Collectively Not All People Are Equal

When Thomas Jefferson stated in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” (a phrase allegedly borrowed from an Italian patriot and friend, Filippo Mazzei) he obviously meant individual men and women, Indeed, it is self-evident that at the outset of life no normal individual is in any way better or worse than another. But it is also self-evident that as that each individual develops, some become more intelligent, creative, industrious, virtuous, courageous or in some other way superior to others. And it is further self-evident that when individuals coalesce as social creatures, the groups, nations and cultures that some form are clearly superior, or inferior, to others.

Compare, for example, the reaction of Haitians and Chileans to the earthquakes that wrecked their respective countries in 2010. Well-informed individuals from both countries—civic leaders, economists, physicians, priests, journalists, engineers, and such—were equally intelligent in their suggestions on how to aid the victims and repair the damage. Collectively, though, the outcome was quite different. In less than a year, Chile was near back to normal, its economy growing close to full capacity, whereas Haiti became mired in anarchy and pestilent squalor. True, the earthquake in Haiti was followed by a hurricane, but the earthquake in Chile and its aftershocks were more powerful. Diplomatic correctness aside, there is no denying that there is a virtue or strength in the collective character of the Chilean people that the Haitians sorely lack.

An even sharper contrast is evident between the residents of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese people doubly victimized this year by the worst tsunami in their nation’s history and the contamination of a large portion of their coastal waters by radiation from two damaged nuclear plants. Unlike New Orleans, there was no rioting or looting in Japan. Apologists for the lawlessness in New Orleans argue that the Japanese had no reason to riot or loot because they knew that the government of a highly developed country like theirs could be trusted to help them. Well, the United States of American is not exactly an underdeveloped country. The New Orleans rioters and looters surely knew this, and that the American government would come to their, which it did, in full measure. Yet they rioted and looted nonetheless. It should further be noted that the devastation and loss of live in Japan was, at last count, a least three times of in New Orleans.

Which leads us ask: Why is it that though all groups, nations and cultures in the world have their share of exemplary individuals--collectively some are markedly richer, or poorer, more civilized, or uncivilized, more democratic, or undemocratic, than others? Why, for instance, the marked difference between Sierra Leone and Finland? Though the size of their populations is approximately the same, and though Sierra Leone is endowed with a better climate and more natural resources, the standard of living in Finland is among the highest in the world, while that of Sierra Leone among the most miserable.

And the same distinctions apply here in America: The relative prosperity or poverty among regions, cities and neighborhoods throughout the country is sharply defined along ethnic and cultural lines. And not because they inherited or were forced into their situation, but because they created it. All our talk about diversity and equality may make us feel good, but it can’t hide the truth.

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