02 May 2013

Day 219: Equality and Human Rights

While Maite will be walking the Justice point as a blog-series, I will be walking the point of Equality at the same time within a series of blog-posts.

We’ll be investigating and walking the various dimensions from which people interpret the word Equality, and practically walk the process of establishing a definition and perspective on Equality which we can practically apply and live by within this world.

Some of the points will be looking at are:
  • The ‘natural inequality of human beings’
  • Equality as a Moral Ideal
  • Equality of Opportunity vs Equality of Outcome
  • Economic Equality
  • Justifications for Inequality
  • The ‘Problems of Equality’

Within walking and exploring these points we want to show how our current definition and understanding of Equality is contradictory and inadequate (and sometimes even plain preposterous) – and debunk some of the most common arguments that justify human inequality.

Where does this ‘Natural Inequality’ Story come from?

When we go way back in history, there is account of claims of natural human inequality as far back as the Classical Period. Both Plato and Artistotle stated that humans were naturally unequal, as well as being unequal in the functions or tasks that they perform (which is mostly what the claim of ‘inequality’ is founded on).

Since then, when people reflect on the concept of Equality, it is mostly done from the starting point of what characteristics we as human exhibit, and what functions we perform. From there, a connection is drawn that since we are different, we must be unequal. Note that within such a statement, an implicit assumption is made that equality and sameness is somehow closely related, especially in terms of “empirical” characteristics.

When we look at Equality and the relationship of Humans to the concept of Equality, in terms of what we ‘derive’ our Equality from, we are in essence making a value judgment. Back in the day, it is obvious within how Equality was viewed, that a value judgment was made which regarded one’s characteristics which would define one’s function in society as ‘important’, and used that variable as the baseline from which each one’s Equality was ‘measured’. Philosophers like Plato placed much value into ‘reason’ and ‘wisdom’ which enabled the philosopher to determine what is ‘good’ and ‘virtuous’, and were supposedly the ‘only ones who knew reality’. Within doing so, a distinction was made between ‘the people’ and ‘the philosophers’ which regarded philosophers as ‘more than’ a “normal” person, because their reasoning and insight were inadequate and incomplete. In modern times, this idea still sticks but can be translated into a more capitalistic notion where “those who are smart, ambitious and industrious are ‘more than’ those who aren’t”. Plato’s and Aristotle’s statements on Human Equality were never really questioned, and to this day – the same reasoning is still being applied to justify unequal treatment of Human Beings, and any other Life Form for that matter.

A statement was made that because ‘we exhibit differences, we must be unequal’ – and everyone just went with it.

Within the next blog we’ll be questioning this statement and explore where our Equality comes from, if it does not lie within the capacities we exhibit – then what or where do we derive our Equality from?

Stay tuned!
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