Misinterpreting Equality

by Athena

Leo Tolstoy said, “In education, once more, the chief things are equality and freedom.”

People misunderstand the concept of equality. Equality doesn’t mean making a dictatorial plan of things and then pruning everything (and everyone) that stands out. But sadly, most of our concepts of equality are based on that. Most of them arise from the idea that equality exists in standardization; that it exists in having people to do, think and behave in the same way over and over again so that no one does, think or behave anything differently.

But equality means something else. Equality is more like freedom to be able to be who you are and yet be given equal importance. A society with the right concept of equality will not have everyone in uniforms or reading the same books or coming from the same kind of households. It would be when everyone would be equally proud of who they are no matter where they come from; it would be when everyone would be able to able to retain their individuality no matter what they wear, read, or talk about. 

90% of the times, society wrongly interprets the term equality when used in context of humanity and it gives more support for the rich to suppress the poor, or the strong to suppress the weak. 

These famous lines from American Declaration of Independence also suffer the same consequence as any other mention of equality. It says,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Right, that among these are Life, Liberty, and persuit of Happiness.” 

Edward S Corwin and Jack W Peltason, in their book, Understanding the constitution show how many have misinterpreted the expression

Excerpt: “Many have scoffed at the assertion that all men are created eual. They argue that such a statement flies in the face of the obvious facts- some men have brains, talent, facts and virtue and other do not… John C Calhouse and other defenders of slavery attacked the Declaration as a series of “glittering generalities”. Calhoun, who read the Declaration as meaning “all men are born free and equal” quipped, ‘There is not a word of truth in it…Men are not born. Infants are born. They grow to be men….they are not born free. While infants they are incapable of freedom.”

But Corwin and Peltason make it clear:

“The declaration does not assert that men are equal in all things. It proclaims that men are equally endowed with certain unalienable rights, among these being a right to live their own lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness. These are man’s birthrights; they are not secured by an act of governmental grace or as a gift from others.”

But of course, we are way behind when it comes to understanding equality. In today’s day and age, a tribal man defending his 1 acre ancestral farmland in the deep forest is in no way equal to a man who owns a mining corporation and wants to own, along with several acres of mining area, that 1 acre of farmland. Isn’t it?  

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