Thursday, April 11, 2013

The notion of equality

I am increasingly amazed when young kids totally filled with idealistic notions come and tell you that s/he believes in "equality". I am not even sure if they mean this exclusively in a social context. I think they mean it everywhere. I find this kind of "flat earth and the sun goes around it"  brainwash fascinating. I wish I was in a position of power to poison the minds of younglings with arbitrary notions such as the one on 'equality' so that I can push my own agenda. 

Life as a Zero Sum Game Vs Life as an Ever Expanding Pie: There are some who believe that the world is a zero sum game. One person's growth means that someone else has lost. On the other hand, some think the universe is an ever expanding pie and everyone can grow with no cost to other individuals. Strangely 'equality' is a concept that belongs to the former philosophy. If you bring everything in this world to fit within a LHS = RHS construct then the world becomes a zero sum game. So if you belong to the LHS and if you have to gain anything you will have to deprive someone in RHS of that thing in equal proportions. On the contrary, if you believe things are by default unequal and work on an assumption that LHS != RHS (note: "!=" means "not equal to") then you can add or subtract anything from any side and the world is an ever expanding pie. From my observations, a person with scientific mind and liberal thought believes in equality but also believes that the universe is an ever expanding pie. As they say - medula oblangata is boggled.

Interpreting equality literally: Let me start by playing dumb and take the phrase "everything and everyone are equal" in the literal/absolute/non-metaphoric sense. I will pretend that I am an alien visiting this earth and I have heard a human being say "X = Y for all values of X and Y". This is patently wrong. People espousing equality don't really mean it that literally. But is important play this extreme interpretation to drive home the point that there are inequalities in the world that a person assumes, agrees to and accepts/endorses as 'natural' but conveniently forgets it when using 'equality' as an argument.

That things are fundamentally created unequal is the most obvious reality of nature: In my eyes one of the most easily discernible things from nature is that nearly all things are unequal. Living things are not only created unequal but constantly strive to be unequal all the time (think 'evolution'). This includes the fact that some living things are human beings, some are animals,  birds etc etc.  Some people are born healthy, some have retardation of growth, some cant hear or speak, some can run very fast at the age of 7, then there are 9 year old drug addicts, people who fail 2nd standard, rich people, poor people, atheists, liberals, conservatives, birds that can fly, animals that cannot, trees that bear fruit, mammals, eggs, reptiles, calm people, angry people, short people, fat people, tall people, people with vision problems, diabetics, ophans. If there is one thing we can be sure about. It is the fact that there is a inherent and natural inequality that exists and that we all accept as nature. Try telling a person who touts their belief in equality that all human beings are created with equal 'intelligence' or equal 'intellectual horsepower' and they will make a u-turn like you have never believed. If you really want to anger them tell them everyone is equally 'lucky'.

Interpreting Equality As a Metaphor: Now, people may actually 'say' something but 'mean' something totally different. So if you pull yourself out of the 'literal' interpretation mode and understand that people can be 'metaphoric' when they use the term 'equality' we find that people intuitively mean something more subtle. So at the core of it people may subconsciously accept that X and Y are fundamentally unequal  but nevertheless require X & Y to be *treated* equally. Here is where I think there is a fundamental disconnect between what people *mean* and what people *do*. These people want everyone to be treated equally but they themselves don't treat any two people equally. For example - a woman who majorly clamors for equality may meet 1000 men in her life who want to marry her but she will choose only one. In effect she treats 999 people unequally when compared to the 1 she chooses to marry. If you think this is an 'out there' anecdote and isn't empirically true, think again. When 2,00,000 people apply for IIT-JEE exams, the board actively discriminates among them and only selects 2500. In that 2500 every single person is treated unequally in terms of preference for groups. Extend this to interviews. In any single interview the job of the interviewer is to introduce an inequality between applicants to select a few and deny the others. The categories where people display their competence by introducing inequality is almost universal and omnipresent. Academics, research, sports, medicine, army, housing, jobs, government tenders, electricity, and basic comforts depend on establishing inequality. Either the individual actively works towards establishing and increasing his inequality with his peers or the judges/governance rewards individuals with high level of inequality compared to their peers. In fact it is hard to come up with examples where 2 things are assigned exactly equal results.

No one treats anyone equally: In a social context a mother or father treats other children as unequal to their own children. A court of law establishes inequality between defense and prosecution. A wife treats her husband differently from other men. You treat your social circle different from an urchin on the slum. For example your friends are people who are in the same financial or educational class as you are. You don't have friends who are construction workers. You actively discriminate and create inequality in choosing your friends circle by consciously eliminating beggars, slum urchins, prison inmates, and construction workers. You may eliminate them indirectly by never even giving them a chance or never meeting them but that in itself is a result of inequality in social status that you endorse and accept. There is a recursive inequality even within existing methods of establishing inequality. Selecting a person as spouse over another one because of a professional, physical or financial inequality is accepted by the certain people but the very same people detest rejecting marriage proposals based on caste inequality.

