Hating equality

I used to think equity was a good thing. Maybe in the way I used to think about equality it was a good thing. I thought that equality meant treating similar behaviors similarly and different ones … wait for it … differently. That meant that you judged people by what they did, not by what they were or what you thought they thought.

I later found out that my ideas were pragmatic, in this case with a capital "P" in that they were part of a native American (here I mean native American in the true way of being born in America and not the PC way) philosophy given that name.

Pragmatism was a kind of organic development in the U.S. Ben Franklin was a pragmatist when he explained that Americans didn't really care who you were or who you had been as long as you could do something useful. Alexis de Tocqueville noted that Americans just get together and do things, without being told by authority. Later Charles Pierce gave this a name and it was developed into a working philosophy by William James.

You don't need to know these details to be a practicing pragmatists. I learned all these things after having been pragmatic most of my life. The wonderful thing about pragmatism is that there really is no doctrine beyond just trying to figure things out in ways that work. You judge things by their practical effects and you never stop trying to understand and adapt. This means that the solution of yesterday may not work today and that doesn't need to create a crisis of confidence.

A brief digression - this is very different from many philosophies that try to create specific doctrines and get messed up with useless distinctions. There used to be arguments about whether the communion wafer actually turned into the body of Jesus. People died for that belief. Who care? Call it whatever you want, it tastes like bread.

Pragmatism is democratic, with a small "D" in that everybody gets to figure it out for themselves. You respect people who know more about something and maybe are closer to a problem than you are, but you respect them because what they are doing seems to work or be useful. You don't respect their authority to tell you what to do in other situations or even in their area of expertise if it doesn't seem to make sense.

Americans are (or maybe were) the world's most pragmatic people, but all successful civilization has had a heavy dose of the pragmatic. It is when they start to make comprehensive rules, hierarchies and authorities that they decline and fall. They are in trouble when they make a fetish of wonderful traits that helped make them great when they grew organically from the soil of society itself.

I fear this has happened to America with the concept of equality. One of the ironies of great concepts is that when you think about them too much you lose their essence. Very often you know what you should do, but you would have trouble explaining why to the satisfaction of a learned colleague. Worse, if you describe the supposed details of the concept and try to create it articulately, you create a monster.

Another irony of a great concept is that the more people talk about it, the less their often is of it. The people who talk most about equality seem not to understand it. They want to set up all sort of programs, authorities, rules and roles to create something that cannot be created by programs, authorities, rules and roles.

We should just go back to the old idea that what matters is what you contribute and how useful what you do is for others. What you do counts, not what you are. If nobody likes what you do, do something else or learn not to be liked. OR maybe what you are doing is so great that others just cannot understand it. Convince them or find a place where you are appreciated, not merely tolerated. But none of this complaining or making laws to create acceptance.

It seems to me that the current idea of equality is almost the opposite of the older and better one. In the better view, people implicitly or even explicitly ask you what you can do. If it is something good or useful, you are okay. If not, you adapt. Actually, you adapt no matter what since conditions are changing. Today, in contrast, people come with all sorts of weird habits and behaviors and demand they be included.

Let me add my usual personal note about a simple but telling thing. In my job, I travel a lot. I meet lots of strange people and they often offer me strange food. I often do not like it, at least at first, but I always eat whatever it is and claim t is good. This makes life much more agreeable for all involved and sometimes I find that my opinions change. Some of my younger colleagues feel they should not have to do this. They have specific needs. Some are vegetarians; others like only certain kinds of organic food; many have specific tastes. You get the picture. They have more trouble fitting in and ask why. When I tell them, they tell me about their rights and prerogatives. They are correct, but it doesn't change the reality that they are less effective because they are less flexible and less ... pragmatic. They sometimes claim that it is not fair, that they should be treated equally. This is wrong. Behaviors should be treated equally. If you behave in a different way, it would be unfair to treat you equally.

Posted by Christine & John at December 14, 2013 5:13 AM
Comment #375044

You need equality republicans, that’s the only way you paople get into office, pure multiculturalism. Such as Castro supporters 30 years ago—you need them. Chiang Zemin supporters—you need them. Kim Jong supporters—you need them. Jon Pyong supporters—you need them. All the fascists—you need them. They come to this country and vote you fellas in. Don’t knock it you commies.

Posted by: simpleheaded at December 14, 2013 1:30 PM
Comment #375045

Pardon my typo

Posted by: simpleheaded at December 14, 2013 1:32 PM
Comment #375046


Once again, I just don’t know what you are talking about.

If you mean that people coming from dictatorships appreciate freedom, I think you are right, although the point is not new or profound. If you are trying to make some other point, I words evidently fail you.

Posted by: CJ at December 14, 2013 2:03 PM
Comment #375048

I mean a Che Gevarra supporter doesn’t change—there’s something he and or she wants—anywhere he and or she goes. And those people are here now supporting you republitista commies. You are trying to make America Europe, right? “Lie of the Year”?? You want this country South America or Canada—this is the US—we don’t do that. If you really want Holland by all means move to Holland. We don’t have your variety of socio-politic here—et al socialisme. You are looking for something you can overthrow—you are not welcome here—move it on down the street.

Posted by: simpleheaded at December 14, 2013 2:34 PM
Comment #375054


So, you think that Republicans are trying to make the U.S. more socialist? Your explanation is not helping.

Posted by: CJ at December 15, 2013 3:17 PM
Comment #375341

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