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AlbertEinstein once remarked that before God we are equally wise-and equally foolish. What Einstein did was contribute to a debate that rages up to today on whether all men are equal. It is debatable to say that God made us equal or that we are equal in His eyes as the bible scriptures imply. Some people hold that equality as implied in the scriptures means spiritual equality as opposed to bodily equality, while others prefer not to have God in the debate at all.
However, even if we are of the view that we are not equal, it should be upon each one of us to acknowledge that we should treat each other as equals. The major reasons why we should treat each other equally forms the main arguments in this essay. Further, this essay tackles means and ways in which people can be treated as equals which include concerted efforts at institutional levels and at individual levels.
It is important to note from the onset that, not treating people equally amounts to discrimination. From the historical slavery days to the modern racism, many forms of discrimination have existed. Cardinali and Zandralyn posit that, discrimination may be due to “gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, stigma, age or even physical appearance” (2002, p15).
Groupings having common characteristics and brought together by social conformity tend to view others as unequal to them and so discriminate against them. This is the source of various ills in the society including genocide. Therefore, measures should be put in place to promote equal treatment.
Reasons for promoting equality
When we discriminate against others, we also bring about psychological harm on them. This harm includes depression and a low self-esteem because of frequent episodes of being discriminated against. According to Lang, “individuals who report frequent exposure to discrimination or unfair treatment also report experiencing more psychological distress, depression and lower levels of life satisfaction” (2007, p.69).
The reason is that we all like to be appreciated and recognized, but if all we do is viewed as irrelevant as a result of something we cannot change like skin colour or sexual orientation, then we are bound to suffer psychologically. Since a healthy nation is a working nation, people who get psychological illness become more of a risk than an asset to the advancement of humanity. It is important therefore, to get rid of this problem from its roots by enforcing and encouraging equality.
Poverty and lack of access to better paying jobs are prevalent among those who we treat unfairly. Inequality in employment can be traced back to the times of slavery where the masters had free labour. A good example is slavery in the United States, which after its abolition left a large number of African Americans free but without waged employment. It took many years to achieve employment equality in the United States.
It was through efforts from the civil societies and government and through policies especially after the civil war that this inequality was broken (Headlee 2004, p.58). Lack of a good job and poverty makes those who are affected to question why others receive better treatment. This in turn has the effect of breeding a growing discontent and eventually a full-blown revolt against the social system. Therefore, to obviate such incidences like revolts from arising, equality must prevail.
Discrimination also brings about other undesirable effects like more deaths among the discriminated minority groups due to lack of proper health care lack of management for chronic diseases and delayed diagnosis (Weigner & Craighead 2010, p.109). Firstly, such groups are not well informed of their health in relation to their lifestyle; their management of diseases is poor. This is illustrated by how fast the AIDs virus spread very fast among the gay community who were not accepted in many places back then.
In addition, because of the economic impoverishment, many do not have the resources to consult a medical doctor frequently for check ups. This results in late diagnosis and in most cases death. If on the other hand, people treated even those who were different as equals they would be able to present themselves freely without fear and all their interests including health would be safeguarded only under the umbrella of equality.
Importantly, we should actively encourage equality among all people, as it is not efficient at all to discriminate. According to Chiplin and Sloane, the productivity of persons whom we discriminate against is lower due to the psychological problems they go through (1982, p.78).
Further, we also fail to see the talent of a person just because he or she is a member of a group that we overlook or dismiss as inferior. Potential great people are thus stifled by our myopic views of who they are. If we treated others as equals despite our differences then they would reveal their true self to us and so no talent would go unnoticed. It would be possible also to have everyone reach their potential and so contribute to the well-being of all of us.
Another reason to treat others equally is that it is legal to do so and illegal not to therein. In the modern times, laws have been passed to ensure the equality of all. For instance, the UN in the universal declaration of human rights states that, “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment” (Dyzenhaus, Moreau & Ripstein 2007, p.523).
Other laws that deal with other forms of discrimination have also been created, the recent one being gay and lesbian marriage rights in many countries. It is therefore illegal to discriminate people based on sexual orientation for this would amount to contravening the law.
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Finally, genocides have taken place in the world showing the ugly side of unequal treatment of people. A superiority complex among a people coupled with a desire to assert this superiority on others has been the fuel to the genocides that have taken place. According to Njogu, Ngeta and Wanjau, “stereotypes that had been taught to Rwandans had created a superiority complex among Tutsis and an inferiority complex among Hutus (2010, p.173).”
