That’s why I gasped on learning about the travails of a retired provincial premier with a serious, progressive illness. It took two years, with many long waits for appointments and tests, before he found the specialist who diagnosed him.
You might think that his exalted political career warranted preferential treatment. But his wife assured us that this was not so. She told the media he was being treated like everyone else.
I wasn’t shocked because the health care system failed the former premier. I wasn’t even shocked because it apparently fails everyone. I was shocked because failing everyone seems to justify failing anyone.
You see how dense I am. Because of my faulty upbringing, I have difficulty grasping that equality is good for all of us, even when it’s bad for each of us.
But I’m beginning to catch on. I no longer gasp when politicians propose policies that suggest the unequal distribution of wealth is inferior to the equal distribution of poverty. That surely is progress, don’t you think? It’s not that I understand the suggestion. I don’t, not yet anyway. Rather, it’s that the suggestion no longer shocks me. I guess familiarity breeds contentment.
I was as excited as anyone about affirmative action. I thought it meant raising the competence of the unqualified to meet the admission standards for higher education and skilled employment. I never dreamt it could mean lowering the admission standards for higher education and skilled employment to meet the incompetence of the unqualified.
Affirmative action has enabled the academically deficient to become university students and the physically deficient to become firefighters and police officers. Besotted with excellence, neither my teachers nor my parents could have foreseen this. They were as dense as I am.
Nevertheless, affirmative action is one of our foremost equalizers. Why, it even extends to sexual relationships. It allows us to re-define marriage to include unions that lack reproductive capacity and sexual complementarity. Homosexual rights require this, I am told. But if homosexual rights entitle men to marry men and women, women, do animal rights entitle pets to marry their keepers? Don’t ask me. I’m no authority on equality. I’m still mired in excellence.
But the idea intrigues me. If Bolivia has its way with the United Nations, insects and plants will acquire rights, too. Imagine what that could do to the definition of marriage.
I was also as excited as anyone about multiculturalism. I thought it meant that the various cultures have different strengths and weaknesses and can learn from each other. It doesn’t. It means that all cultures are equal.
How could it be otherwise unless there are objective standards against which to judge where each culture is strong or weak? But multiculturalists object to objective standards. Of course, if there are no standards, good and evil are in the eye of the beholder and inconsistencies don’t matter. This enables multiculturalists to hold that, although all cultures are equal, the one we call Western is worse than the others.
I’m tempted to suggest that this multicultural coup entails a double standard. But I can’t. Multiculturalists don’t believe in standards, remember? Maybe I can suggest a conflict of interest. They’re interested in Western vices and non-Western virtues.
Although the contrast sounds like inequality, it’s not, apparently. Rather, it recognizes that Westerners are oppressors and the others are victims. Get rid of the elitist, sexist, racist, homophobic, capitalistic oppression and the cultural equality that is naturally ours will assert itself. You know, the way it did in the Stone Age.
The analysis is too deep for me. My mentors didn’t just insist on excellence. They also demanded reason. So I’m doubly handicapped. Addicted to reason, I can’t make sense of narratives that dispense with it.
Reason tells me that since we all share the same nature, we’re equally human. But experience tells me that beyond the basics, diversity, not equality, rules, and it’s perverse to deny we’re diverse.
Of course, multiculturalists say that we’re both diverse and equal. Which is true if diverse only means not alike. But if it means different strengths and weaknesses, as measured against objective standards, neither individuals nor cultures are equal. They lead or lag one another in different respects, and excellence matters.