Equality: are we there yet?

Voltaire
Voltaire

“Every man is born with a pretty violent penchant for domination, riches and pleasures, and with great taste for laziness; therefore every man would like to have money and women or girls of others, to be their master, to subject them to all his whims, and to do nothing, or at least to do only very agreeable things.”

Voltaire

 

cave manThis quote is an excerpt from an article written about “equality” by the famous French philosopher, Voltaire, in 1764, in his Philosophical Dictionary. I see a lot of truth in this quote. I think some men fit this bill, and treat women as described, even if,  fortunately, they do not form a majority! Even if the author is held in very high regard and is part of the curriculum in French schools, a lot of people criticize Voltaire, today, because he appears to them too pessimistic about human nature, and does not believe in equality.

They accuse him of anti-Semitism and racism against black people. He is said to have declared in his original work cited above (of which, apparently, only cleaned-up version can be found nowadays), that blacks were not very intelligent, but then it was the eighteenth century! How many people even today still believe the same and they don’t have the excuse of not having the opportunity to interact with articulated black people as Voltaire has.

His detractors think that he is also to blame because he accepted as a fatality the division of society into classes during his time, instead of clamouring for a better society. If that is the case, I think everyone of us is guilty of this. We speak about it, indeed, but I don’t see a lot of people downgrading their lifestyle to come to the help of their neighbour. Who will say today: let me not buy a new car, because I still have the old one that is breaking down every now and then, but that I can manage, in order to help a person in need buy a car? Or let me not get that bigger property, so that one of my family members can buy his small own house?

Press cartoon by Illustrator Plantu published in Le Monde in 1982
Press cartoon by Illustrator Plantu published in Le Monde in 1982

Those examples seem extreme, but then, is it not what we are asking from others? The South want the North to be more receptive to its plight, the poor will be content with what the middle class possesses, but the middle class wants more and can’t understand why the billionaire is never satisfied.

When future generations will look back at us two hundred or more years from now, certainly they will not understand how people were starving to death in the face of plenty. How would we explain to them that yes, in the twenty-first century, there was enough food for everybody to eat but we could not reach a point where wealth was distributed evenly throughout the globe?

Not to talk about how we could explain to them how half of the inhabitants of the earth were abusing the other half only because of their gender!

Fortunately, we have some good deeds to show for ourselves, like social welfare: in France, Social Security; in United Kingdom, NHS; and in America now, ObamaCare. I totally understand the frustration of people who are hard working and are trying to achieve something in life, only to be asked to contribute to the welfare of lazy men and women whose only aim is to take advantage of the system without adding any value to the lives of others.

But come on, can we really afford to ignore the poor among us? Not every poor man or woman is a lazy person! Sometimes life can deal severely with you even as you are trying your best! That in some countries, every woman or man can be cared for when he is ill is quite an achievement, even if the systems have their flaws, and are running at a loss, it is nonetheless a great accomplishment for Humanity!

Esther Mbabazi, Rwanda first female pilot, at 24.
Esther Mbabazi, Rwanda first female pilot, at 24.

However, I must confess that I come across a lot of beggars accompanied by very young children in the streets of Lagos, asking money from drivers, and I just can’t understand how you can embrace begging as a way of life because of your religious beliefs (or what you are made to understand of it) and drag children into it! When I see mothers with their babies in the arms, I feel a lot of pity, yes, but a lot of anger too, I feel like slapping them (it is a figure of speech!)

But then, I understand that it is not those women’s fault, it is the lack of education that is to blame. There is still a lot to do in that regard. Getting involved in the general improvement of our societies is certainly the way to go about it, but until it gets a lot better, I will not blame Voltaire for his shortcomings regarding “equality”, because he did a lot to denounce injustice and oppression and also considering the fact that he wrote a tale, about life as it goes, that I like very much: Candid.


4 thoughts on “Equality: are we there yet?

  1. I get the same reaction whenever I see parents with really small children singing in the streets as early as 6 am as a way of begging. I feel like they are denying their children a childhood. Sometimes I wish I had the power to do something to ensure all these kids were in school and not on the streets begging with mostly their mums.
    I once shared my concerns about it with someone and her reply was rather casual. She told me I would get used to it. Sadly, that disconcerting feeling I had been getting in September whenever I saw these small children singing with drums in the streets of Nairobi, slowly started to fade. Though I still wish something can be done.
    But my only interpratation of this is that society long got used to inequality that we no longer see it as an issue.
    Thank you for this thought provoking post Glory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, Proudlyfeminist, sometimes I think too that we have become completely blind to inequality that we see as an unbreakable norm, and then I remember that despite our shortcomings we have come a long way. You just have to remember how black people used to be slaves in America not long ago and now there is a black president. How African countries used to be colonized and now they are free (still struggling, I know!), and how a woman in France couldn’t vote until 1944! Things are changing, slowly, but there are.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful and well written…Early this year in one of my courses, the test Beggars Strike by Aminata Sowfall was analyzed. It was a novel concerning the importance of beggars, and how begging has been part of the existence of the black race. I got angry when i read it because even the able men and women still roamed the street for alms instead of breaking the chain, but my lecturer made me to understand that there is value in begging than stealing, and besides who should be blamed? when the government are myopic to see their state of living.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Adichie, for bringing to my attention this novel by Aminata Sow Fall that I have not read. I will look for it! I would certainly never have associated begging with value. But to think of it, one can see some beauty in the fact that some people keep so much faith with their fellow human beings to the point of relying completely on their generosity. Part of it being of course that they are left with no other choice, and perhaps,their faith has more to do with God than with human beings!

      Liked by 1 person

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