My recent post about Trump’s tweet aimed at the four freshmen congresswomen now dubbed ‘the squad’ began as a musing on the nature of equality and racism in our society today. As J.R.R. Tolkien commented, the “tale grew in the telling,” and turned into an analysis of the current toxicity of interchange (it doesn’t rise to discourse) in our political landscape. The original goal: to discuss equality in today’s context, got left for… well, today.

Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech speaks of an aspiration to equality. He hoped:

that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Therein lies the essence of equality, and is a foundational element of individual liberty. We should judge individuals by the content of their character, and presume that the exact same rights are inherent in each of us.

We’ve not yet achieved that degree of parity or consideration for each other. Enormous progress has been made, with more to be pursued. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, a detour was taken. Rather than focus on seeing and treating each other as individuals, large segments of our society default to identity politics, considering each other as a member of one or more groups first, and as an individual second. This is often excused as necessary for understanding another’s experiences and perspective, but it’s a trap that (with apologies to Dennis the Peasant) perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society, rather than move us past them to a more harmonious time. This trap is exacerbated by a false “zero-sum” view of societal treatment.

Consider two statements:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

 

When you’re seeking special treatment, equality feels like oppression.

For many, one of these will ring true, and the other will invoke an eye-roll.

There is current truth in both, though, and that’s the unfortunate result of the detour. We’ve been shunted away from the pursuit of equality, and are instead engaged in a crab-antics fight for ascendancy in a grievance hierarchy, where advancing yourself or your identity group requires pulling down and stepping on others.

Again, this is zero-sum, as if there’s a scale that requires taking from one side to put on the other. The reality, however, is much simpler. Want to treat everyone equally? Just do so. It requires no taking from others, no stepping on or pulling down those already living without discrimination, and no granting favoritism today to counterweigh past mistreatment. See bigotry or unequal treatment? Say something. Call it out. Engage in whatever activism you wish, as long as your focus is on equality as an end-state.

Here’s where the cat-callers and social media hounds will typically chime in with accusations of privilege. Such, in my view, are the equivalent of telling me to go **** myself, are a deliberate shut-down (and shout-down) of discourse, and have nothing to do with trying to change my mind or perspective. Or with equality, for that matter. “Privilege” presumes that some, but not all, can have something, but it’s obvious that we can all have equality, if we simply treat each other equally. “Privilege” is a demand that some debase themselves from their current positions, even if there’s no actual “privilege” above the “equality” line.

As I recently blogged, my libertarian ethos begins with a presumption of equal treatment, which puts me ahead of many partisans. When I hear the word “privilege” used to argue in favor the current state of identity politics, I hear someone declaring that he or she wants the exceptional and non-equal benefits he or she perceives someone else is getting (or, wants them on behalf of a third party), rather than wanting a society free of bigotry. When I hear someone invoking one of the many social justice buzzwords and catchphrases, I hear the same thing: someone who wants to (use force to) bend things to advantage, not to equality.

Philosopher George Santayana observed, “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” This detour away from equality and toward a competition for privilege, preferential/special treatment, and crab-antics destruction of others suggests that the fanatics have taken control. That this is happening suggests a couple things: That the progress toward equality has been robust enough to give the calmer and more reasonable folks reason to move on with their lives, that the advocacy organizations are slowly losing their voices of moderation, that the ratio of sane to fanatic in the movements is shrinking, thus giving the fanatics more voice, and that the self-serving are in ascendance.

It bears repeating, ad infinitum, that if there’s ever to be equality and harmony in society, then the goal must be equality, and the steps we take must be about equality, not preference (compensatory or otherwise). We don’t become equal by becoming un-equal.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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