The Philosophy of equality: What this all boils down to is an lack of understanding of what we really mean by 'equality'. And what forms of equality pass philosophical muster and what don't. There are situations in which equality is the correct approach and there are situations in which inequality is the correct approach. I have almost come to believe that those who make arguments based on an assumption of equality as an axiom do not understand the difference between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. 100 men may have an equal opportunity to go ask a girl for her hand in marriage. But there will be no equality in outcome. A group or category of people can have an equal opportunity to appeal to the court of law demanding a set of benefits comparable or equal to another set of people. The other set of people can go to court opposing this request. But the outcome may not be equal to both parties. The court - through very fair logic - may decide that one group will not be given an equal set of benefits when compared to another set of people. This does not mean people are bigots or there is unfairness in the system. Inequality in outcomes as a result of a peer validation process is how this world works. You can't expect god to come down and do an interview for you or be the judge in your court case - for you to consider it as a fair process. A peer human being with his biases and capabilities will conduct the decision making process.

Equality of Outcome is Nonsense: This is almost common sense. However, for many many issues people feel a sense of fairness only when there is equality of outcome. People don't realize equality or *feel* the presence of equality when there is only equality in opportunity. A slightly facetious example would be the 'spiritual but not religious' nut jobs who claim puke-worthy things that 'all gods are equal' or 'all forms of prayer or equal'. They will not *feel* the presence of equality if I selected only 1 form of prayer/god and followed just that. They would think I am a fundamentalist. And they wouldn't change their opinion unless they see 'equality in outcome'. I am virulently against 'equality of outcome'. Primarily because I am not a communist. I don't want all the 5 runners in a 100m race to win Gold or all applicants to a job interview be given job offers. That doesn't make me a bigot or a biased person. I am a bigot if I move the "starting point" in below diagram (Image Credit: wikipedia.org) leftwards. People should have an opportunity to take a 'shot' at the outcome they so desire. But I strongly disagree with the people who move the "ending point" leftwards and align it with "starting point" (Example: It is one of the flaws of caste based reservation systems in India - which involves a variant of this approach). Sounds like common sense but pretty much every second or third argument that uses 'equality' does this.



Circular Logic and Consequent Annoying High Moral Ground: Knowing where equality applies and where it doesn't reduces fallacious arguments where people present circular logic. These people say that 'Category X must be treated equal because... they are equal". Well if they are already equal then this request must be totally pointless. Its like saying "you should marry her because she is already married to you" or "You must kill him because he is already dead". An argument that some group of people should be given an equal outcome when compared to another group of people cannot depend on an assumption that the former group is *already* equal. Equality is a conclusion you are trying to establish. You can't use it as a premise. The fact that you can classify the two groups as distinct assumes that there  is a fundamental inequality that exists between them. So an appeal for equal outcome should involve a merit that is something other than 'equality'. Knowing this avoids the unnecessarily high moral ground that people derive by asking a fellow human being to offer equal *outcomes* for all religions (apparently they say the "same" truth in "different" ways), different gods/approaches within same religion, all genders, all races, and all sexual orientation etc. It maybe true that at the end of the argument they merit equal outcomes in a practical world.  But just don't start the argument with an axiom that they are 'equal'.

p.s1: As it is the case with many things the truth could be that the world is a mixture of LHS = RHS and where X != Y . In general I'd like to think that at a universal level it is an ever expanding pie with X + a != Y + b continuing to be true even if you keep adding on both sides. However, at some points depending on values of the four variables you could have exceptions where RHS = LHS.  Though they are  exceptions - they do impact a person's life as a result of  being a 'zero sum' situation. 

p.s2: On a lighter note - The entire intensity of iyengar-iyer god worship debate would be lot less intense if people grokked this.

p.s3: if you give everyone equal outcomes as default - you are not liberal, fair or good. You are actually a bad and unfair person. The whole notion of Satvik and rajo/tamas concept is based on this.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you think financial based reservation( giving reservation to student's with annual income less than some thresold instead of their caste) will be a good idea??

Rajiv Govindan said...

Absolute nonsense. The privileged ranting against caste based reservations as usual.

Lower castes have had their legs chopped off and are expected to run a race with the the others. This is not unfair, this is just plain stupid. To level the play field, either FC's need to be extinguished (not possible) hence merit or some such nonsense needs to be kept aside and reservations-a version of equality has to in place. No amount of silly, school-boy diatribe, camouflaged as analysis will suffice.

