If I may be allowed a slight paraphrase, I hold this truth to be self-evident that no two men are created equal.
There, doesn’t this tally with our daily observation better than the original text? Clearly, an innumerate chap isn’t equal to a maths professor, an illiterate one to a writer, a child to his father, a criminal to a law-abiding man.
We aren’t even entirely equal before the law: people under a certain age can’t vote, neither can prison inmates, a Catholic can’t marry into our royal family, Americans who inscribed equality in their founding document I bowdlerised above have age qualifications for public offices and a nativity one for the presidency.
Even equality before God only works at birth and perhaps in infancy. Later, if a child grows up to be a thief, he isn’t equal to one who observes God’s and man’s laws. They are no more equal than paradise and hell.
The more we look at the world, the more we realise that it’s organised hierarchically. So was the traditional Western society, patterned as it was on the family.
A family is always vertical, with the father occupying a higher rung than the child and… I almost said ‘the mother’, but stopped myself lest the sky might open and the God of secular virtue smite me with a court summons.
A hierarchy is like the steel carcass of a building: it makes the structure sound and durable. In society, a vertical social arrangement provides a form into which human content can then flow. Remove that, and society becomes amorphous – water on the tablecloth, not in a glass.
It’s precisely destruction of this form that a newly inaugurated modernity declared as its overriding goal. Removing ranks of nobility or at least divesting them of any power was one part of it; sanctifying majority vote as the only just political system was another.
Both may sound like good ideas, but only to those who lack training in thinking things through. Such an exercise, coupled with unbiased observation, would show that egalitarianism has lethal consequences in every walk of life.
Losing its form, society disintegrates into an atomised mass of resentful egotists, giving the lie to the masonic slogan of modernity. For it’s not just liberty, but also fraternity that equality makes impossible.
Revolutionaries who start out by believing that, since all people are equally good and capable, they are only ever held back by the yoke of hierarchy, soon find out they are wrong.
Given equal opportunities for advancement, some people advance further than others, and some don’t advance at all. The revolutionaries become so disappointed with the people that killing them all seems unavoidable.
In more vegetarian societies it’s the people themselves who get disappointed. No matter how vociferously they demand equality, and no matter how hard the state tries to deliver it, the rich remain richer than the poor, the tall taller than the short, the knowledgeable smarter than the ignorant.
That produces social atomisation, for a sense of supposedly unjust inequality breeds resentment, and resentment begets egotism. Feeling betrayed by society, each man locks himself within himself. Rather than seeing his neighbour as his brother, he begins to see him as a competitor. There goes fraternité, biting the dust.
Yet it would be wrong to say that equality is a pipe dream. In fact, every country has achieved it in small enclaves where people’s clothes, food, lodgings and indeed rights aren’t merely equal but identical.
These perfectly egalitarian places are called gaols, and indeed prison is the epitome of egalitarian aspirations, the ideal towards which they strive. Liberté goes the way of fraternité, both ousted by égalité.
Another great damage caused by egalitarianism is intellectual. All classes have been levelled socially, and politically each vote has the same weight at the booth. By unavoidable transference, a belief gradually sets in that all opinions are equally true or at least equally valid.
Phrases like “I have a right to my own opinion” and “let’s agree to disagree” are routinely uttered by ignoramuses arguing with learned men. You think the Earth is round, I think it’s flat, so what makes your opinion better than mine?
Underpinning such exchanges is the dominant belief that greater knowledge confers no more advantages intellectually than noble birth does socially. All idiots are savants or all savants are idiots – take your pick.
Since absolute truth has been declared nonexistent, thought on all subjects other than the narrowly technical ones has lost both structure and a teleological aspect. It too has become amorphous, and the general assumption is that intellectual arguments can be settled by majority opinion as decisively as political elections. “Not many people will agree with you” is seen as a valid QED.
When truth is replaced with a patchwork quilt of supposedly equal opinions, the opinion that most readily appeals to the less intelligent wins out by its strength in numbers: people capable of grasping the totality of a problem are always in the minority.
Witness the ease with which yesterday’s eccentricities become today’s orthodoxies – and also the maniacal stridency with which the huddled masses yearning to be equal enforce the new-fangled orthodoxies.
The views that homosexuals could marry, or that people could choose their sex from a menu of some 20 options, or that a freshly minted man can give birth and become both the father and mother to his child would have been regarded as symptoms of mental illness a generation ago.
Today they are orthodoxies, meaning that no dissent is possible. The same goes for equality between (among?) the sexes.
Ask its champion how come, if the sexes are equal, every time you call for a plumber or electrician a man turns up, and you’ll be told you can’t generalise on that basis – you can’t generalise full stop, under any circumstances.
In fact, the ability to generalise, to think inductively, is a tell-tale sign of an intelligent man – for him, empirical observations fit into a system of thought, rather than walking away in every possible direction on their own two legs, leaving intellectual emptiness behind.
It’s in this context that we can understand the public reaction to the Extinction Rebellion and the mayhem it’s causing in central London.
Anthropogenic (and apocalyptic) global warming is a hypothesis, a theory, just like Darwinism is only a theory. That designation used to presuppose vulnerability to conflicting evidence and certainly a possibility of debate. No longer.
If in the past elevation to orthodoxy took decades, advances in communications technology of which modernity is so smugly proud have shortened that span to days, months at the longest.
Hence the most we are allowed to say is that, while we deplore the disruption those crazed cretins are causing, we wholeheartedly sympathise with their half-baked cause. In fact, as Boris Johnson has grovelled, we are grateful to them for bringing the impending end of the world to our attention.
We are witnessing a delayed-action bomb going off, for modernity, ushered in to uphold reason, has gradually destroyed it in the name of equality. Intelligent people still exist, but they are neither listened to nor indeed heard.
All we hear is the deafening braying of the mob, Chesterton’s village idiots and village atheists coming together not only in the same crowds but also in the same breasts. And then marching towards a glorious dream bound to turn out to be a macabre nightmare.