Further, the superiority complex of the Germans led to the holocaust as the Jews were seen as lower human beings who could just be eliminated. If a culture of equality had been accepted in both of the places then there would have been no risk of genocides. Therefore, upholding equality is imperative to avert such crises and live in harmony as a people.
Means of Equality
So how can we ensure equal treatment of each person irrespective of his or her beliefs, sexual orientation, age, appearance, race or gender? The first thing is to put equality in our laws and tie loose ends in the existing laws on equal treatment. Not all forms of discrimination have laws that counter them especially in underdeveloped countries.
Sexual orientation discrimination is not seen as a wrong rather it is even encouraged by the law in some countries. In others, like Canada, omission of sexual orientation as a protected ground in law deprives the Gays and Lesbians equal treatment by the law (Dyzenhaus, Moreau & Ripstein 2007, p.521). The purpose of the law should be to safeguard the interest of the minority from the will of the majority. It is therefore important for us to ensure that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.
The best time to learn about equality is when we are young. For us to achieve equal treatment among all, we must start with the youth or the school going age.
This can be done by encouraging diversity from the lowest levels of school so that all the children can get to appreciate each other’s differences. According to Martinez and Dukes a research carried out on adolescents in some States in the US showed that those exposed to a diversity of people at a younger age had developed an ethnic identity which led to lesser effects of ethnicity (1995, p.53).
Since we learn best by experience, it would be best to adopt this method to get future results of a discrimination free society. Moreover, if we want to treat people equally, then we must try to make their situation at least as good as ours. This is realizable through social programs like free health care for the poor minority groups.
If we manage to do this, then everyone will have an equal opportunity in life and the fight against discrimination will move from the societal level to the individual level. Finally, a common practice among many that should be discouraged to foster equality is social conformity. Conformity to a group or society that has inferior or superior beliefs has a direct impact on the way we treat other people who are different.
At a higher level, the best way to counter this is through being a free society, which tolerates individual values. Nevertheless this is more than a daunting task as people ever since the earliest civilization tend to form norms to which all members of that society are expected to conform. Nevertheless, the fact that an issue is ingrained in the minds of people does not mean it cannot be uprooted.
By learning to appreciate the ‘being’ of a person and respect him/her by virtue of being human, will stump out this social thorn called social conformity (Wax 2010, p.28). It is important to note that this change of a mindset can only happen best at an individual level and the result will be a society that values individuals not because of what they have or they are but because they are human and equality will consequently prevail.
Inequality has defined human race since historical times. Running from slavery through colonization to modern racism, some people feel superior to others. However, nature demands that people be treated equal because God intended such when He created man.
Even evolutionists should find a reason to uphold equality on the basis of being; that respect accorded to a human being not because of what he/she has but because he/she is a human being. Moreover, equality fosters harmony and averts social evils like discrimination which when unchecked leads to crimes against humanity like genocide.
If only equality prevailed, millions of Jews who perished in the holocaust and the thousands of Rwandese who lost their lives in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide they would have lived. Recent laws that call for equality should be enacted with strictness to enforce equality for those who cannot uphold it on basis of freewill. However, teaching the young ones to uphold equality would work as the best long-term strategy of ensuring meaningful equality in society.
Cardinali, R., & Zandralyn, G., 2002. Free people are not equal and equal people are Not free. Equal Opportunities International, 21(7), pp.9-20.
Chiplin, B., & Sloane, J., 1982. Tackling discrimination at the workplace: an analysis of Sex discrimination in Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dyzenhaus, D., Moreau, S., & Ripstein, A., 2007. Law and morality: readings in legal Philosophy. Canada: University of Toronto Press.
Headlee, S., 2004. Income and Wealth Transfer effects of discrimination in Employment. The Review of Black Political Economy, 32(4): 39-64. INCAN
Lang, K., 2007. Poverty and Discrimination. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Martinez, R., & Dukes, L., 1995. The Effects of Ethnic Identity, Ethnicity, and Gender On Adolescent Well-Being. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 26(5): 50-56
Njogu, K., Ngeta, K., & Wanjau, M., 2010. Ethnic Diversity in Eastern Africa: Opportunities and Challenges. Nairobi: Twaweza Communications.
Wax, A., 2010. Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century. USA: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Weiner, I., & Craighead, B., 2010. The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology volume 2. New Jersey: John Wiley and sons.