Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Need for Equality

We have a need to be equal with others. This includes:
  • To have equal rights to act in the same way.
  • To have equal opportunities for work, play and advancement.
  • To be treated with respect and dignity.
  • To be offered the same consideration as others, in jobs and all social interactions.
  • To not be discriminated against.


A person applies for a job and is told they are too old. They sue the employer.
Many children use reasoning with their parents along the lines of 'John has got one, so I must have one too'. This is often generalized to 'everybody else has got one' as an even stronger reason for redressing the balance of equality.

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There is a paradox with this need, in that while people tend to seek superiority over others, they also seek fairness. This highlights a social conflict where needs such as forstatus and control lead us towards inequality with ourselves (and often, as a secondary motive, family and friends too) having more than others. Yet within this, we fear the balance of inequality tilting in the other direction, such that others become superior to us. A balance point is to agree with fairness (where, paradoxically again, we can claim the moral high ground).
Equality, at least in opportunity, is a good principle for societies where excessive inequality leads to conflict. It is not surprising that the main protagonists of reform and even revolution are often those who have the least and who are at the receiving end of inequality.
Evidence of our natural inequality towards others, while still knowing that it is fair, can be seen in the laws that have been implemented to enforce equality. There are many laws that directly address the inner conflicts of selfish vs social motives and where a basic motive is to enable people to live together in relative harmony.
The word 'equality' is often paired with 'diversity', which effectively means 'sameness' and 'difference'. This is another paradox that shows how social life is often a matter of balance. If we all had to be totally equal, then there would be no progress. Diversity enables creativity and celebrates difference. Yet within this equality in certain areas is important for sufficient social harmony to promote collaboration and avoid conflict.

So what?

When working with others, be careful to show sufficient similarity with them and concern for equality for them, rather than constantly playing status games. You can also (and again, paradoxically) gain wider social status by being a champion for equality, actively seeking to help those who are victims of bias.