19 November 2016

Equality (for Ungagged 9)

The following is the text of my section of the Ungagged podcast "Looking Backward", which can be found at https://leftungagged.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/looking-backward/ and http://ungagged.podbean.com/e/looking-backward/ .

When Neil gave us the theme of equality, the first thing that came to my mind was the title of the sequel to the 19th century novel which was the 3rd best selling of that century in America, behind Ben-Hur: A Story of Christ and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  That novel was Looking Backward, written by Edward Bellamy, cousin of co-founder of the Society for Christian Socialism and Pledge of Allegiance author Francis Bellamy. 

Looking Backward has the distinction of being not only one of the first socialist-oriented novels in America but also one of the first utopian science fiction novels dealing with time travel.  The story of the movement inspired by that novel, which I will go into at another time, is one of the reasons why I have decided to start calling America Neverland instead of the Great Satan.

During the primary season, my son David was driving me somewhere and we were discussing the elections.  I had supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries which were so heavily rigged in favor of the would-be coronee, and was going off about all of my reasons, which included such things as drastic income inequality, rule by oligarchy, destruction of the social welfare system, etc.  When I finished, he told me, “You sound just like Johnny”.  His step-father, who liked Bernie but was supporting Donald Trump. 

Though there are certainly plenty of exceptions, I suspect that most of those voting for Trump, the “deplorables” as Clinton referred to them, did so for many of the same reasons as those voting for Bernie, the “basement-dwellers” as Clinton referred to them.  Much in the same way the foot-soldiers of the original Tea Party movement resembled in their grievances the foot-soldiers of the Occupy movement.

So, do not be afraid that with the election of Donald Trump that Neverland has become overrun with folks in white sheets waving Confederate flags and folks in khaki waving the swaztika, because many of them are folk just like me, and, I suspect, like you too.

In their Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, America’s so-called Founding Fathers wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”, meaning, of course, that they were male, white, landed property-holders, over the age of 21, and of the fourteen colonies that rebelled, Congregationalist in the colonies of New England and Anglican in the colonies from New York south, the only two of the fourteen not having religious requirements for voting being Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.  And yes, it was 14 colonies not 13, the tiny proprietary colony of Gardiner’s Island almost never being counted.

The tripartite motto of France— in its original form among the Cordeliers Clubs liberty, equality, fraternity, or death—was but one such triad passed around during that country’s revolution, all of which with but one or two exceptions included liberty and equality.  The country only adopted the triad as its official motto with the advent of the Third Republic in 1870. 

Another such triptych, likewise dating back to the French Revolution, made into the original version of Bellamy’s Pledge of Allegiance as “liberty, equality, and justice for all”.  As soon as he wrote it out, however, Francis realized that “equality” in the morning twilight of Jim Crow and in the face of then staunch resistance to women’s suffrage would not go over, so he dropped it before even submitting what he’d written.

As a social value, in the 18th and 19th centuries, “equality” meant equality of rights, specifically civil rights.  But equality thus defined and limited becomes destructive of itself.  I prefer Bellamy’s borrowed triptych to the French motto because without justice equality is incomplete.  Justice in this case means equity rather than criminal jurisprudence, what is often called social justice.  The boxes V mentioned in the post-US clusterfuck podcast demonstrate the difference between equality—all three game watchers standing on boxes of the same size—versus equity (or justice)—all three able to see the game over the fence with their eyes at the same level. 

In both, it occurred to me finally when looking at various spins on this theme, all three are equally outside.  Outside of those able to afford a seat in the stadium.  Outside those those considered socially acceptable.  Outside those considered human.  Even in the scenes showing equity between them, their only equity is with each other.  Like refugees in Europe, America, and Australia, standing on the outside looking in.  Or Palestinians outside colonies of their occupiers.  Or Native Americans outside

Much has been made of President-elect Trump’s declared intent to deport two to three million so-called “illegals” from Neverland.  Not as much note of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s saying, “Uh, no, actually, we have no plans to do that”, nor of the fact that by the time he leaves office, Barack Obama will have deported 3.2 million.

One of my favorite quotes on equality comes from American labor activist and socialist icon Eugene Debs, from his statement at his trial for sedition under the same law which the Obama administration has used to persecute and silence more whistle-blowers than any other president in American history.  “Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth.  I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” 

As long as our brothers and sisters do not have what we have, do not have what they need to not only survive but thrive, do not have available what should be readily available if all of us took only what we need until everyone has enough, and have to stand beyond the fence looking in no matter how many boxes they get to stand upon, then none of us are free.

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