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Saturday 28 November 2020

Modern Equality is Both a Fool’s Errand and Quite Wicked

(Equality Series Part Two)

“Life Isn’t Fair”

Everybody’s Mumma

Responses to objections to my previous piece on equality: What Does the Bible Say About Equality.

I wrote part one of this series on equality months ago, and have taken my time in writing part two. Part of the reason for this is that I wished to do some further reading to explore the development of the idea throughout history, and secondly because I have focused on writing on various other subjects in the past months. But it is time to return to this minefield of a topic, and it is a minefield, some people react rather strongly when you challenge this golden calf. In my mind the idea that equality amongst human beings does not exist in anyway is really just stating the obvious. In fact, it is obvious to most people when they take the time to think about it. People are diverse, we are not the same, and there is too much diversity amongst individuals for equality amongst people to be any kind of sensible idea. But, as it is such a foundational idea in our culture today it is hard for people to brook any objection to it.

So in this piece, I am going to respond to a couple of common objections I got to my first article, and then I want to discuss in part why the liberal idea of equality of outcome and the conservative idea of equality of opportunity are equally ridiculous, and throughout I want to show that equality is not just a bad idea, it is really quite a wicked idea. Let’s first turn to those objections to my original piece on equality.

Objection 1: Equality amongst people is an important biblical idea.

In my first article in this series I focused on what the Bible says about equality. I went into it in some depth because there are many who think equality between people is an important and vital Biblical idea, or even that the Bible is the source of that idea. I was in fact one of those people myself for a long time, but we saw in part one of my piece that the Bible does not teach the idea of equality between people, indeed, it goes out of its way to rebuke the concept (view part one in this series here or here). Now even though I believe I demonstrated this conclusively in part one, I would like to make some further arguments here.

In my first piece, I was very clear to explain the kind of equality the Bible does affirm. The Bible does teach equality in the realm of weights and measurements. Two ephah are equal to two more ephah. A cubit is equal to a cubit. A drachma is equal to another drachma, and a bag of 30 pieces of silvers is equal to another bag of 30 pieces of silver. So, this basic form of equality as a unit of measurement is clearly used in the bible, but it does not use equality as modern egalitarian or equalitarian movements of today, or even of the last few centuries would. The Bible is not interested in equality amongst people.  

A really good example of this, which I did not refer to directly in my original piece, though I did mention a similar passage, is seen in Mark 9:33-35 –

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

The disciples, here, are arguing over who will be the greatest amongst them, or even amongst people in general, because isn’t the greatest disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord or Lords, greater than even the best general of an emperor? If equality were a concern of the Scriptures, this would have been a great opportunity for Jesus to say, “Don’t be idiots, you are all equal in my sight.” Or, “Stopping fighting over greatness, we are focused on equality here.” Or some such response. But he doesn’t, instead he reminds them of what true greatness is, serving many for their good, and then later in his ministry he demonstrated such true greatness in the most powerful way on the cross by serving us all in achieving salvation for us. Greatness as servanthood is a consistent theme in the gospels, the first will be last, the last first. This is not a teaching of equality, but rather a reversal of what great actually means, compared to the worldly ideas of domineering and dominating.  

When you read the Bible for what it actually says, rather than what we want it to say because of our modern culture, it really rebukes many of our modern obsessions. Our culture is so obsessed with equality it is tearing itself apart in a foolish attempt to achieve it – nothing is allowed to oppose equality’s march; not the family, not marriage, not even sports, nothing. Equality amongst people is just not a concern of the teachings of the Bible, and the damage such ideas are doing to our culture should be enough to convince us of that.   

So, the fact that the Bible teaches that equality only really applies to things of equal weight and measurement is really quite profound when you think about it, because this is observed in reality everywhere, and the Bible reflects reality, not nonsense. Indeed, using equality in this sense is not controversial at all. Where this discussion becomes controversial is when we assert that this is the only way in which equality is used in the Scriptures. It is not used in the sense we use today in speaking of equality and value between people.

I have had some very well-meaning people really struggle with this, and seeking to assert that there are other meanings of the word equality, that I am ignoring. But this observation of equality being limited to the realm of measurement is not novel with me. For example, Aristotle writes:

That which is not a quantity can by no means, it would seem, be termed equal or unequal to anything else. One particular disposition or one particular quality, such as whiteness, is by no means compared with another in terms of equality and inequality but rather in terms of similarity. Thus it is the distinctive mark of quantity that it can be called equal and unequal.[1]

Aristotle is speaking a plain truth here. White cannot be said to be equal to off-white, it is simply similar. It cannot be said to be unequal to black, it is simply different. Colours are either similar or not, but they are not equal or unequal. It’s just a category error to speak in this way. The same is true of people. The most that can be said about two people is that they are quite alike, or quite similar, or remarkably similar, but no two people are the same, and therefore they are not equal. To be as such they would have to be actual clones with all the exact same life experiences.

