Despite my silence, I have been giving some hard thought to just what it is that makes us all equal, and what inalienable rights and responsibilities flow from that fundamental equality. I said in my last post that this equality obviously cannot be defined in monetary terms. And of course it can’t.
But on further thought, it doesn’t seem that simple. Almost the world over, we need money to meet some of our most basic needs – food, shelter, clothing. Without a financial base, we cannot get an education, hope to do many of the jobs that are essential to a functioning society, even to raise a family.
Seeing this, many people concerned with fairness and justice support the concept of a minimum wage – the belief that people should, by law, be paid enough for the work they do to live responsibly in dignity, to develop their individuality and skills, and to contribute to the common good sufficiently to help care for those who cannot work at a paying job.
So far so good. In theory this should allow us to use our talents to contribute to the diversity that is so essential to the human community. So we will ultimately be quite different in our contributions, our levels of education, our social and financial status, our popularity, our physical abilities.
But we’re human beings. We often try to game the system. Or turn it around in a complete reversal of values. So on the one hand, there are those who will try to get social and financial support without working, even when they can. Or we somehow conclude not that we pretty much all need some basic financial base in order to develop and flourish, but that if we have more money we must, by that fact, be more important, more valuable, even more virtuous than those who don’t.
Today, for instance, we have the far right who think that social security or health care should be earned, and if you don’t earn it, that’s your lazy fault and you should get along without it.
And we have those on the far left who will strike for unconscionable wages, whatever it costs the community. Similarly, there are many who think that no other criteria should be required except that one has at least one child, and that the more children one has, the more funding should be given, no questions asked.
I can’t buy either of these conclusions. I think the far right are wrong in failing to appreciate how much we each need to be given what we have not earned. We need to be loved, we need opportunities, we need encouragement, and forgiveness and even to be given the chance to overcome failure and mistakes – sometimes big mistakes. Personally, I am revolted by the idea of the Great and the Good. I’m revolted by the idea that “success” is defined in terms of money. I’m revolted by the idea that more elevated human beings must help “the poor”. Whatever our finances, we need to help each other just as much as we need to be helped — all of us.
But I think the far left too often do not appreciate that we each need to feel that we are needed, that we need to make a contribution. And just as having greater wealth does not necessarily make us more or less virtuous, neither does being poor. The poor are not intrinsically either more virtuous or more criminal.
All of which gets me, rather tiresomely I fear, back to the conclusion that we are all part of an incredible universe. We are all incomplete by ourselves, and we need each other every bit as much as we need to be individuals. We’ll make mistakes. Some of will make big, destructive mistakes. Even when we are trying to be heroic, to make a significant contribution. But that’s the way we were made.
So after this little sermon to myself, I will continue to do my hum-drum best.
And be grateful beyond words for a chance to share in this great incredible mystery of life.