The Illusion of Equality

by horngyih

The Illusion of Equality, this was the topic for the recent local Soccrates Cafe meetup that I could not attend, but still the topic have riled some thoughts.

I think perhaps we feel it is an ‘illusion’ these days because there may have been a misconception of “Equality”. The root of the misconception is that to seek equality is to seek for EQUAL-ity, meaning that we are all “Equal” – the same. Therein lies the problem, since we all know that we aren’t all equal and the same. There are differences between each individuals, some are born with innate talents, and some have worked at excelling beyond their innate abilities, some are born more privileged than some. So how can we treat everyone as the same? I think what we have missed out is that the pursuit of “Equality” isn’t to mean that we need to accept that EVERYONE is THE SAME, we clearly aren’t, but the ideal of Equality is actually the pursuit of EQUAL OPPORTUNITY.

I’ve also ended up thinking in “Mandarin” a little and although it may not be scholarly accurate as to the etymology of “Equality” or Fairness, but it does help me understand it a little better. The Chinese phrase for “Fairness” or “Equality” is ‘公平’ ( read Gong Ping ) – dissected the conjugate comes from 公 ( Gong ) meaning public or in this context meaning “common” , the other component is 平 ( Ping ) meaning level. If EQUALITY is the pursuit that everyone is EQUAL, then it would simply be 平 and not 公平. The conjugation of adding 公 to make it 公平 could be construed to mean a COMMON LEVEL – that is to say we all begin from a COMMON LEVEL.

Another image of “EQUALITY” as in everyone is Equal is to imagine a upside down bar chart where all the bars line up at the top into a flat line, with the longer bars and shorter bars hanging on this flat line their differences visible below this line of Equality. Fairness, Equal Opportunity Equality sees a conventional bar chart with all the bars lined up on a LEVEL Flat Line where by each bar builds upwards, some may be visibly higher than others – the point is that while their height is different they all start from a Equal level footing.

That’s FAIR and EQUAL OPPORTUNITY Equality. Equality doesn’t mean that everyone is EQUAL but that everyone has an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY and start from the SAME level.