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The Limits Of Equality

December 31, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

It should be sufficiently evident that not all human beings are equal in every way. Equality is a “Great Idea,” as philosopher Mortimer Adler notes, but it does not relate to every aspect of the human being. Nature has placed limits on it that cannot be denied without impunity. Human beings, as the Declaration of Independence states, are created equal.
Consequent to this equality is equality under the law and other equalities that pertain to the dignity of man. People are equal in their humanity, but they differ markedly in natural endowment and in personal achievement. To stretch the notion of equality to the extent that it denies these two factors is unrealistic as well as unjust. And there is, as history shows, a steep price to pay for this denial.
We have observed, in recent memory, a denial of the specific roles of mothers and fathers under the umbrella term, “parenting.” Likewise, “husband” and “wife” have lost their distinctiveness, being replaced in many instances by “partner.” This is especially the case with regard to same-sex marriages. In Spain “mother” and “father” no longer appear on birth certificates, having been replaced by “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B.” In some cases, ascribing gender to a newborn is deemed politically incorrect.
Recently, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has outlawed the use of “ladies” and “gentlemen” by employees of the New York train system. These traditional terms are now replaced by “passengers.” The process of stretching equality to conceal real differences does not make people more equal but denies them their specific identity. To refer to a woman as a “lady” honors her femininity and reminds both men and women how she should be treated. The same can be said for the term “gentleman.” It reminds men how they should conduct themselves, especially with regard to the opposite sex.
The words “ladies” and “gentlemen” are not opposed to equality. Rather, they recognize and honor specific identities. If we think that we are all the same in every way, we lose sight of who we are and how we should treat each other.
It has been truly said that if we do not understand the mistakes of history, we are condemned to repeat them. Experiments with extreme equality (or egalitarianism), from a historical perspective, have proven to be colossal failures. The French Revolution abolished the terms “madame,” which literally means “my lady,” and “monsieur,” which literally means “my lord.” Men and women became known as “citizens” (citoyen for men and citoyenne for women). The deposed King Louis XVI became Citoyen Louis Capet.
In his classic work, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke predicted that the radical egalitarianism in France, reducing all levels of society to a basic equality, would have disastrous results. He correctly predicted that the revolution would not bring about more liberty for the individual but war and dictatorship.
It was not until 1815, after the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte, that peace would return to Europe.
Burke penned his celebrated work as an attempt to discourage the start of a similar revolution in England. “Society is a contract between the past, the present, and those yet unborn,” he wrote. He saw the revolution in France as disruptive, breaking ties with tradition and losing momentum for future generations.
His reasoning is worth noting to dissuade America from embarking on the same destructive path. Burke’s writings and speeches earned him celebrity status throughout Europe. He died in the year 1797 when the fate of France and Europe was unsettled. However, he lived long enough to see his predictions come true. During the Reign of Terror, there were 16,594 official death sentences in France between June 1789 and the end of July of the following year. The guillotine claimed the lives of between 17,000 and 40,000 French citizens.
History reveals a similar trajectory from extreme equality to dictatorship in other countries. In Russia, after the Bolshevik Revolution, leftist revolutionaries adopted the term “comrade” (tovarishch in Russian). In China, the translation of “comrade” was pinyin, literally meaning people with the same spirit, goals, and ambition. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued a directive in October 2016 urging all the 90 million of its party members to continue to use this equivalent of “comrade” in addressing each other.
It is a historic irony that extreme equality has so often produced not a level playing field but a dictatorship. By definition, a dictator is radically unequal in his powers compared with those whom he rules. This irony can be at least partly explained by the fact that extreme equality, being extremely unnatural, can be maintained only by governmental force.
In North America today, although there is much grumbling about the campaign to eliminate traditional notions of male and female, mother and father, husband, and wife, and so forth, the czars of political correctness hold great power and influence.
Pope St. John Paul II composed his “Theology of the Body” to offer the modern world an integrated vision of the human person. This vision includes the significance of the body and how men and women, consistent with Scripture, are simultaneously equal, distinctive, and complementary. It was a monumental accomplishment that required 129 Wednesday audiences over a period of six years, dating from 1979 to 1984.
“The human body,” he stated, “includes right from the beginning…the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift — and by means of this gift — fulfills the meaning of his being and existence.”
Extreme egalitarianism disregards the importance of the body, reducing the human being to an abstract generalization. Realistically, however, men are men, and women are women, wives are wives, and husbands are husbands.
A government that does not respect nature will inevitably suffer a revolt from nature. Marriage and the family are founded in nature and not by government fiat.
Equality must be limited so that personal identity can be allowed to flourish.

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