It may be self-evident that all men are created equal. Unfortunately, this belief leaves a lot to ambiguity. There are a few posts on this blog that have been written to try to encourage people to think about human-ness, human rights, and humanity in general. I believe, as the late Senator Kennedy did that the health care issue, and many others, are primarily a question of morality. There are, however, a lot of social, economical, and moral overtones sounding just about the tonic of “equality.”
As with my ignorance towards the many interpretations of the “We” in “We the people…” I have always assumed that if all men are created equal then that means that all men ARE equal – and that’s clearly a misinterpretation or a miscommunication. It may be that the founding fathers meant the latter and did a poor job of writing it. Or, it may be that I’ve done a poor job of comprehending it.
A third option, of course, is that we’re thinking about this far too hard…
But, the questions remain:
- Are all men and women created equal?
- Do all men and women retain the same intrinsic value throughout their life?
There are so many perspectives from which to view this. However, I continue to contend that human’s have an innate moral tracking that gives some basis for morality, for some definition (however loose) of right and wrong, of good and better and best, and that we have some hunger and thirst for social interaction and, perhaps, even society.
That’s the perspective I’ll use.
First, let’s look at this matter of equality: on what grounds are humans equal?
Saying that all men are created equal is essentially an expanding of John Locke’s Tabula Rasa (blank slate) theory. Not only are all people equal in that there is a blank (or at least equally written on) mental slate that experience will write on, but we can expand this to include physical, social, and all of the -als that humans experience.
But our first problem is already self-evident. All people are not equally able. Some newborns have issues that may be major or minor; that could cause life-long inequality or could be just a temporary stumbling block. So then is equality instantly fleeting?
And another. One of the adjacent beliefs with Tabula Rasa is that nurture plays a major role. Given differences in parenting styles, circumstances, experiences, and happenstances, there are no two people that have equal opportunity and preparation for life.
Perhaps there is another way to approach this question: does equality speak instead to a person’s worth or value? Is each child assigned arbitrarily and unconsciously some monetary value that can accrue interest or lose value as they grow, experience life, make choices, etc?
The key here is to note that this value is completely subjective. To illustrate – if you could “pay” to be saved from a burning building, would you pay more for a skydiver, an IT professional, or a fire-fighter? How would that change if you fell out of a plane?
I believe this is how our free-market society operates – this, too, is self-evident. Whether it’s insurance companies that look for which risky or money-losing plans to drop for their portfolio or advertising companies targeting some demographic (superbowl commercials anyone?) As long as you’re worth something to someone.
What is painfully obvious here is the greed and selfishness that bubbles at the surface of all of these discussions – from health care reform to missile defense shields to entitlement to talk radio. Because of the way with which profit and value are intertwined with our lives, it is so easy to mask human life with an identification number and relegate that number to the “worthless” pile.
You know, we have built into our social fabric means for dealing with individuals that harm other individuals by damaging them emotionally, or by taking their things or their life; by devaluing other’s lives. But on a corporate level we assess values with the intestinal fortitude of an insurance adjuster.
When there is profit to be had, beware of falling prices.
What does that say about the character of a country?