When Aristotle and the Bible speak of equality in the same way, we really should listen. After all, intellectually Western Civilisation is founded on the Bible, as well as Greek philosophy[2], and where these areas agree, this is significant. Both Hebrew and Greek had words meaning equal, yet none of the Old or New Testament writers saw fit to use those words to speak of “all people being equal” or to push for “equality for all”, as we would today. In fact, often the world for equality in the Bible is translated as “same”, and when you say, no two people are the same, people immediately recognize this to be so. So, equality as we use it today, can hardly be said to be a biblical idea. It is however, a deeply ingrained modern belief, and perhaps the most common objection you get from people is the realm of equality of value.

Objection 2: Equality of value is an important truth.

A lot of people recognize the errors and craziness of modern equality. But they want to fall back to this position: “Yes I agree modern equality has gone crazy, but surely the Bible teaches equality of value?” I already addressed this in my first article, but it is such a hard idea for people to reject, that they want to hold onto it by the fingernails. The Bible does not teach equality of value, alongside of every bit of evidence I presented about this in my first piece, Jeremiah and the useless belt, illustrate this for us beyond any dispute.

“13 Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, 4 “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6 And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen” (Jeremiah 13:1-11). (Emphasis mine). 

Jeremiah’s description of the linen belt, and therefore Judah in his day is pretty blunt, “And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.” The message of this passage is very clear, Judah had lost their value to God as his representatives, so he is going to clear them out. Indeed, other passages tells us they were worse than Sodom (for e.g. Ezekiel 16). God then reiterates his issues with Judah, “10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.” This passage not only disagrees with equality of value, it makes a mockery of such an idea. Indeed, if all people were of equal value in God’s eyes, then he could not say of Israel at the time of Moses that they are his “special possession” (Deut. 7:6), nor could he now say this about the Church (1 Peter 2:9-10). In fact, the whole idea of equality of value between people is not only unbiblical, it is completely unworkable and really rather terrible. Let me illustrate.

If equality of value is an idea of any merit then it should work in real life application. Now suppose you try loving your wife’s sister as much as you love your wife. What would happen? Most men are too smart to do something so stupid…most men. In fact what happens if you try valuing any other woman as much your wife. What response will you get? Husbands, if you knew that your wife was valuing a man at her work more than you, how would you respond to that? Do you see the inherent contradictions in just trying to think through the idea of equality of value? It makes no sense in any biblical or practical way. We are supposed to place people in a hierarchy of value, in fact we all know this, and do it instinctively.

We are not to equally value others, nor are we commanded to: I am to love my wife in a way that I don’t love other women. I am to love my children and provide for them in a way that I don’t for other children. A man who does not provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever. Indeed, this is why family exists, so that we have kin based relationships where we prioritize and focus our love on those God has entrusted in our care. We are to have a hierarchal approach to how we view others, not an egalitarian approach to how we value them.

The concept of equality of value has actually led different communist groups to suggest the abolition of family. This is obviously ridiculous, but it is also the logical conclusion of equality of value. If all people are to be regarded the same, why is kin based family even necessary? In fact, some may even see it as harmful, because the mere fact that some families are better than others, will perpetutate inequality to one degree or another, as will be discussed more below. So equality of value is not workable, biblical, or even good. It is an intrinsically self-contradicting idea that will get you in trouble with your wife or husband, if you seek to apply it in a logical way, and taken to its logical conclusions can actually destroy a society. People have gotten very upset at me for opposing the idea of equality, but the more you tug at the threads of its proposition, the more the rug falls apart. As this nonsense becomes more conspicuous, the more necessary it becomes to push back against the whole concept of equality; it is an undermining force.   

Someone may respond here, “But come on Matt, we are all human, we are all equally human. It is in this sense that we mean equality.” If you are arguing that we all have a base dignity as human beings then I agree with you. But this is again an argument against equality, because how we value others is based on more than just a theoretical “base dignity”, as I have argued above, we are to treat all humans with dignity, but our wives and our children with extra dignity. All humans should be afforded basic respect, but we must obey and respect our superiors more.

So, this whole concept is just not workable, why not just say this:

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet… (Psalm 8:3-5).

We can affirm human dignity, and humanity’s special place in God’s creation, without adding in words or concepts not found in the Scriptures can we not? But some of you may be still objecting, Matthew, equality is a necessary idea to make sure society is fairer, we have to allow for that don’t we? I simply respond: why force everything to fit under such a nonsense banner? The reason we do this, is because equality is really the religion that has replaced Christianity in the West.    