Hence even though I belong to FC, I strongly and unequivocally support reservations-a version of equality for lower castes.

Alan Smithee said...

Do you have cousin (cousins) who won't marry until 'marriage equality' is attained in the US of A?

Why this kolaveri?

hari said...

I think most equality is targetted at political or social equality. Equal in the eyes of the law. Even that is not true in fact. If we cannot achieve that, where is the question of even attempting to achieve true equality.

Equality is a mirage.

GeekinGermany said...

Rajiv Govindan:

Here is a real life scenario.

A lady of the previous generation (now, about 50 years old) belongs to MBC (or SC) and therefore is entitled for reservation. She gets to study at Anna University, gets a job with the Department of Telecommunications (now, BSNL) and is a General Manager right now.

Her husband, also an MBC (or SC) and gets reservation is a bank employee.

Now, in their house (or government quarters), they have electricity, AC, high speed internet connections, Xbox and all that.

Her son, is also classified as MBC (or SC) and can get into IIM with less marks. Let us set aside the competition with the FC (and let us forget, brahmins within FC), but is this lady's son not being given an unfair advantage over a construction worker's son who also belongs to SC?

Where sir, is the equality you are talking about?

Now, an FC works as a peon in the same office (because, his parents were working as priests in a temple). He does not get a 3 bedroom government quarters nor can he afford a house with air conditioning. Is his son / daughter not unfairly treated based on reservation as they are put at a disadvantage?

PS: Have not read the full post of hawkeye, but this is based on the comment of yours.

austrian said...

Hawkeye,

As always, excellent argument presentation. Man you would have knocked essays/case studies out of the park, no wonder a Ross MBA! :)

I agree wholeheartedly that equality of outcome is absolute nonsense. In fact, equality of outcome will ensure inequality continues to exist, lol.

Rajiv Govindan -

read back your remarks and you may understand how hostile you sound. All lower castes do not have their legs chopped off, that is simply a myth in your mind. Also, FCs need to be "extinguished"? Seriously, you don't think there can be extremely poor FCs? What bubble are you living in?

The schoolboy type diatribe is your comment and not Hawkeye's post.

K said...

This is bloody brilliant. You are very intelligent I give you that. I haven't read such a perspective changing argument in a long time

Hawk Eye said...

i dont know why people are focusing on TN reservations topic. this post wasnt actually written with that in mind at all.

And that too people are assuming that i am advocating no alternative etc.

My opinions on reservation have been repeatedly stated in twitter and in this blog. I'll just state it for the record and block all comments on this topic in the future ;-)

left to me, I'd create a single category of people called 'reserved category'. It will be caste based for most part with rare exceptions made for people who earn below Rs 500 a year or so.

All castes falling within SC/ST will qualify for 'reserved' by default. Most MBCs will qualify here as well. No non-hindu will qualify :-). No BCs will qualify for this reserved category ( as reservations there are purely for dubagoor political purposes. just that they have been brainwashed so much that they wont accept it). Those "BCs" who got into MBC category because of political negotiations wont qualify as well.

for this reserved category - I'd give them free eductaion from LKG to PG. Any college or group that they want to join (depending the percentile within their own category) - a seat should created for them. A college will start woth 100 seats per group and all of that will be open competition. If there are 20 or 40 "reserved category" people who want to join that college/group - the capacity of that group will expand to include all of them. In the next year if the demand is low the the total seats of college/group will contract.

This reserved category will get same 'expanding' method of promotions in Govt jobs. IT sector companies will get tax breaks depending on # of reserved category employees in their company. More importantly this reserved category will also have similar 'expanding' seats created in temples for them to work as priests :-)

this is wishful thinking if i were king. This will prevent this existing population from destroying itself in the long run.


Rajiv Govindan said...

As always the FC-which believes in a perpetual state of enlightenment and self-righteousness goes after silly, context-less arguments by quoting specific examples not having the gumption to understand the fact that SC's/ST's/OBC's/BC's have for decades been treated as worthy of contempt and disgusting discrimination. How many examples should I give to substantiate?

Secondly, equality as Marx enshrined is not for the FC "to give", it is not a right that India will give to the bigoted FC, it is an entitlement that the lower castes have under the Constitution (how many Articles of the Constitution should I quote to "pretend scholarly"- like this blog owner has).

Thirdly, imagine being told from a young age that you have no right to dream, no right to human dignity because you are born of a certain pedigree? But how can you, you of the thread-wearing, Sanskrit-blabbering thievery?

Finally, I don't pretend for a moment that the blog readers have the mental frame to look at equality as a matter of right for the lower castes, because seeing the kind of gibberish that this blog goes on about, pretty sure, no one will objectively assess situations.

