Monday, June 29, 2015

The dilemma of privilege, justice and equality

Step into a parallel universe, where a group that was once a minority is steadily gaining privilege and advancing in status. A group that was once formally and official persecuted by the state, thrown to lions for the blood-thirsty entertainment of mobs, ridiculed and blamed for disasters afflicting the city. This minority group, in the Roman Empire, now find their fate being turned around when an emperor and head of state puts an end to their troubles and officially endorse the minority with protected and privilege status in the empire. This emperor now provides the minority with tax exemption status, access to high-ranking political offices, ownership of tax-exempt property and training and educational programs. All of a sudden, everyone wants to be a Christian.

Over time this majority becomes an oppressive majority policing people's thought, censoring their speech and restricting their liberties. They demonize their opponents as heretics and try to make them look ignorant and irrational, and use their privileged status to impoverish others.

Step back into modern society and western civilization, and I get the gut feeling that history is on the verge of repetition. Let us hope I am wrong!

Yet today, I am observing that in an attempt to right the historical social injustices against women, sexual minorities, Blacks and Muslims, each group has been awarded privileges. For me (and I am sure that even my pessimistic forerunner,  Karl Marx would agree), I see new ruling classes emerging as winners in societal conflicts. Even if I am in one such group (disclosure: I am visibly "black"), I fear the repetition of history. My knowledge of history and even the Hebrew Scriptures reminds me that there has never been a just egalitarian society. Attempts at establishing equality in the past has inevitably excluded some and privileged others. Western civilization in particular has historically privileged groups based on race, gender, ethnicity and religion.

So my question to the West today is how are we going to prevent inequality in the allocation of resources in our attempt to recompense previous minorities for the social injustices that they have suffered at the hands of the state and society? My eyes then shift to Israel, a state that was [re]created to right the wrongs of Europe's injustices against Jews. Today, Europe and the world seem to be remorseful as they consider the viewpoints of the Palestinians. Equality and justice are tricky things to put into practice and definitely more complex than we tend to believe.

No comments: