Equal, Not Identical
It may be necessary for those who think clearly to be precise in their definitions, particularly when comes to the politically contentious definition of equality. May I suggest that what is being pushed is not equality, but identicality?
Let start with a non-human example. Four quarters equals one dollar, but four quarters is not identical to one dollar. One can melt four quarters. A dollar will burn.
What our founding fathers, and the founders of Western civilization, referred to when they invoked equality was equality in overall worth, not identicality without distinction. Yet the political discourse extant today conflates the one with the other for demagogic manipulation.
The ancients immediately recognized differences. It was often their error to assign hierarchical value to those differences. That which was different was seen as inferior. The Greeks called those whose language they did not understand "barbarians" since that is how the Greek interpreted the sound of the foreigner's tongue: “bar bar.” One can only imagine how their barbarian contemporaries viewed the Greeks, and what they called them. But to the Greeks, who fancied themselves the height of civilization, the foreigner's difference was a sign of inferiority.
It was the fairer Celts whom the Romans disparaged. The Germanic Vikings considered the Slavic people grossly inferior, fit for slavery and abuse. Our word "slave" derives from this view. What was different was usually determined to be inferior. The same with gender, ethnic groups, races, and so on. It was the mistake of the ancients to equate difference with inferiority.
It is the mistake of the modern to make the opposite mistake and equate equality with identicality.
Everyone knew women were different from men, and all treated women as inferior. There were differing shades of this, however. Probably no one diminishes women so severely as the Arabs and their sharia law, where a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man, and sexual neutering by mutilation is common.
At the other end were Germanic tribes where, though not treated as equal, the women were treated so relatively well that the few Muslim traders who visited the Vikings were sometimes disgusted by the liberties given women.
While no one can condone the inferior treatment of women, no one can sanely say that men and women are identical. No one except government bureaucrats. It should be obvious to all that no amount of affirmative action will ever enable women to grow a beard – but that does not stop the government from trying.
Does this make women inferior? No! But it does make them different, and that is the rub. The modern state seeks to erase all differences. One wonders when beard quotas for women will surface in the codes of federal regulations.
Affirmative action now assumes that equal outcome is the only acceptable product of a prejudice-free environment. If equal outcomes are not evident, there must be systemic prejudice. It is with the delicate subject of race that all traces of common sense evaporate.
Were one to visit a college and enter the physics department, one would not be surprised to find the ranks of the professors saturated with those of Jewish and Germanic descent, with some East Europeans and Asians. However, I would suspect that even the most ardent of anti-racists would be surprised – albeit pleasantly – were he to find the physics department top-heavy with Africans and Arabs.
Does this make Africans and Arabs inferior? No! But it does make them different.
No one produces high-end physicists at the rates of Germans or Jews. Yes, America and Britain produce higher overall numbers, but how many of those Americans or Britons are ethnic Germans or Jews? One sixth of all Americans are German. Even Britain took in Germans over the centuries.
I'd like to think that if the American space program had been completely German-run, it would have cost ten times as much, but when the Apollo rocket took off for the moon, it would have been totally silent, with no vibrations, or they would have shot the chief engineer. As it was, the American space program had a fair share of Germans from the Peenemünde V-2 Rocket Program, from Wernher von Braun all the way down.
Does this mean that blacks or Arabs cannot be research physicists? No! Some will measure up, and these individuals should have legal protection from prejudice, but the groups will not produce physicists at the same rate as ethnic Germans and/or Jews, at least not any time soon.
Does this mean non-Germans or Gentiles are inferior? Of course not! It does mean that in a fair, unrigged, unprejudiced game, these two groups will continue to excel – at least for the foreseeable future – in high-end technologies.
There are other areas in which other groups excel.
Humor is a gift of sorts. Yet Germans seem to lack a rich sense of humor, as Robin Williams observed. I myself have seen German humorlessness personally. And not just the moderns. In the Middle Ages, the Italians noted how boorish the Germans were, and how vulgar they could be. Even the Germans admit how relatively humorless they are.
Does this make Germans inferior? No! But certainly Chris Rock is funnier than the average German.
Most of modern commercial music is black in origin. Tango, samba, salsa, marimba, jazz, bebop, rock 'n' roll, rap (if that be music). I remember reading that a few hundred years ago, a German theorist assumed that anyone with musical talent had to have some degree of African ancestry, even if limited and distant. Of course that is preposterous, but the theorist was admitting that Africans had a high-end genius in one area.
Now, music is high-end intelligence. No one can doubt that. Yet college-educated Leonard Bernstein was impressed by the barely literate Louis Armstrong.
Do I feel inferior that music eludes me? No! I am better with math.
Worse yet, the standard is not only applied against whites. Chinese-, Japanese-, and Indian-Americans have started to fight affirmative action. Asians, who are overrepresented at UC Berkeley by virtue of their talent and work ethic, have started to fight quotas.
Milton Friedman once observed that those societies that emphasis liberty will produce a somewhat higher rate of equality, while those societies that emphasize equality will produce tyranny, since only a tyranny can enforce absolute equality. If we replace the world equality with identicality, the real problem becomes even more evident.
What is now being mandated in the West is not equality, which all sides concede, but indenticality. If it is expressed that way, the lunacy becomes evident. Everyone is equal, but no one is identical.
No one is suggesting that this or that ethnic group, or gender, be denied a vote, but we should not be legislating an artificial indenticality that nature itself does not demonstrate. It is sufficient to legislate and require an equal fair chance to any individual irrespective of background, but after that, we should allow Thomas Jefferson's natural aristocracy of talent to prevail.
Let us accept that all are equal, but not all are identical. Then we can change our social policies to reflect reality, without sacrificing civil rights.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.