"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All are Equal or Created Equal?

Obama's inaugural speech has begun to bother me more and more. Where I had at first merely written it off as more of the same essentially empty political jargon like so many other inaugural speeches, I look back at it now and see disturbing concepts thrown into the pretty words, preacher's tempo, and meaningful pauses. Among Obama's rather generalized statements in his address is the idea that America should move and was envisioned to move toward some form of absolute equality.

"...the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness." Significant in this statement is the proposition that "all are equal." Whenever a government starts pulling out the lie that "all are equal" it's time to hunker down.

"All are equal" is a clever little play on "All men are created equal." When used in the time of the enlightenment, the "created equal" statement was made in response to the Divine Chain of Being, an established philosophical concept that all things in the universe are ranked in a hierarchy accordance to God's wishes. The bottom consisted of rocks and such and as one went higher up the chain, things became more complicated and better. Human beings were separated into several levels of the chain, the lower class being viewed as fundamentally inferior to the higher classes, the monarch superior to the aristocracy. In fact, there was some debate among the European nobility as to whether the lower-classes felt pain in the same way that the aristocracy did. Oftentimes the answer was ridiculously "no," the lower classes were naturally less sensitive to the physical sensation of pain.

This sounds absurd and exceedingly odd to us today, but one has to remember that the universe was viewed quite differently then-- it was believed to be a manifestation of God's Will. In other words, pre-determined and according to God's perfect plan, and, in a very real way, a part of God. Although not exactly pantheistic, this concept certainly edges toward it. Thus to rise up against your divinely determined superiors was not merely a treasonous act, it was blasphemy as well. A revolutionary would be directly opposing God.

Samuel Johnson, among others, challenged this world view by adopting, whether they knew it or not, Rene Descartes' concept of a clockwork universe-- an independent universe set into motion by God, but not a direct manifestation of God's will. This allowed for a much greater degree of human freedom and struck down elitist and racist concepts of human worth and value. Thus when saying "All men are created equal" the Declaration of Independence is denouncing the concept of class being a divine concept. It does not mean that men and women are all equal to one another.

I don't believe that "all are equal" was meant as philosophical concept but rather a political one. If they are created equal, then they are not shackled to the concept of the Divine Chain of Being. But what does "are equal" mean? Equal how and in what way? Equally intelligent? Equally pretty? Of course not. The simple concept of simple equality is the rallying cry of the Marxist seeking revolution or change. An upset of the status quo and a vague promise of something better. Equal, devoid of any subject of philosophical referent is meaningless. It is empty propaganda.

For Obama to say "all are equal" is not to make any meaningful reference to "All men are created equal." The exclusion of "created" is not merely due to political correctness. Instead it is to make reference to the Marxist benediction of absolute equality determined by the state: "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Pretty words, superficially dreamy concept but nothing more than that. As Orwell observed (and has been proven historically time and again) it always breaks down into "All are equal; some are more equal than others."

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