On Social Equality and Social Equivalence

This topic has been on my mind for a long time. I have been thinking about this ever since I actively followed the news. In a state, government and society there are so many ways to look at social equality and social equivalence that they often confuse me. Laws, regulations, guidelines and social conventions often complicate the matter in my opinion. In short in reviewing these words I will also look at their context from my perspective.

To de-complicate the topic I first have to define key the words in plain English. I interpret social equality as the status that every individual is equal in society. Thus as an individual your head of state is not your superior in society, he or she is a citizen too first.

I interpret social equivalence as the status that every individual is of the same value in society. Therefore society consists of individuals of equivalent value. In short I assume that every individual in society is equal and of the same value.

From definitions to context, what is context? In short context means specific details of the situation at hand. In defining the keywords I mentioned the word “citizen” and I have to add context. There is a difference between individual and citizen. A citizen is an individual who is a member of society. By pointing out that difference the first problem with social equality and equivalence becomes visible.

The difference between being just an individual and a full citizen is rooted in state laws. As a state consists of a territory, borders and a government. Its population is called the people. The people present in the state are governed by government representatives. Everyone who is not part of the people thus society is not a member of the state.

Not being a member of the state means that whoever is not yet a member of the state thus society does not enjoy the same rights and obligations under the state laws. Membership of the state thus society adds value in legal rights and obligations.

From a human perspective what I just wrote may seem wrong. Thing is when someone says “we are all created equal” I have to respectfully disagree. First, who creates “us”? I do not know that, do you? Please explain. Second, define “equal”. I can throw words in the wind and produce hot air but what is the meaning I give them?

“From human perspective” actually means nothing to me. What is human? Well war is human, inequality is human. Political systems are human too? The adjective “human” is used to say many things but has too many ambiguous meanings I can attach to it, both positive and negative.

Back to the notion of “social equality”, I must explain myself. I can just address the word “equality” but then I omit context. By addressing social equality I actually emphasise equality in society and its social context. I generally think that the notion of social equality has little value. When people are each other’s equal they treat each other as equals. How often do people treat each other as equals I do not know. What I do know based on my Western background is that from an early age you are taught that everyone in life has a role and task in society. Some roles have a higher position, thus a hierarchy is in place.

When I connect what I was taught to social equivalence I have to question whether social equivalence actually exists. Again based on my Western background I know people have roles and tasks in society and there is a hierarchy in society. Hierarchies are based on the assumption that A is more than B. Importance can be derived from many aspects. What is clear though is that whatever adds more value or is appreciated more is generally more important. As hierarchy and importance of roles and tasks is present in the society, I know I see no social equivalence.

What I see and saw in society is something else. In general there are the have-nots, the have-a-little and the have-much people. I as a student have a little. Next up is the social ladder I observed throughout my life. There are the weak and poor at the bottom. Next there are climbers either poor or middle-class followed by above middle-class, wealthy and super-wealthy. As a student I am relatively poor

In this essay of sorts I set out to look at social equality and social equivalence. I wish it could exist but I am neither a socialist nor a communist. I do not reject the ideas behind them for I do not like outright capitalism. I was religious to a certain age and also read about other religions, philosophies and cultures. Based on my background I can only call social equality and social equivalence ideals and hope politicians do not taint them.

Most importantly I believe it is important to critically review the meaning and context of these words in an age where politicians use idealistic words to win support and votes. In 2014 the heavy emphasis on hype and sound bites often omits context. Politicians, opinion leaders and publish-now-explain-later-media tend to worsen this. In the end the people on the street who do their jobs are at the receiving end. I consider myself privileged to live in the Netherlands. There are worse countries to live.


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