Yesterday I wrote about feminism’s ultimate goal: equality. But after reading J.W. Orderson’s novella Creoleana and short play The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black (review to come), I’m questioning whether equality in all things is actually achievable.
‘no society can exist without subordination’ – Judge Errington, The Fair Barbadian and Faithful Black
Every way I interpret this quote leads me to agree. In our work lives there are hierarchies: the worker bees (those at the bottom) overseen by the queens (managers). The same goes for politics and social class: the great unwashed working class labouring under the ruling elite.
Divergent‘s Amity faction has an unusual, idealistic and unsustainable democracy. Absolutely every member of their community has a say in all major decisions. In reality, referendums in countries with millions of inhabitants are rare and expensive.
‘The idea of eliminating race entirely is a little naive. Prejudice is a foregone conclusion. Some people want to feel superior to others; the criteria that they use to accomplish that, be it skin color, level of education, income, or upbringing, are secondary.’ – Alon Ziv, Breeding Between the Lines: Why Interracial People Are Healthier and More Attractive
I have to agree with this. Thousands of people queue for hours to get the latest iThing or game console partly because they’ll own an expensive something before the rest of us – a status symbol, if you will. And then, everyone scrambles to buy that item to ‘keep up with the Jonses’, as it were.
We’ve invented many different ways in which we can feel superior to others. India’s caste system, the master-slave dynamic, religion, but income is almost a taboo. No one talks frankly about how much they earn unless they’re confident it’s equal or more than what the person they’re talking to earns. No one wants to feel inferior. Or envious.
If we were ever to achieve equality in one respect, I’m sure we’ll create an imbalance in another. Even Karl Marx’s communism, as a proposed antidote to selfish capitalism, failed to achieve a sense of fairness among all, as satirically observed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. That’s how we came by the term ‘champagne socialist‘ – rich and educationally privileged (mostly white) men claiming to represent the average working class Joe.
Pendulum swing reactions in the opposite direction, like communism to capitalism, are sometimes necessary to foster compromise and experimentation, hopefully one day resulting in equilibrium. However, this may only work for certain issues.
Historically, the UK education system favoured the success of boys whereas today, girls are leaps and bounds ahead of their male counterparts. We’re forever tinkering with the system to address this unequal situation so we can provide an equal opportunity education.
As human beings, innate ambition, which is tied to selfishness and greed, is what holds us back from attaining true equality. Ambition moves society forward with advances in areas such as technology and medicine. But we all want to feel better and do better than our neighbours, to know we’re making progress in our lives, whether it be a faster car or a prettier wife. Our natural competitive instincts will not let inequality die out. We can only work to minimize it.
We must never forget that humans are complicated, unpredictable and stubborn. Change is difficult and takes time. But no matter what we do or how long it takes, there will always be someone at the bottom, especially economically. That is the natural order. The difference is how we treat them, with respect or as omega animals – belittled communal scapegoats (and outlets for frustration) for society’s ills, as we tend to do now.