the long run

Posted by: Ingemar at February 24, 2005 06:49 PM Permalink

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