One of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen posted on Facebook was a picture of a hawk chasing a smaller bird and a caption that stated the following: Equality is a social construct.  In nature, nothing is equal.

There are few things less equal in nature than people.  I have seen some societies where people appear equal, and they are societies where people are most living like animals.  Aborigines in the Amazon are said to exist without poverty because they all happen to be living in squalor.  The man in a favela is poor because somebody else built something better than a tin hut.  Inequality is only a result of our invention and our virtue.  You can be a rich man and a safe man only if somebody somewhere is a great man.  In the best societies, the rich man and the safe man and the great man are the same man.  In the worst societies, the rich man and the safe man is a violent bum.

Once you know that equality is a social construct, you know nearly everything that is good and bad and true and false about America, and in the end, the degree to which you swallow it is what makes you an American.  All men are created equal is something only a religious man can say – even if the man saying it claimed to be a deist.  It belongs to a world transcending this world, and beyond this a world seen with eyes other than human.

You almost have to be blind in order to see it – that two people could ever stand equally before anyone else, or that two people are equally good for every good thing.  You have to believe in a soul and free agency.  You have to believe that we are going to the same judge and playing by the same rules.  You have to insist that we all know the same rules in the same way and that each of us is capable of understanding the meaning of the rules and when they aren’t applicable.  And most of all, you have to maintain that a man’s spirit makes his body and birthright irrelevant.

There is no antidote for the “disease” of difference in the world but this.  Once you lose this, you lose equality.  The people who throw away God throw away universal brotherhood.  Without God, we are equal only in that we die.  Everything else is superiors and inferiors.

I say the degree in which you swallow this makes you an American because Americans are very good at preaching equality and terrible (though better than most) at pretending it.  We say perhaps more than anyone that losers are just as good as winners, and we have historically (and I stress, historically) been better than anyone else at letting losers suffer just for being losers.  Our hypocrisy was both stunning and brilliant.  On the one hand, it pacified the underdog by making him feel he’d got a clear shot, and on the other hand it encouraged the hero by not letting him be encumbered by the loser.  In the long run, the loser may not win, but he’s dragged along many times unknowingly out of starvation by the winner.  In the really long run, the losers have won.  They began winning as soon as they cashed in on the idea that they’re equal and that the only reason they appeared unequal is because someone was obstructing them.

Those who have cashed in are not actually dunces, but brilliant.  They lack the intellects to take us to space, but they have enough brains to take their heroes to court.  We have for a long time now thought of brilliance as the thing that builds companies and strategies and patents and theories.  But all brilliance is a matter of adaptation to or overcoming our environments, and the man who evolves best has got to understand the environment he lives in.  Yesterday, with capitalism, the men who fit in the best were thinkers and doers in a world that accepted their inequalities and benefited from them.  It was a world that tacitly accepted our diversity.  Today, the men who fit in best are the non-thinkers and non-doers who abuse the social construct to further themselves and their families.  It isn’t a long-term strategy, but for many men, it is their only strategy.  They get more and breed more, and their power increases as they tyrannize the public discourse.  To prove this, you need only think of whom you can’t make fun of without losing the business you’ve built.

It isn’t glorious, but it’s evolutionary.  We created a system, and someone decided to live in it.  Some of us have adapted, and others haven’t.  The winner used to be a great man; by the new rules, he’s almost the worst.  He used to be beautiful and strong and industrious and brilliant.  Now he’s a bum, and being the right kind of bum, the bum born with the right characteristics or into the right religion, is as good as any hereditary title.  He adapts not by what he can do, but by what the law allows him to claim.  He claims because we let him.  We let him because we have turned equality into a privilege.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen posted on Facebook was a picture of a hawk chasing a smaller bird and a caption that stated the following: Equality is a social construct.  In nature, nothing is equal.

There are few things less equal in nature than people.  I have seen some societies where people appear equal, and they are societies where people are most living like animals.  Aborigines in the Amazon are said to exist without poverty because they all happen to be living in squalor.  The man in a favela is poor because somebody else built something better than a tin hut.  Inequality is only a result of our invention and our virtue.  You can be a rich man and a safe man only if somebody somewhere is a great man.  In the best societies, the rich man and the safe man and the great man are the same man.  In the worst societies, the rich man and the safe man is a violent bum.

Once you know that equality is a social construct, you know nearly everything that is good and bad and true and false about America, and in the end, the degree to which you swallow it is what makes you an American.  All men are created equal is something only a religious man can say – even if the man saying it claimed to be a deist.  It belongs to a world transcending this world, and beyond this a world seen with eyes other than human.

You almost have to be blind in order to see it – that two people could ever stand equally before anyone else, or that two people are equally good for every good thing.  You have to believe in a soul and free agency.  You have to believe that we are going to the same judge and playing by the same rules.  You have to insist that we all know the same rules in the same way and that each of us is capable of understanding the meaning of the rules and when they aren’t applicable.  And most of all, you have to maintain that a man’s spirit makes his body and birthright irrelevant.

There is no antidote for the “disease” of difference in the world but this.  Once you lose this, you lose equality.  The people who throw away God throw away universal brotherhood.  Without God, we are equal only in that we die.  Everything else is superiors and inferiors.

I say the degree in which you swallow this makes you an American because Americans are very good at preaching equality and terrible (though better than most) at pretending it.  We say perhaps more than anyone that losers are just as good as winners, and we have historically (and I stress, historically) been better than anyone else at letting losers suffer just for being losers.  Our hypocrisy was both stunning and brilliant.  On the one hand, it pacified the underdog by making him feel he’d got a clear shot, and on the other hand it encouraged the hero by not letting him be encumbered by the loser.  In the long run, the loser may not win, but he’s dragged along many times unknowingly out of starvation by the winner.  In the really long run, the losers have won.  They began winning as soon as they cashed in on the idea that they’re equal and that the only reason they appeared unequal is because someone was obstructing them.

Those who have cashed in are not actually dunces, but brilliant.  They lack the intellects to take us to space, but they have enough brains to take their heroes to court.  We have for a long time now thought of brilliance as the thing that builds companies and strategies and patents and theories.  But all brilliance is a matter of adaptation to or overcoming our environments, and the man who evolves best has got to understand the environment he lives in.  Yesterday, with capitalism, the men who fit in the best were thinkers and doers in a world that accepted their inequalities and benefited from them.  It was a world that tacitly accepted our diversity.  Today, the men who fit in best are the non-thinkers and non-doers who abuse the social construct to further themselves and their families.  It isn’t a long-term strategy, but for many men, it is their only strategy.  They get more and breed more, and their power increases as they tyrannize the public discourse.  To prove this, you need only think of whom you can’t make fun of without losing the business you’ve built.

It isn’t glorious, but it’s evolutionary.  We created a system, and someone decided to live in it.  Some of us have adapted, and others haven’t.  The winner used to be a great man; by the new rules, he’s almost the worst.  He used to be beautiful and strong and industrious and brilliant.  Now he’s a bum, and being the right kind of bum, the bum born with the right characteristics or into the right religion, is as good as any hereditary title.  He adapts not by what he can do, but by what the law allows him to claim.  He claims because we let him.  We let him because we have turned equality into a privilege.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.



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