In today’s world it’s fairly easy to believe that the notion of equality is dead.
Firstly, it’s nowhere to be found. Despite the Utopian rhetoric of Communist leaders I think we can all agree that it’s not going particularly great for a lot of people in those parts of the world. Across the developing world there are still ongoing battles to allow all kinds of minority groups all kinds of rights, be it right to religion, language, education, or the most basic of human rights.
In the developed west we love to kid ourselves that it’s different, ignoring the fact that there are still innumerable issues with xenophobia and racism, continued imbalance against women, poor care for the elderly and infirm, and horrific issues of mistreatment in schools and prisons almost equally.
Historically there have been visionaries across the ages who have seen something better for humanity. The people who have pushed for change have aspired to a time where our differences don’t divide us or define us.
…or have they?
Ask many activists now and the message is quite strongly that our differences do define us. It’s more offensive to suggest you’re “colourblind” than to keep quiet and harbour mildly racist tendencies. Women are slammed daily for their disengagement with feminism since it’s either “a gift from our predecessors” or “degrading to those women across the world who still don’t have rights”. Let’s not even get into the debate of who gets to sit where in gender politics when we add in trans* and non-binary individuals.
The reality is that we are still in the infancy of understanding others. Our differences absolutely define us, and always have, and across human history we’ve had a combined yearning to protect that which we consider “ours” and to embrace those who aren’t “like us”.
The flaw with that progression is simple. We have stopped properly understanding what it is that constitutes a threat. Rather than protecting ourselves from wild animals or the elements (as presumably our ancestors did back in the days of caves and skins), we’ve begun to protect ourselves from things which we assume to be a threat. One time, one person with a different colour of skin was unfamiliar with a local custom, and in a flash we paint all people with that skin colour as savages and barbarians.
History is important. I’m not arguing for a forgetfulness of the past at all. But we need to start re-evaluating the basis for our relationships with some and our fears of others. To really reach a place of equality, at some point we have to redefine the way we approach those interactions and to judge each individual not on their differences or similarities to us, but on their merit.
It is a terrible aspect of humanity that we are so scared of everything, even ourselves.