“Before God we are all equally wise – and equally foolish.”
Equality is straightforward. Winston Churchill once said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, hope.” Equality is one of those single words that embodies a “great” concept that appeals to our emotional sensibilities. But its true meaning can only be fully understood and integrated within our lives through action. Experience is a rigorous taskmaster. Khalil Gibran wrote, “Coming generations will learn equality from poverty, and love from woes.” When we walk with others, we embrace their needs as our own.
Perhaps, it really is that simple.
“In the end we shall have had enough of cynicism, scepticism and humbug, and we shall want to live more musically.”
Vincent van Gogh
Mälardrottning. Stockholm City Hall
Over a century ago, Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, orator, writer, statesman and one-time slave, clearly outlined the consequences of inequality. “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Today, we live in a fast paced global world where knowledge sharing is instantaneous. Injustice and inequalities can no longer be swept under the table. David Korten, economist, author, political activist, argues that, “In a world of increasing inequality, the legitimacy of institutions that give precedence to the property rights of ‘the Haves’ over the human rights of ‘the Have Nots’ is inevitably called into serious question.”
Perhaps our interconnected world will bring us more quickly to a tipping point where we recognize that equality, however flawed or imperfect it may be in reality, will grant us the privilege of continued existence.
“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
February is a time when Canadians celebrate the stories, experiences and accomplishments of Canada’s black community. The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, stated, “As Canadians, it’s important to remember those who came before us, and the sacrifices they made to help build the country we have today. Central to our history and how we built our great democracy is the important contributions of Canadians of African and Caribbean descent.”
The struggle for equality will always be with us as we move forward. Yet, there are milestones that have been gained over the years because courageous and determined individuals would not tolerate discrimination. May we continue boldly in their footsteps…
I, too, sing America.
― Langston Hughes
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.”
Humanity shares one common state. We inhabit a world that is in peril. We are under equal threat.
“We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.”
“Virtue can only flourish among equals.”
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) was a British writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights. She was also the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, aka Mary Shelley who gave us “Frankenstein.”
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote novels, travel narratives, a conduct book and history of the French Revolution. She is best known for “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” which argues that women are not naturally inferior to men. After her death at the age of 38, a memoir published by her husband revealed an unconventional lifestyle, which inadvertently ruined her reputation for almost a century. Her ideas and writings experienced a rebirth with the appearance of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s life was a reflection of her values and beliefs. The age in which she lived was unable to grasp the significance of her ideas, but our age considers her to be one of the founding feminist philosophers. Her life and work continues to inspire and challenge.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Equality is a principle that we all embrace with great enthusiasm. It is an ideal that honours the spirit of community and fair-mindedness. Acting on this high standard is where we encounter challenges to our value and belief systems. “Walking the talk”, is very different from engaging in a theoretically discussion.
Mary Douglas (1921-2007), a British anthropologist who was known for her work on human culture, symbolism and social anthropology, wrote, “Real equality is immensely difficult to achieve, it needs continual revision and monitoring of distributions. And it does not provide buffers between members, so they are continually colliding or frustrating each other.”
Equality is worth the frustration, the revision, the monitoring. We strive towards an ideal. What we do in the present may only be realized beyond our timeline. Our efforts, in the long-term, will not be in vain. Fanny Wright (1795-1852), lecturer, writer, freethinker, feminist, abolitionist and social reformer, was resolved on this point. “Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.”