The Mythos of Equality

The modern West is further and further being made subject to the internal contradictions of equality. It really is a force that everything is being made to bow before. The march for equality can only really be compared to the advance of the Borg in Star Trek, everything must be assimilated and sucked into promoting the one thing. The fact that now sport is being used to promote equality, the arena which is most about inequality in the world – sport it is all about elite ability and skill - just shows how Borg-like this modern force is. This is happening because the myth of ‘equality’ is the mythos of our modern society.

Equality is a myth both in the general sense and in the grand narrative sense. What I mean is that the idea of equality between people actually happening is about as possible as finding the mythical Pegasus, Centaur or the Unicorn. This should be clear to anyone the more they test the idea. But it is more than this, it is also an underlying narrative that informs much of how our modern society thinks, acts, and seeks to structure itself. That is what the mythos of a culture is; the grand idea or ideas that a particular culture informs itself with. The narrative which we all, or at least most of society, believes to be the basic fundamental realities.

For our culture I believe that grand underlying story is that equality is both possible and achievable and therefore we should work towards it in all that we do. This is the grand narrative that drives much of the activity of the West today, I think this is incontrovertible. It is kind of odd that so many Christians think it is possible to achieve equality, when their own Lord say we will always have the poor (Matt. 26:11, Mark 14:7); i.e. we will always have inequality. That’s not saying we should not try to help the poor, we should, but we should keep our expectations of what can be done in check. We can help the poor, eliminating poverty and achieving equality is beyond our reach, Jesus has told as much. But people are driven to such goals anyway, with an almost religious fervour.   

Indeed, I think a strong case could be made that the modern West is not secular at all, nor is it Christian, as we Christians already know. I think our modern culture bows to the “god” of equality. The West was once informed by the idea that we were all living in the expanding kingdom of God, where the truth of God was advancing. But this was deliberately undermined by the enlightenment philosophers, and modern media. Now, equality is the underlying philosophical foundation of our modern society, and is the true successor of the West’s previous mythos, or grand narrative.[3] To put it bluntly the myth of equality has replaced Christianity as the religion of the West. This is why everything is being made to bow before this false god.  

That is also why egalitarianism is the catch cry of our day. “Equality, Equality, Equality!!!” Everywhere you look this is being shouted in one way or another. If there was ever just one guiding principle of modern Western civilisation, it is this: equality must be our goal, it must be obeyed, it must be bowed to!!! And those who do not bow to it will be cancelled, as has happened in our public sphere all too often. It is kind of funny to think that in a society where our intellectual elites like to say we are products of evolution, which is all about survival of the fittest, that they also say equality is possible…but then again the human mind knows no limits to the contradictions it can entertain.

Equality is just not questioned by most of our political, media and intellectual elites, whether on the left or the right. Conservatives say that everyone should have equality of opportunity. This is obviously impossible. Liberals say we get there by pushing some down and lifting others up (i.e. quotas). This is obviously dangerous. But on either side of the political and religious spectrum, equality is the mantra. Both sides will argue about their side being the best side to achieve equality, both sides have utterly failed to achieve it, both sides still believe they can, and neither side ever will. Let’s demonstrate that.  

If equality of opportunity was ever made to exist, then it would only be the product of the most unfair and terrifying totalitarian political policies the world had ever seen. Why? Because it is impossible for two kids in the same family to have the exact same opportunities, let alone in different families. Any teacher or parent can tell you now that not all kids are equal in the classroom, playground, on the sports field, or at home. They all are different. Whether from the same family or not, just think of your own siblings, how different are they? Even if they are twins they will not be alike in many ways.  

Let’s suppose, that in some remarkably imaginary future everyone was somehow given the exact same opportunities at the start of their generation, what would happen? By the time those children developed into adults, the inequalities evident in our society today would again start manifesting themselves. Why? Because some kids are smarter, some are bigger, some are more popular and more easily able to create social circles, some are hard-working, some are lazy, some are foolish, some are wise, some have many of the best giftings and more, and some are remarkably ungifted. Inequality is inherent in the human frame, and whether we like it or not, this is just true. Didn’t your mumma tell you, life isn’t fair.  

So, equality of opportunity is just a nice sounding myth, right? No, it is actually worse than that. It is not just impossible, when you actually start to game out the implications of creating a world where everyone has the same opportunities, you realize the idea is actually quite evil. How so, you ask? Because some people have good parents, some people have bad parents, most people have average parents. Some people, very unfairly, lose their parents through no fault of their own from death or divorce. Some people have hard working wealthy parents. Some people have hard working poorer parents. Some have parents who are addicted to alcohol, or crack, or who just don’t work. To truly have equality of opportunity would require every family to be the same, it would require every bodies experience of life to be the same, every child to be the same, and no one to have any head start in anyway, whether environmental or biological. This is just impossible. In other words, it would require a level of social engineering that would devastate society to even begin to create this form of equality.  

