I believe all men are not equal. I do not hold this to be true in a racist or prejudicial sense of the expression but do so from a deeper and wider level of reflection vis-a-vis the complexities that surround man’s birth, recognition, acceptance, aspirations, achievements, and death–within society. When it is said that all men are born equal, what is the core thing being meant? That all men where born with the same mix of talents and abilities? That the genetic codes within our cells qualifying us to be labeled humans also directly qualify us to be equals deserving of the same degree of respect, privilege and remuneration? Should the belief in many quarters that all humans are equally intelligent, destroy every iota of belief that inequality between humans does and should not exist?
On a very objective, if not mathematical level, we can say that one thing is equal to another if it possesses the same set of physical qualities as the other. However, we can also say that intangible qualities can make seemingly equal things unequal. For example, if two exact copies of the play ‘The Trials of Brother Jero’, by Wole Soyinka, are presented to an individual, there really can be no rational reason to place one above the other on the scale of equality–and by extension, price. However, if this individual knows that one of the copies was in the possession of Wole Soyinka for a week while he was in prison in 1967, a rationale for belief in their inequality might come into play. The individual, depending on his reverence of the author, might immediately place a higher value tag on that book and thus might be willing to obtain it for a higher price. But the two books are the same. In content, appearance and authorship.
Now to genetics. It has been said, based on the decipherment of the human genome, that humans are virtually clones of each other. Assume this is completely true. Can we then weave a convincing theory of human equality on the fact that our most basic programming was based on the same code? Can we isolate this from the gigabytes of information that stream into our minds over our lifetime, and the myriad of influences that shape our lives–like time, association and locale? Isn’t the formation of the concept of a human being not a long process that continues well after birth?
If there is something like destiny or fate, then the argument for human equality falls flat to its face. After all destiny, at least within the sphere of earthlihood, can never be the same or equal. For great men have indeed traversed this earth, humbling many men in the blanket of their shadows; and greatness as a concept can not survive if all men are deemed equal, even from birth. Many men have struggled to make a mark, struggled to do well in school, struggled to be wealthy–even in conducive climes, but have been unsuccessful. And that brings me to the story of my friend Paul (not real name).
Paul was dull. Really dull. He had repeated classes twice and was on the verge of doing so a record third time. Here was someone who, while writing an exam in our SS2, furtively copied the letter of another student, concluding it with the same student’s name. When I was in SS3 and he in SS2 (he had just repeated the second time), Paul moved to my room so he could wake up at midnight and study together with me and be encouraged by my words of advice. Paul was determined to be promoted this time. On one of those days he was in my room, I took the liberty of skimming through his notes while he slept. I was shocked by my discoveries. I couldn’t make sense of what he had written because they were terribly structured grammatically, and mis-spelt words abounded. And to think these notes were copied as a teacher dictated…within the four walls of a class in a secondary school respected nationwide. How was I to believe all men were born equal?
Again, I will draw a similar example from the intellectual world–I believe intellectualism is at the heart of the theory of human equality. In my JS3, Saidu (not real name), began to draw close to me to help him academically. He was supposed to be a class ahead of me but he had repeated JS2. We were preparing for Junior WAEC and he needed my help. A day before the English paper, he came to my side to study. As I warmed up to tutor him, I made an unbelievable discovery. Saidu could barely read. He didn’t know what nouns or verbs were and couldn’t even comprehend sections of passages not to talk of answering questions based on the passages as a structured whole. I am by nature a very resilient tutor and I can go to extra lengths to make a person understand what I am teaching, but that day I saw what it meant to be hopeless…and to be in a hopeless situation. Twelve hours to the Junior WAEC English Language paper and Saidu didn’t know what nouns were. And he held a 200 page English Language text book; peering into it and flipping the pages.
So much for being equal. Here were people who genuinely wanted to advance academically but were having it real rough because naturally, assimilation came on a rough platter of clay. These examples were not the last I witnessed personally as I climbed up the ladder of academic learning.
Why all these words on the subject of equality? I believe, as found in nature, that balance (or equilibrium) not equality should be the prime pursuit of mankind’s civilization. Such balance must respect the basic rights of all people to life and happiness, creating conducive climes for the attainment of such. It is the same way I believe men and women are not born equal…(Oops! I am not a chauvinist! That analytic journey will come another time). I believe that within the context of present time, position, geography and other related factors, every human being must know and appreciate his place and seek happiness from it; even as he engages in the development of self, and in the pursuit of greener pastures.