We’re all born into such different situations, all dealt our hand of fundamental realities we have to live with. Society’s structure then determining how things play out; pre-existing cultural ideas and prevailing attitudes shaping any chance of moving much beyond our starting points or limitations.
Idealistically, society would work to even that out: offsetting “fate” somehow to ensure all have an equal chance to thrive and progress despite any obstacles we’re facing. In reality, it doesn’t often seem to work that way. Maybe because people perceive “assistance” as being in someway “unfair”? Maybe life’s moving at such a pace it’s hard for anyone to keep up.
It’s also, perhaps, “natural” that people don’t want to concede an advantage. Individually or collectively, it’s arguably not in anyone’s best interest and seems an unlikely path to take. What’s the incentive? Only loss, I’d imagine: handing back a strong suit or changing the rules of a game they looked likely to win. How many people do that?
We’re probably all quite caught up in the status this world’s offering; enjoying things and counting on them continuing. Personal identity seems so tangled in culture’s symbols and the sense of self we’ve gained through our position in society (Notes One). In the West, particularly, we have such luxury in our freedoms, opportunities and excesses – effectively, we do as we please.
But how much of “that” is based on inequality? What amount of our way of life is founded on pushing others down, even within our own communities? Whether economically or culturally, advantage as much as disadvantage seem like relative concepts: we are prettier, more stylish, or better able to afford a certain lifestyle “than” others. Doesn’t status only exist by way of comparison?
In that sense, it just seems unlikely people have much incentive to improve things. We’ve developed this combative, competitive approach to life that pretty much depends on there being these pervasive divisions (Notes Two). It’s a system that leads, almost naturally, to questioning whether we’ve placed the “right” values at the core of modern community.
Maybe that’s the aim of “progressive” elements: to address such attitudes and provide means for redressing ongoing disadvantages. Asking that we stop and re-evaluate how things are working must be important at this point, as what if we’re ploughing on in ways that lead toward a dangerous building up of social resentment and disconnection? Unless we tear each other apart first with angry idealism. (Notes Three)
Still I just wonder if we can go far enough in eradicating the imbedded inequalities of birth or capitalism. Especially when we’ve built life around profiting from natural endowments and superficial enhancements. Isn’t our culture – our sense of meaning, worth and success – largely based on deconstructing appearances and placing ourselves slightly or dramatically ahead of others?
Is this a way of life that can actually “work” the world over, or does it have limits? Maybe we need new ideas, new ways of thinking about human worth and its value within society.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Culture as what we relate to
Note 1: People, roles, reading that rightly
Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 2: Those who are leading us
Note 2: Where do ideas of evolution leave us?
Note 2: Do we really need incentives?
Note 3: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 3: Complication of being human
Note 3: What’s not essential