Is inequality truly the root of all evil?
There is a concerted push in mass consciousness along these lines, i.e., towards a society that promises and delivers equality of outcomes. A giant, cultural, historical and linguistic eraser is slowly the dividing lines between male and female, rich and poor, white and black, to name a few of the most incendiary flash points in this battle over the hearts and minds of man.
Is inequality truly the root of all evil or is this just another distraction that will keep us from knowing and living in accordance with transcendent, objective truth? Perhaps this is another mistaken, but often deliberate contraction of a larger, true statement, like when the biblical injunction “the love of money is the root of all evil” is reduced to “money is the root of all evil.” Money, like electricity, is neutral; the way it is used that makes it generative or destructive.
Perhaps the same could be said of inequality?
Perhaps inequality is intrinsically neutral, but made to be generative or destructive based on how those differences are employed? Looking around me in the coffee shop today I would be hard pressed to make the argument that people are not unique in appearance, demeanor, character, influence, capability, interest, etc. We are uniquely patterned–like snowflakes–and while some of these differences may be attributed to arbitrary or temporary social constructs, the core differences spring from the very nature and design of Being.
It makes sense to me that the love of inequality might lead to the development and codification of horrific societal constructs over time. These objectionable constructs would appeal to and favor a privileged group and artificially oppress and deprive those who are not a part of the group of equal opportunity. I can see that the love of inequality would be no less tragic and destructive than the fruits of greed in a society that tolerates, if not promotes a love of money.
However, we mustn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The corrective tendency in mankind is to take an opposite tack. This tendency to move from pillar to post is written all over the pages of human history. For example, a person might say “If we shouldn’t love money, then we should hate it” or “If we shouldn’t embrace inequality, then we should denounce and reject it in its entirety.” The truth, however, is almost always somewhere in the middle.
The proponents of this ideology of equality of outcomes are united in their hatred of inequality and will not hesitate to attack (or “cancel” in the popular vernacular) any evidence of the presence of inequality. I recall running into a specific manifestation of this while studying as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. I was waiting to cross the street next to a similarly-aged young woman who was obviously struggling with what she was carrying. I offered to help and she held her things tightly, looked me squarely in the eyes, and hissed: “You’re just saying that because you have a penis!”
I was stunned momentarily by the venom and obliqueness of the comment, but somehow managed not to take offense. I truly felt that a fellow human being needed help and that I was in position to provide it. So, I smiled, bid her a pleasant day, and continued my walk to the library when the light changed.
Hatred is a cruel master. Hatred is never a creative motivation. This is as true in the individual as it is in a group. Loving equality of opportunity or even outcome if that were somehow possible in reality does not justify hating that which is inconsistent with the goal. Love never justifies hatred. Hatred destroys the symmetry of life and constrains to death on the back of lies.
If equality is in fact consistent with the reality of life and the design of Being, then we must find a way to usher it in through love and truth, not hate and lies. Hating and abolishing money and/or inequality–at any cost–will neither lead to an equality of outcomes nor make the world a better place. In fact, it is a recipe for unimaginable disaster, suffering, and death.
Is inequality the root of all evil? I don’t think so.
In fact, every person is unique–and not just in trivial ways. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image and likeness–the infinite variety in fact–of the reality of Being. Our difference are as important, if not more important, than our similarities. And if we remember that that which divides also connects, we needn’t be worried that we will be left out, forgotten, or discounted because of our differences. The solution to our societal ills lies not in turning a blind eye to our differences, but in embracing, celebrating, and making best use of them.
Societies that have tried to erase bias or make all outcomes equitable have arguably unleashed some of the darkest qualities of human nature. I visited the Soviet Union and several satellite states several times before that system unraveled. I also visited Auschwitz and Dachau in the late 90s. I could still feel the shadows of evil–the misery, suffering, and tragic repression that dominate societies that sought–high-mindedly!– to purge themselves of economic, social, and cultural differences and create an equality of outcome for all who remained.
The love of inequality may spread from the same source as the love of money, but the hatred and fearful, willful, bitter attempt to cancel either will never lay an axe to its root; such an approach will only guarantee its perpetuation.
Photo by Raisa Milova on Unsplash