Research suggests that many New Zealanders are ignorant in ways that support left-wing and secular ideologies. Don’t blame me, I didn’t carry out the survey!
A common theme in my thinking lately is about the way that we humans come to hold many beliefs for non-rational reasons. We imagine the world to be a certain way, not because it is that way but (whether we realise it or not) because it would suit us in some way for the world to be that way. If we’re prejudiced against foreigners, it’ll suit us to say that we’ve got a major problem with migrants coming here, whether such a problem exists or not, and we’ll – unconsciously, perhaps – look for ways to interpret any available data in a way that supports this belief. If we are hardcore left-wing feminist social justice warriors (you know who you are), it would suit our interests if there was a real massive pay gap between men and women in our country, or if a lot of pro-lifers were violent terrorists, and as a result we may well form those beliefs with little or no assistance from the facts, quite apart from whether or not the world really is this way. In bipartisan fashion I’ve picked a “left wing” and a “right wing” example.
Because of my interest in the subject of why we believe as we do, I was intrigued to look at the findings of recent survey called “Perils of Perception 2015: A 33 Country Study.” The subtitle is “Perceptions are not reality: What the world gets wrong.” The summary reads: “Ipsos MORI’s latest version of the Perils of Perception survey highlights how wrong the public across 33 countries are about some key issues and features of the population in their country.”
Social equality matters. But does it matter how we go about getting it? Surely it does.
There are two ways to think about equality. The way that I find most interesting is not the one I’m talking about here. I’m most interested in what I call basic equality. That’s the idea that we are all each other’s equal. We’re all equally deserving of a basic level of respect, we all have the same starting point when it comes to our inherent value and there’s therefore something true to the claim that we have a duty to treat each other as having a fundamental dignity as human beings. I think that’s a correct idea. I also think it’s a fascinating idea because it’s tenaciously held by many proponents of political liberalism who reject the theological foundations of basic equality, as I discussed in episode 8, “Secularism and Equality.” I don’t think they can have it both ways.
But that’s not the kind of equality that I’m talking about now. Here I’m talking about equality as an outcome at which we aim, the results of personal practices as well as social policies. To aim at equality in this sense is not, of course to make everyone just the same (surely nobody wants that), but it is to try to aim at creating a society where everyone can thrive and there’s no gross disparity in people’s lot in life. Sure, some people will be rich and others not so much. But to have general social equality, there won’t be CEOs with weekly incomes that amount to a full year’s wages for someone who works back-breakingly hard for forty hours a week (to pick an obvious example). There won’t be people who can afford every luxury that life can possibly offer, while others who genuinely work to earn a living and provide for their families must live in continual anxiety about whether or not they can meet costs of the basic necessities of life. Continue reading “Equality: Just and unjust”→