The heart of equality

Perhaps I should start with a caveat. I believe all people are equal, I just don’t believe in the endless battle for rights.

Now, I’m entitled to think people are equal, you see, because I believe Bob and Beatrice were both created, and bear an intrinsic value that has nothing to do with brains or brawn, humour or height. I was forced to resort to intrinsic value, by the way. It’s too difficult to pretend we are equal in any other sense.

No two of us are even remotely the same, twins least of all. Just when the case for equality based on brains or body ought to be watertight, you’ll find that John won’t slim down as fast as his brother Peter, but Peter dies of cancer in the end. It’s intrinsic value, you see, or no equality at all. That’s where I’ll begin my case, for equality has taken its fair share of headlines this week, but it’s where we shall end that is strangest of all.

You see, basing equality on how fit or fat we are, how black or white we are, how over or under paid we are can only lead to one place; a good old-fashioned fight. It relies, after all, on two different people first of all agreeing on a measurement for equality, and then agreeing at what point equality has been reached.

I can assure you that the athlete who didn’t make the cut this time will say the selectors were biased, while the one who now has a place on the team will declare the selectors were as fair as fair can be.

Likewise, the person who fights for black civil rights will never agree the legal system is fair, while his opponent will say it favours the minority. We start to see now that the battle over rights buys into the idea that life is nothing more than a power struggle between groups. It doesn’t ask simply for the recognition that all of us are created equal – it goes much further, and demands that we all get what we want.

That is a recipe for disaster.

But there is another way, as I mentioned before. It relies on believing all men are equal, rather than battling over rights. And if we truly believe all men are equal, we shall end up in a strange place. For believing that means we value our sexist boss, and forgive him, in the same way we would ourselves. It means we offer our enemy the respect and dignity we would demand for ourselves. It means we can’t make monsters out of other men and angels of ourselves.

Yes, truly believing we are all equal leads us not to the battlefields of rights, but to the staggering slopes of our own hearts. There, while some fellows have run away to fiddle with superficial items such as pay, we find ourselves facing the mountain of unforgiveness, and grappling with how to let love be the law of our lives.

As I said, truly believing all people are equal leads us some strange places. For it confronts us right most of all with our own hearts.

This article was originally published on Stuff.co.nz

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