The wise owl was trying to teach the young one. “If you wish to define equality, do not think of yourself but of another and then give to them everything you wish to have.” The young owl turned his head and then asked: “But what if I wish for something I do not have? Then the other will have it and I will not.”
There is much more to the story but I think sometimes when we try to define, legislate, and live the concept of equality, we stop the story right there. We fear that in an effort to make all equal, some might get ahead of us in some imaginary race that we perceive life to be.
Winston Churchill also used animals in discussing equality. “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” The few times I have been in a barnyard or pig pen I found myself ignored by the pigs, that is after I had fed them. I am not certain that qualifies as being treated as an equal but I certainly am assured that my cats consider me their concierge and not an equal so maybe Sir Churchill was correct.
The concept of equality is a very interesting and nowhere more a matter of debate than in religious circles. Recently the Anglican Communion issued sanctions against the Episcopal Church of the United States. Someone could have stood up and claimed Point of Order since the sanctions literally mean nothing but, because of a sense of equality, no one from the Episcopal Church did. The members of the Anglican Communion are considered equal and yet, some felt they had the right to try to impose their will over the Episcopal Church.
The issue at hand is not a new debate. It centered on the acceptance of gay people, the full acceptance of them as children of God, children of God who are entitled to all benefits or His love and the church’s liturgy. Specifically, the point of irritation is the union of homosexuals and the church honoring their love. In a world in which terrorism, greed, and hatred kills hundreds every day and children are kidnapped and sold and exploited, it would seem that the leaders of these various Anglican congregations do not want to honor love and commitment. These unions are not deemed worthy of the church’s recognition and an equal status with other commitments of love, honor, and commitment.
As a young child I grew up in an area ripe with segregation and separate facilities for different races. Because of my ethnicity, I was mistaken for being another race and told to use the “appropriate” facilities. It was most marvelous education. I saw that the water for one race came from the same pipes as the water for another. The public restrooms were almost identical and again the same water was used in both. While one race was relegated to the balcony and the other sat in the seats on the main floor, both groups saw the same movie at the same time. In other words, there was much more in common than different.
If we define equality as sameness, then there is no such thing and never can be. None of us are clones of another. We are all unique creatures, wonderfully made and hopefully, proud of our individuality. None who are married have a marriage exactly like their neighbor because the marriage is as individual as the two people within it. Each of us lives according to our conscious. If someone is showing and living in a loving manner, why would we indicate that is wrong? Because we feel they are not our equals?
The lack of respect for people of certain races or genders is nothing new. Plato once said that “If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” Gender equality is a subject we have discussed with the blog several times. There are still over four hundred young girls who have been kidnapped and not returned to their families who are thought to now be child slaves or brides. They wanted an education and because of that have been subjected to tremendous fear and horrors.
One humanitarian seeking to solve the problem of gender inequality is Graca Machel. Born two weeks after her father’s death, she is the only African woman made a dame of the British Empire. Born in what was then Portuguese East Africa, now Mozambique, Graca attended Methodist mission schools and later the University of Lisbon in Portugal. She is fluent in five languages besides her native Shangaan and is the only woman in history to have been the first lady of two separate republics.
Graca Machel received the Nansen medal from the United Nations to honor her humanitarian work, especially regarding refugee children. The honor came nine years after the death of her first husband, the president of Mozambique. Three years after receiving the award from the United Nations she married Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa. She is the chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child health and of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa.
Graca Machel is just one example of someone who saw a need, picked a cause and then went about fighting for those the way she would want someone to fight for herself. While she is certainly qualified in her missions, we all can do something to help those needing a voice or advocate.
Science fiction may seem like a rather odd venue to take a fight for equality but that is exactly what American screenwriter Joss Whedon did. In his various television series and films, he has advocated for strong women and equality of all, even aliens. “Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”
In a world with many creation mythologies, many ethnicities, and many different voices and cultures, Whedon has managed to find the one thing that we all share – gravity. Regardless of age, color, creed, sexual orientation, class, race, religion, or gender, we are all subject to the laws of gravity. Jump up and we all will fall unless something catches us or breaks our fall.
When it comes to human nature, love and kindness are considered the things that break our fall into depravity and evil. A humanitarian nature is one that manifests faith and love. What can you do today to make equality as common as gravity? Let’s make equality as commonplace as gravity.