I was reminded the other day of something I read years ago in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America that had to do with the American idea of equality. Writing in the 1830s de Tocqueville said that we were very much taken by the idea of equality, maybe so much so that we were in danger.
Equality, he pointed, out can go two ways we can admire the excellence produced by those who we consider our equals as human beings while applauding that excellence and spurring them on, or we can become so envious that they seem to have done more with their humanity becoming jealous of excellence and cutting everyone down to the lowest common denominator.
C.S. Lewis pointed out the same idea in both his Abolition of Man and in an essay called Screwtape Proposes a Toast. In each of these works, he saw the public education system as society’s tool for reducing people to a common mediocrity.
For those who are the unquestioning proponents of social change for the sake of change as if it amounted to positive human evolution, I would point out that the promotion of excellence once alive in this country has degenerated into the green-eyed monster of identity politics.
The enlightened “woke” souls of the world have this idea that any race, gender, or religious affiliation only succeeds by bigoted oppression of all others. Their reaction to help the oppressed by lowering the threshold of excellence. The result has been the creation of a participation trophy society.
I have seen and experienced the process at work. My daughter, always an excellent student, once had a sudden drop in her grades. Suspicious of the cause we investigated. Seems she was facing promotion beyond her grade level and what she rightfully saw as social ostracism for her intelligence.
Today, she is an intelligent and successful woman. She was blessed with plenty of natural skills. But her success has always been as much the result of hard work as natural talent. She overcame the pressure to “fit in” with some of her peers thanks to her innate competitive drive and independence.
So much of what is labeled “privilege” is really nothing more than effort combined with a willingness to be different. That willingness does not usually come naturally. It must be instilled by parents, teachers, and mentors all of which are lacking in our society.
I know that I do not speak for modern society, but for me, equality means that people simply by being human are of equal worth and value. It means respect of that worth until it is thrown away by the recipient. It means no more than that and no less. Your race, gender, religion, or orientation get you nothing beyond that. It means equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.
Weeping and bemoaning one’s oppression is for cowards who seek nothing more than the opportunity to tear everyone else down that they may stand taller.
I wrote to my grandson earlier today that he was not to rely on school, church, or community. He is the sole person responsible for his education, the establishment of his virtues, and his success as a man.
He’s not hearing that message from the media or modern society. They are too busy telling him he is entitled to an education (no matter how poor it is), a job, healthcare, a home, and success equal to that of everyone else because we are evolved, and life and liberty are no longer enough.
This is the message of equality at the lowest common denominator—a lifeless bondage to mediocrity spent in fear of giving offense by excelling. How prophetic a French man pointed it out to us in 1831.