Sometimes one wonders if our powers-that-be actually understand the words they use. I hope they don’t, for otherwise I’d have to accuse them of lying.
One word that consistently gives rise to such doubts is ‘equality’ and all its cognates. Show me a man who uses it to designate a desirable goal, and I’ll show you either a fool or a knave.
You’ll have to decide for yourself which term applies to Stephen Cottrell, who was yesterday confirmed as the new Archbishop of York. But he did utter that e-word afterwards: “I think we can build a better world, a fairer world, a more just world, a world where status and privilege don’t count so much, where everybody has an equal opportunity.”
I’d suggest that such an ambitious programme, being too this-worldly, falls outside His Grace’s purview. This might explain the looseness of thought shining through. The archbishop seems to see his task as eliminating, or at least trivialising, earthly hierarchies. Perhaps he missed his true calling; one can see him as a Labour councilman somewhere up north.
True, Christendom’s goal was the ultimate equality of all, the kingdom of God. Yet there was never much doubt that it took a hierarchical society to get there. Earthly hierarchy was seen as a vertical structure enabling man to climb to heavenly equality.
This may sound paradoxical, but in fact isn’t. For true equality can only exist in heaven; in earth, the belief that all men are created equal is wishful thinking at its most fanciful. On the contrary, if we believe what we see around us, men are demonstrably created unequal in size, strength, intelligence, talent, character, willpower, industry, perseverance, appearance, sexuality – in fact, in everything.
Most of these qualities are conducive to achieving greater success in various fields. Thus earthly inequality is a natural order of things, and it can only be distorted by unnatural means. Even then it won’t disappear; it’ll either be replaced by a worse type of inequality or else camouflaged by demagoguery.
For example, His Grace would probably agree that equality of result is an indigestible pie in the sky. However, he sees equality of opportunity as a goal both laudable and achievable. In fact, it’s more or less the other way around.
Equality of result can indeed be achieved by enforced levelling downwards (the only direction in which it’s ever possible to level).
It’s possible to confiscate all property and pay citizens barely enough to keep them alive (this was more or less achieved in the country where I grew up). It’s possible to create dumbed-down schools that will make everybody equally ignorant (this has been more or less achieved in the country where I grew old). It’s possible to provide equal healthcare for all that has little to do with either caring for most citizens or keeping them healthy (both countries have achieved this).
What’s absolutely impossible to achieve is equality of opportunity.
A child with two parents will have better opportunities than a child raised by one parent. A boy who grew up surrounded by books will have a greater opportunity than his coeval who grew up surrounded by crushed beer cans. A child of two professional tennis players will have a better chance of becoming good at the game than a child of two chartered accountants. A young businessman who inherits a fortune will have a better opportunity of earning a greater fortune than someone who has to start from scratch.
Yet equality has become such a sacred shibboleth for the post-Christian classes that they are prepared to deny obvious facts in its name. Take IQ for example. Whoever dares to observe that different groups, be that class or race, have different median IQ scores will be immediately accused of racism, fascism, elitism or any other ism that happens to be the faddish bogeyman at the time.
However, facts invariably show that IQ scores do differ from one group to the next, and they are the most reliable predictor of practical success in any occupation (except perhaps, on current evidence, public service).
Yet the bogus equality of the modern world has to presuppose parity where none exists: practical ability. Lies are the only way out of this conundrum: as empirical evidence destroys this presupposition everywhere we look, the evidence must be either falsified or, better still, hushed up. In this modernity displays more ruthless consistency than Christendom ever did in opposing, say, the heliocentric theory.
An important thing to remember about egalitarianism is that levelling downwards isn’t merely the only possible direction but, for its champions, the only desirable one. To Burke “compulsory equalisations” could only mean “equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary.” To modern egalitarians they are the shining beacon.
Yet it would be wrong to say that equality, in whatever sense of the word, is a pipe dream. In fact, every country in the world has achieved it in small enclaves where people’s clothes, food, lodgings and indeed rights are not merely equal but identical.
The people may or may not work, but their way of life isn’t affected either way. Their medical care and education are free, and things like TV sets and sports facilities are equally available to all. These perfectly egalitarian places are called gaols, and indeed prison is the epitome of egalitarian aspirations, the ideal towards which they strive.
This sounds facetious, but in fact it’s just an illustration of an immutable truth: the relationship between earthly freedom and equality can only ever be inverse. The more of one, the less of the other. Total tyranny is a precondition for total equality (that is, below the level of the tyrant, who stands above the equal masses the same way the unequal warder stands above the equal prisoners).
But I shouldn’t be beastly to His Grace. I’m sure he ran through such arguments in his head and rejected them in favour of more sound ones. I’m just desperate to find out what they are.