Exploration 3 Part 1: Equality

Alex Smith
Un-Education
Published in
4 min readJul 19, 2023

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“WAIT WTF do you mean equality is a nonsense word?”

Fair question. To be quite honest I just found it to be an incredibly grabbing banner and also it highlights part of this paper.

Equality, as a word, requires context to be understood as otherwise it makes no sense.

I’ll show what I mean:

e·qual·i·ty (Oxford Learners)

noun

noun: equality

the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.

equality (Cambridge Online)

noun [ U or C ]

US /iˈkwɑː.lə.t̬i/ UK /iˈkwɒl.ə.ti/

the right of different groups of people to have a similar social position and receive the same treatment:

equality (Meriam-Webster)

noun

equal·​i·​ty i-ˈkwä-lə-tē

plural equalities

1: the quality or state of being equal

2: EQUATION sense 2a

Now all of this would necessarily dependent on the definition of “Equal” as well, however that would take up way too much space as an enterprise, but can be summarized thusly: Equal is an adjective and as one requires context.

Equality, as one can see by these definitions, has no root reference, and yet seems to reference one. This Frankenstein’s monster of a word has been instead ascribed numerous qualities that as we can see may reference a good intention or measurable goal, but really really doesn’t. This word, that often is referenced as a standard that we must aspire to is unfortunately utter bullshit without context. There is little reference to what its describing or what one means by it, in sentences such as the below:

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”

-Aristotle

If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

-J. K. Rowling

Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.

-Frances Wright

These were found on some quote website which I found illustrate my point quite well. There is absolutely no context here that would show what these quotes mean really, and there is no reasonable definition of equality that would make these quotes mean anything (besides maybe the second one, but tbh I just included it because I find her ridiculous).

This quote illustrates equality the best with the necessary context:

Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

-Barry Goldwater

Actually I totally tricked you, this is Barry Goldwater and he was also absolutely ridiculous (while he was in office…he got better). This quote does readily illustrate the BS nature that this word has however. The fact that this word has an ever shifting meaning and interpretation is directly tied to the fact that it lacks context.

Bob Dylan said it best:

All this talk about equality. The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die.

-Bob Dylan

Now, why is the word even used? Who fucking knows unfortunately. To Goldwater’s credit, it really is a word that was used back in the days of the “Founding fathers”, an import of Thomas Paine probably, who got it from the French’s liberté, égalité, fraternité which was an import of the French Revolution of 1791 which principally created the Paris Commune (now doesn’t this make Goldwater’s quote absolutely hilarious). Now according to the Wikipedia Article linked above, the definition of such a nonsense word is listed in the Declarations of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789:

[The law] must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible to all high offices, public positions and employments, according to their ability, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.

Now this as worded is basically how the word equality is understood (and yet is often diverged from) with a few extra steps. From an institution downward it could be seen as equality of treatment, but among a community towards creating a more just society it would be equity.

Now equity is one of the most sensical fucking concepts, I could hardly believe it existed when I first heard what it meant. Equity is for all intents and purposes:

From each according to his ability; To each according to his needs

-Apparently a good amount of folks

Now I used this definition instead of Webster's or any other dictionary definition as they look like this:

eq·ui·ty
noun
noun: equity; singular proper noun: Equity; noun: Equity
1. the quality of being fair and impartial.
“equity of treatment”

Which is just wrong unfortunately, as impartiality is not the goal. Instead it is justice which is the goal, which is never impartial, and will be the subject of the next part!

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this, and I hope you have a great day.

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Alex Smith
Un-Education

Your not-so-average early twenties cishet white male activist with a huge heart and a penchant for dismantling societal institutions :)