“You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth, that you are a slave. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.” – Morpheus
I believe in absolute equality of opportunity, of which marriage equality, gay rights, and due process are a part of. Getting people to believe in absolute equality is a hard sell, mostly because the various powers that be greatly oppose absolute equality in any form. Here’s why.
Throughout the course of human history, we can roughly group every human society into the Haves and Have-Nots. Throughout the course of human history, the Haves have been figuring out how to keep what they have, and the Have-Nots have been figuring out how to take at least some of the good stuff away from the Haves. Sometimes this takes obvious forms, like totalitarian governments that oppress dissent through fear, or monarchs and warlords pressing the peasants into armies to kill each other off as frequently as possible.
The less obvious way for the Haves to keep the Have-Nots from gathering them up in the town square and killing them all (which has happened a fair number of times, too) is to get the Have-Nots to oppress each other. Think about it for a second – what could be easier than crowdsourcing your fear tactics? The way to do this is easy, so easy that it’s got a psychological phenomenon named after it, the granfalloon technique. It’s the process of creating a separate identity out of largely irrelevant differences. Ask any Yankees fan about the Red Sox and you’re seeing the granfalloon effect in full swing.
The Haves in modern America, and you can call them whatever you want, the 1%, the elite, or as George W. Bush so colorfully said, the Have-Mores, use this very much to their advantage. How do you get a population of 300 million people, many of whom are not going to be successful, many of whom are not going to to ever be in the Haves, much less the Have-Mores, from revolting (again)? You leverage your old friend, inequality.
Look back at American history. When slavery was abolished, poor blacks and poor whites were effectively in the same starting place. The plantation owners realized they were in for a potential revolt, so they played the racism card and managed to get the two classes fighting each other, rather than have them turning an eye towards the wealthiest. Every generation of immigrants has been demonized by the scions of the previous generation’s leaders, from the Irish being demonized by the Italians to Mexicans and Hispanics today. I always have a cynical, bitter chuckle when I read racist remarks about Hispanics coming out of the mouths of folks with Irish heritage.
World history provides even more stark examples. All you need do is look at the various Holocausts through a different lens – after all, the Nazis who exterminated millions of people certainly didn’t let the victims’ possessions just lay around. There are still disputes today over ownership of works of art and other family heirlooms almost 70 years after the war ended. The Haves took, and brutally killed off the Have-Nots in the process.
Marriage equality, racial parity, gay rights, etc. are just a few of the many different ways we’re being told by the Haves to fight each other. Republicans and Democrats are told by their party bosses to fight. Liberals and Conservatives. Christians and Muslims. Blacks and whites. Hell, as evidenced by recent events (like last week), we’re still fighting each other over gender, the oldest of divisions.
The antidote to this, from marriage equality to racism to gender stereotypes, is absolute equality of opportunity, the certain belief that we are all equal in opportunity (but not equal in result), and the realization that any form of inequality not only is wrong from a moral perspective, but is a tool of oppression being leveraged against us, by us. The moment you fall victim to believing in someone else’s inequality – “Oh, they’re a Republican, I hate them” or “Oh, they’re a Jew, I hate them” or “Oh, they’re a feminist, I hate them” – you blind yourself to the truth that the other person is probably working just as hard for the same things you both want – happy home, happy life, happy spirit. You’re doing the work of the Haves for them (and unpaid!).
The practical antidote is to keep that simple mantra in your mind every time inequality rears its head in you. “I am not a tool of the 1%” or “I am not a tool of the Haves”. Every time you see or hear something that creates that knee-jerk response in your own mind, recite that mantra and resolve to overcome your own prejudices in order to give the other person a chance to prove that they are your equal or not as an individual. Vow not to do the work of the Haves for them.
Equality of opportunity also doesn’t mean equality of outcome. The fastest runner should win, no matter what race, gender, or sexual orientation they are. But the situation today doesn’t call for equality of outcome. It calls for equality of opportunity.
We must recognize that equality of opportunity means everyone starts the race at the same start line.
No one starts 50 meters behind.
No one starts with an anvil tied to their leg.
No one is shot dead halfway through the race just because they showed signs they might win.
Inequality is a virus that spreads from mind to mind. Inoculate yourself, and inoculate others. Support all forms of equality of opportunity. Once you open your eyes to that truth, not only will your life be filled with less anger and hate, you’ll start to see how the world really works.
Or, you take the blue pill, you wake up in your bed, and you continue to believe whatever the Haves want you to believe. Your choice.
You might also enjoy:
- How To Start Your Public Speaking Career
- Is Social Listening Useful?
- How I Think About NFTs
- How to Set Your Public Speaking Fee
- B2B Email Marketers: Stop Blocking Personal Emails
Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get updates here:
Get your copy of AI For Marketers
while i agree with the over all point; i do think social media has helped some issues move forward – marriage equality being one of them. now, i have the symbol yes – i wouldn’t think for a moment that someone who doesn’t should be taken to task over that. no more than someone who doesn’t repost that they hate cancer.
but some people are followers and even some people who aren’t may give consideration to a position that they otherwise wouldn’t have if someone they love and/or respect holds that opinion.
as i said though – the overarching point – i’ve had people take issue with me for remaining friends with people who have various forms of prejudice but, in my experience, not writing people off has actually given me the opportunity to shift their opinions a bit; not as many or as far as i might like but still . . .
(side point – as someone with both irish and italian heritage . .. i’m not really familar with the italians demonizing the irish at least not early on. and the italians took their own beatings with the second set of anti-immigration laws targeting them specifically. all that said, i can’t help but laugh when i run across this new wave of white supremacy that seems to be heavy with those of irish heritage.)
Wonderful post, Christopher.
Your reading of history is very good. I do have a concern about your use of the phrase “absolute equality of opportunity”. Absent the word “absolute”, this phrase is the watchword of a very naive notion: that one’s opportunity is the same regardless of one’s wealth or poverty. Two persons, to have truly equal opportunity, must be born to similar parents, in similar social circumstances, and most importantly, with equal wealth. Yet this can’t be achieved unless you’ve brought about equality of outcome for the previous generation. And that can’t be achieved without a deathly and stultifying state apparatus.
To create even reasonably similar opportunities for all persons in a society requires some redistribution of wealth, so that the extreme advantages or disadvantages handed down by prior generations are lessened. Yet full redistribution is a dreadful prospect (to me anyway, and I’m sure to you).
We should be afraid of absolutists on either side of this question. Which brings me to why I most love this post: you’re absolutely right that divisions among us nearly always play into the hands of the entrenched interests. In areas where there may not be any perfectly right answer, dialogue must be respectful or it gets us nowhere. Someone who uses either “conservative” or “liberal” as a term of opprobrium is contributing very little to the kind of discussion we need to have.