Ask a women if the world is an equal place and it wont take you long until you get the answer no.
Ask any person who doesn’t have white skin and chances are you will more than likely get the answer no.
Ask any person who has benefited from access to tertiary education, which would have been denied or beyond them in past generations, and you will eventually get the answer no.
Ask any person who is stuck in poverty and I bet the answer is no.
Ask a less able bodied person and the answer will almost certainly be no.
Ask any person who is fled their own country hoping to find safety and security elsewhere and with a heavy heart you will probably hear, no.
Ask any person under 30 or over 60 and they will more likely than not answer, no.
Ask anyone working a 60+ hour week and they will probably scream at you, no.
Ask anyone juggling children, work and family life, and there will be some part of it which they will name as lacking equality.
Yes, and ask any LTGBQI person and they will be able to quickly point you to places, situations, circumstances where they are not treated equally.
I am quickly coming to the opinion that equality is an ideal that it is not possible for us mere humans to reach. Certainly not by shouting about how unequal this or that group are. For to make all people equal means others have to forego some of the things they hold dear. Like preferential treatment. Or instant access without questions about gender, skin colour, educational qualifications, sexual preferences, physical or mental ability. Or the myth that equality includes all decision makers, politicians and faith leaders agreeing with your every point. We need to stop talking about equality and start talking about justice. Apart from anything else equality in law takes no account of outside influences. Changing attitudes takes generations. You just need to look at the recent Brexit vote to see just how far apart the generations are on their world views, and that is true for other issues also.
Working for justice doesn’t mean we stop striving for the ideal of equality but that we put justice first, which will sometimes mean that we have to compromise on equality, for a season. As a women I, regardless of the law of the land, do not receive equal treatment either inside or outside the church. Now that doesn’t mean people are breaking the letter of the law, more often than not it is the spirit of the law they are blind to. Nor does it mean I wont have a rant from time to time about it. It certainly doesn’t mean I wont challenge those who degrade or devalue women or rewrite history to exclude women from it. What it means is that my life isn’t perfect. What it means is you can change laws far easier than you can change hearts and minds. What it means is I am alive and living among and beside other people who also have imperfect lives and that should fire me to right the injustices in their lives. If I can succeed in that, their lives might still not be perfect, but hopefully they will be a little easier and justice will be done.
You see in my book it is like this, justice is something which is achievable, because it isn’t about mind control it is about changing systems and in time perceptions until the day everyone is seen as an individual not a category. That wont happen in my lifetime, it wont happen in my children’s or indeed grandchildren’s (if I ever have any) lives. That is a sad realisation, but doesn’t need to be a depressive one. One day it will come about and until then justice will continue to be my watchword and if that brings about small steps towards the ideal of equality for all along the way, Great!
To answer my own question. What is equality? I believe it is the pinnacle of justice. Equality for all can not be achieved without focusing on justice. Equality can not be about striving for the highest common denominator, wanting to be equal with – those people over there – for that system is what has been perpetuating inequality for centuries.
If equality isn’t about justice, what is it about? Painful as that might be, equality means that we ourselves might have to forgo something we currently hold dear. Currently I fear George Orwell’s observation in Animal Farm might be the goal of equality that some seek, as long as it is they who replace the others.
Some animals are more equal than others by Gasketfuse