But you FC gang- wait for a few more years/decades, this brutish arrogance you display will be torn down. As an FC, I would be thrilled to see your superficial "scholars" held to account.

Oh just FYI: not relevant, but since your fake heads might read more seriously: I passed out of Harvard in 2008.

CHVS CHAITANYA said...

hawk eye,
you wrote 'All castes falling within SC/ST will qualify for 'reserved' by default'

reservation should be for financially backward people. If u take present society (towns and cities) almost all sc/st people are having same (even more) annual income as brahmins and other open categories. How come these sc/st people deserve reservation if those open category people are not getting it. it's unfair

Anu said...

This is what marriage and two kids does to you.

I miss the light-hearted humorous posts that used to be your trademark.

Nothing wrong with this post, just want to see the lighter side of you come across more in your blog.

bmk said...

Completely agree with Anu..

I started following your blog for the totally irrelevant, satirical and humorous posts.

Even today, when I see my kid's pencil-box, I smile thinking about your post.

Some of that old charm, please.. I get this equality discussions on news channels.

Hawk Eye said...

rajiv,

but i think you are an idiot. harvard or not. i think you specifically can easily be denied reservations based on that fact. I don't think you have the ability to create progeny that will think better than plant life. maybe saying such arundhati roy type things will get you a date with another harvard chic but thats about it.

alan,

ya i wrote this post based on such cousins/friends/twitters etc.

hari,

correct. i think people like their own sound when they blabber about equality.

austrian, K

thanks :-)

chaitanya,

i dont necessarily believe that reservations should be limited to financially poor people. i mightve been brainwashed by my SC friends to think that way but the wvidence that I see I think even if they are financially capable (which is rarely the case) they should still get reservations.

anu/bmk sorry :-) I can barely write a blog post a month. writing humorous blog posts takes commitment etc.

I said...

Kareena Kapoor also did some typewriting course in Harvard and she is a stupid stupid bitch.

aniramzee said...

I would argue that the premise of intent of the equality you speak of isn't that. I'm assuming you speak mainly of social and political equality. I do appreciate your view and I agree, we're all not created equal and some inequalities are meant to exist.
I think the equality we want (and cannot possibly achieve) is that every member of the human species, whether created equally or not, should be treated equally in the absence of man-made factors such as money, education, caste, class etc. They should be looked at equally in the eyes of another man-made item; the law.
The inequalities which occur because of environment, position and privileges are also acceptable, because theoretically, a poor man can become rich or become the president, even if that's not the case practically. Just like that, we want everyone to be equal theoretically, even if we're not practically. If we're unequal even in theory, life will become more unbearable than it already is.

Anonymous said...

nowadays..everyone is enjoying the luxury lifE ,Both FC and the SC/ST..money is in everyone's hand? really?? WALK ON THE PRACTICAL STREETS OF INDIA AND CHECK HOW MANY LOW PAID JOBS ARE NOT DONE BY THE FC'S....MY FAMILY BACKROUND MADE ME UNDERSTAND WELL ABOUT THIS SYSTEM..reservation on the basis of salary??? OK..WHO SWEEPS THE STREETS?? CLEANS THE SEPTIC TANKS OF UR HOUSE?? CLEANS THE DITCHES?? ATLEAST HOW MANY FC SHOPKEEPERS HAVE YOU SEEN??

ATLAST SOME HAVE TO DO THESE LOW PAID JOBS RIGHT ?? WHY DONT THE "FC" PEOPLE WHO TALK ABOUT EQUALITY DO ALL THESE JOBS??? "THINK, THINK WHY THEY NEVER DID, AND STILL DONT DO THESE WORKS......"


THESE JOBS ARE DESTINED FATE FOR SC/ST?? THINK WITHOUT SELFISHNESS.. ON THE UPPER LAYER EVERYBODY IS EQYAL WITH MONEY TODAY(ALMOST)..BUT ON THE LOWER LAYER MAJORITY OF POORS ARE CLASSIFIED BY "CHANAKYA DEVILS" OF THOSE DAYS..BY THEIR JOBS..N THAT RUNS STILL TODAY..
AND TO THE GREAT PERSONS HERE TALKING ABOUT EQUALITY HOW MANY OF THEM ARE READY TO MARRY A SC/ST GIRL/GUY?????? HAVE GUTS???? SHOW YOUR EQUALITY IN MARRIAGE..CHAMELIONS!!!!!!!

THIS RESERVATION SYSTEM WILL END WHEN THESE JOBS ARE DONE BY FC(BRAMINS)WITHOUT ANY HESITATION WITHOUT CONSIDERING IT AS AN INSULT..AND WEN THEY FEEL EQUALITY BY HEART!!!!