You may think: “Come on Matt, you are just over thinking this.” But I am not. Some equalitarian researchers have pointed out that having good parents is an “unfair advantage” and such people who think this way have even toyed with the idea of abolishing the family.[4] Why, because they have seen the same things I we have just been talking about. As one Philosopher says,

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says. ‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’  

Once he got thinking, Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.

So, what to do?

According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’[5]

It is important to note that Swift is not actually advocating that the family be abolished here, just that this is one possible solution that some have suggested to the problem of inequality of opportunity. In fact he comes to the right conclusion: “In the end Swift agrees that all activities will cause some sort of imbalance—from joining faith communities to playing Saturday cricket..." and the family must be defended anyway.[6] But, he still goes on to advocate for all kinds of social engineering to seek to create more equality. Why? Because it is the obsession of many of our age. But you can see here that it is not just me, but philosophers who have identified that inequality is unavoidable.   

So, equality of opportunity is a clear myth, a popular one among conservatives, but it never will exist, and we would all hate to live in a world which sought to actually enforce it. But this does not mean equality of outcome is any better an idea.

Equality of outcome is the liberal, or more precisely socialist left, response to the conservative idea of equality of opportunity. Once upon a time it was a leftist liberal position to advocate for equality of opportunity, but once the left realized the obvious, that some people have a better start than others, they recognized what conservatives refuse to see: equality of opportunity falls flat as a model for achieving equality. So, many on the left have moved to a more draconian position. I have written about the genuine evils of working for equality of outcome here. But the dangers should be clear to any of us who think clearly about them.

Perhaps this illustration can highlight my point about why the obsession with equality of outcome is so dangerous: if you want all of your grass to be the exact same height, you have to clip those blades of grass that are out growing the others. Look at any overgrown lawn, and you will see that many of the blades are different heights, though they grew in the same soil, on the same lawn, at the same time. They had as close to the same opportunity as possible, yet some outstrip the others in growth. The only way to solve this is to cut some down to size. You get the point don’t you? It always takes draconian and harmful measures to force any kind of equality of outcome. Oh, there will be different degrees of harm, but it is not a coincidence that every society that has ever tried to force equality of outcome has done so at the cost of much bloodshed. You can easily point out the wickedness of Stalin’s Soviet regime, or Mao’s communist efforts, all based on the idea of equality of outcome, but you don’t have to look so far away, even our society displays this trend. Our great so-called egalitarian society sits on the corpses of aborted children, because equality in the West is a charade (for a further discussion of this read here).

Whether you are talking about equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome, to get close to achieving either one for real, would require social engineering to a degree that is intolerable, inhumane, and should be rejected by us all.

So, if equality is such an impossible, dangerous and harmful idea, how did it become the underlying principle of the West? Well, we will turn to answer that in part three of our series on equality.

List of References

[1] Aristotle. Aristotle: The Complete Works. Pandora's Box. Kindle Edition.

[2] With the important third ingredient being Roman law and judicial procedure.

[3] Myth in this second sense does not need to mean untrue, or make believe. It is referring to the mythos, or grand stories that everyone, or at least most people, believe and buy into, and structure their lives around. So, the underlying narrative of Christendom was the true accounts of the gospels, and the unveiling of the kingdom of God, and the idea that we lived in that narrative and were continuing to carry on the expansion of the kingdom. This is what most Europeans in the Medieval era actually believed. This grand narrative dominated all that we said, thought and did, even if not everyone’s belief was genuine saving belief. This narrative has receded since the enlightenment, and been steadily challenged by other competing systems of belief, or mythos. I would argue, in contradiction to many others, that secularism is not the underlying mythos, or narrative of this era, rather equality is. This is why the religion of the West is relativism, not science, this is why multiculturalism has replaced nationalism, because in a society dominated by equality all things have to be regarded equally, at least officially, and this is why every movement, organization, sporting event, and religion is slowly being forced to bow to the ideology of equalitarianism.

 Another way to say this is simply this: the Western worldview was once totally centred around belief in Christ and his kingdom being revealed on earth, as it is in heaven, with a future fulfilment to one day come, which led to society wide efforts to live out the kingdom of God on earth. But this has now been replaced by most people in the West believing equality is the greatest goal, and every effort must be invested into achieving it. 

[4] Timpf, Katherine 2015, “Professor: If You Read To Your Kids, You’re ‘Unfairly Disadvantaging’ Others”, National Review, accessed 28.11.2020.

[5] Gelonesi, Joe, 2015, “Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?, ABC,  accessed 28.11.2020.

[6] Ibid.