Equality and Human Rights

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Equality and Human Rights

Postby Leila » Thu May 02, 2013 11:44 pm

Day 219: Equality and Human Rights

While Maite will be walking the Justice point as a blog-series, I will be walking the point of Equality at the same time within a series of blog-posts.

We’ll be investigating and walking the various dimensions from which people interpret the word Equality, and practically walk the process of establishing a definition and perspective on Equality which we can practically apply and live by within this world.

Some of the points will be looking at are:

The ‘natural inequality of human beings’
Equality as a Moral Ideal
Equality of Opportunity vs Equality of Outcome
Economic Equality
Justifications for Inequality
The ‘Problems of Equality’

Within walking and exploring these points we want to show how our current definition and understanding of Equality is contradictory and inadequate (and sometimes even plain preposterous) – and debunk some of the most common arguments that justify human inequality.
Where does this ‘Natural Inequality’ Story come from?

When we go way back in history, there is account of claims of natural human inequality as far back as the Classical Period. Both Plato and Artistotle stated that humans were naturally unequal, as well as being unequal in the functions or tasks that they perform (which is mostly what the claim of ‘inequality’ is founded on).

Since then, when people reflect on the concept of Equality, it is mostly done from the starting point of what characteristics we as human exhibit, and what functions we perform. From there, a connection is drawn that since we are different, we must be unequal. Note that within such a statement, an implicit assumption is made that equality and sameness is somehow closely related, especially in terms of “empirical” characteristics.

When we look at Equality and the relationship of Humans to the concept of Equality, in terms of what we ‘derive’ our Equality from, we are in essence making a value judgment. Back in the day, it is obvious within how Equality was viewed, that a value judgment was made which regarded one’s characteristics which would define one’s function in society as ‘important’, and used that variable as the baseline from which each one’s Equality was ‘measured’. Philosophers like Plato placed much value into ‘reason’ and ‘wisdom’ which enabled the philosopher to determine what is ‘good’ and ‘virtuous’, and were supposedly the ‘only ones who knew reality’. Within doing so, a distinction was made between ‘the people’ and ‘the philosophers’ which regarded philosophers as ‘more than’ a “normal” person, because their reasoning and insight were inadequate and incomplete. In modern times, this idea still sticks but can be translated into a more capitalistic notion where “those who are smart, ambitious and industrious are ‘more than’ those who aren’t”. Plato’s and Aristotle’s statements on Human Equality were never really questioned, and to this day – the same reasoning is still being applied to justify unequal treatment of Human Beings, and any other Life Form for that matter.

A statement was made that because ‘we exhibit differences, we must be unequal’ – and everyone just went with it.

Within the next blog we’ll be questioning this statement and explore where our Equality comes from, if it does not lie within the capacities we exhibit – then what or where do we derive our Equality from?

Stay tuned!

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Re: Equality and Human Rights

Postby Leila » Sun May 05, 2013 7:12 pm

Day 221: Are Humans Equal? - Equality and Human Rights – Part 2

This Blog is a continuation to: Day 219: Equality and Human Rights – it is suggested to read the previous post for context.

In the last blog we ended with Plato’s assessment that humans were essentially unequal within being ‘different’. It’s interesting that the concept of Equality was not investigated further – if Equality did not lie within one’s characteristics which would define one’s position and function in society, then why are we not looking further? Could our Equality be somewhere else?

The point that every human shares, the point that all Living Beings share – is that they are alive. We are all Equally, living, breathing, beings – Here – on this Planet. So whether you are a person with the characteristics to make a philosopher or a person with the characteristics to make a baker – the fact still stands that you are a human and you are alive. This stands indeterminate of the variety of characteristics we share among ourselves that make us ‘different’. So even though we are ‘different’, we can, and are still, equal: in Life – and should treat each other accordingly.

Instead, we’ve taken the premise “We are different, and thus we are unequal” and have used this to justify why we do not value and respect one another equally, and used this as the foundation to create separation among ourselves – and in essence, alienate ourselves from one another, where we end up believing that just because we have certain capabilities that allow us to ‘climb to the top’ in society – that this means that we are ‘better’ and that those who do not share these capabilities are ‘less’ and should be treated accordingly. From this, we have created a system of ‘fairness’, a system of ‘merit’ – where you are treated ‘as you deserve’. We look at what a person can do and want to distribute resources according to what one has done with their abilities, skills and talents. Within this, we do not realise that one’s abilities, skills and talents – are completely arbitrary.

They are arbitrary in two ways:
In the first place they are arbitrary because one just happened to be born with a natural ‘knack’ or ‘gift’ for a particular point in reality. You may have been born with a ‘feel for music’, but you may as well have been born having a gift for building things or putting things together. This feel for music could have given you the possibility of becoming a wealthy music produce, while having your building skills may have led you to being a carpenter who barely gets by. So, given that we may naturally be good at things which differ from person to person – placing all one’s value into this limited point leads to two human beings living and experiencing a great difference in Living Standards, as the direct result of how we value different people due to their skillset, more over others.

Secondly they are arbitrary, because our skills, abilities and talents are closely linked to our environment. If you are born in a wealthy family, you have the resources available to develop, practice and perfect your skills. Very likely, you will be given a head start in society through your connections that place you in a profitable position. You could have been born with the exact same skillset, abilities and talents in a whole different environment. You could have been born in a family where resources were scarce – so scarce in fact, that your mother is unable to feed you adequately, stunting your growth and limiting your ability to live. So scarce, that by the age of six – your mother is crying over your lifeless body.

The same way, with the necessary resources available, everyone can be taught to be effective human beings – but this unfortunately, this is not happening because resources are currently not made available for everyone – only for those who can ‘afford’ it, those who apparently ‘deserve’ it.

So you see, measuring one’s Equality and within that measuring one’s Value based on a human’s skillset and abilities – is completely irrational and does not make any sense at all. The only common sensical thing to do – is to treat and value each one Equally on the premise of Life – within the realisation that I could have easily been you, and you could have easily been me. This means that if I want to able to live a dignified life, that you should be able to do this to – because after all, I could have been living my life in your shoes.

To be continued

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