Finding Equilibrium

In a previous blog post I wrote about some of my questions about equality.  Why do some people actively seek it and why don’t others?  Is that they already see the world as equal as it can be?  Do they simply accept a natural order in which things are going to be unequal?  Or are they simply selfish, knowing inside that equality might remove them from a position of privilege?

Whatever the answer to that question is, a recent conversation with a friend, and articles about the inequality that exists in areas of Baltimore, got me thinking a little more about equality.  I started to think about the question:  What does equality even look like?  Is equality a state of perfection that we cannot attain?  Are we caught in idealism and not being practical?  How can equality be achieved, when we are all different?  I think those of us who fight for equality have visions for what that might look like, but have we ever actually seen it?  Does this sense of equality only lie in our hearts and we push in a direction not really thinking about where we end up?  Even though nature often tends towards balanced, it is state rarely reached if ever.  Instead we find most things oscillating about a state of equilibrium.  Many times that oscillation is damped, meaning that while we never quite reach a state of balance, each oscillation is not as wild (or in other words doesn’t take us as far from equilibrium as the preceding oscillation).  Is this perhaps what the fight for equality looks like – swinging back and forth until finally the oscillations about that state of equality or so minute that we can no longer detect the inequality anymore?  In a complex society where one can find many areas in which inequality exists, do we prioritize the most obvious ones first, until other ones seem resolved to the point that new areas of inequality see more important?  Or as a fellow blogger wrote when addressing the issues of vaccines, can we sometimes make the issue worse by continually fighting for something even when the problem doesn’t exist because of the time and energy we have invested into a cause?  A recent Daily Show piece discussed how anti-GMO groups have actually helped large corporations, like Monsanto, to gain more of a stranglehold on the food supply because they are now the only ones with the money to be able to afford all the bureaucracy it takes to get a patent on a genetically modified seed.

It occurred to me that although we might be great at pointing out inequality, how often do we have a conversation about what equality looks like, and does it exist anywhere?  Are there real examples we can use?  Are there any microcosms of the larger society we all want to live in?  It is has only been within the past 30 years or so that a lot of psychological research shifted away from just looking and ailments of the mind and started focusing on the more positive aspects of our humanity, like happiness.  While depression is terrible and it is important to help those with depression out of those states, is learning how not to be depressed that same as knowing how to be happy?  Can we always derive what a good example is, by simply only looking at bad examples?  I believe the answer to that is no.  Growing up with an alcoholic father, I learned about the kind of husband and father I didn’t want to be.  But as I had marriage troubles in my own life it occurred to me I never thought enough about what a good father and husband is supposed to be like.  It required a certain rewiring in my thinking.  When it comes to studying happiness it required asking a set of questions that haven’t been asked before.  What makes people happy?  What kind of behavior to happy people exhibit?  What kinds of societies are happier? These questions are important to ask and science has helped make a lot of progress in the area of happiness.

So while we are all pretty great at point out inequality maybe we should shift our focus to talking about what equality would look like.  Find real world examples.  Analyze how and why those societies work and how they are advantageous to what we already have.  Pointing out inequalities between men and women have value, but let’s have a conversation about what are the positive values we want a human to have, regardless of gender.  Let’s have an idea of where we are going, before we push.  It might even help us get there faster

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9 thoughts on “Finding Equilibrium

  1. Reblogged this on tweetlessblogmore and commented:
    “When life gives you lemons- make lemonade…”
    Shifting focus to a positive approach in dealing with “injustice” and “inequality.” Read on…this is a very inspirational post on how to deal with this life enigma…😇✌️

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  2. The happiest societies are the ones with the most social mobility. And I think that’s what people who argue against equality don’t understand. It’s not about making everyone the same–it’s about giving everyone the same chances and opportunities.

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    1. I agree Ryan. But even that is a broad statement. If we are to say let’s give everyone equal opportunity, what are the specifics? What does this society look like? I feel like we rarely take the opportunity to look at the positive aspects and what such a society looks like in practical terms. I think there are good answers out there, but few people make that part of the discussion and would rather talk only about inequality.

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      1. It would be interesting then to look at the societies that have the highest social mobility index and see what kinds of policies and cultural attitudes exist to make a higher degree of social mobility possible.

        I suspect, however, that the answer of “What does this society look like?” is going to be something fairly simple. Namely, that everyone would agree that everyone deserves an equal opportunity. I don’t think you see that a lot in America, frankly, where racism is still endemic and people exalt the individual over the collective good.

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        1. You’re probably right. I don’t think that it always boils down to having certain laws in place to make it happen. That being said I think it’s still helpful to see how you can have equality, high mobility and high standard of living in such a society, because I think a lot of fear comes into play as people fear more people having opportunity means less for them, but I don’t think it has to be that way.

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    2. The thing with social mobility is that it winds up leading to social stasis eventually. We’re all like our parents in terms of our personality, so through the generations of people will wind up pulling themselves up a little bit, giving their children a few more chances than they had, and then their children will do the same.
      Granted, every now and again you’ll wind up with a kid from parents who weren’t winners, but had the traits of that personality inside of them, and then the kid winds up being a winner, but that’s rare.
      In a society with high social mobility, you usually find that immigrants have the highest social mobility after the society has found where it’s staying.

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  3. Happiness is always a fleeting thing, which is the problem when people look to become happy all the time. It has to be fleeting, since its purpose was to make us strive to get things we needed; food, companionship, those sorts of things, they’re all the reason that happiness exists. Imagine if you ate a really nice meal, it made you happy, and then you stayed satisfied with that meal for the rest of your life. Would you ever eat again? I wouldn’t. Food costs money, and I already ate that one really good thing, so everything else will seem kind of lacking.
    The problem that the search for eternal happiness causes is that it raises expectations that you’re going to be happy when you do X thing. Get a lot of money, for example. You work your whole life to make a six figure income, and then you figure out that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. You still have problems, you still have good moments, you still have emotions other than happiness, which isn’t what you put all that god damned work in to get! You wanted happiness, and only happiness, until the day you died!
    I’d keep rambling if I went on, so this might turn into a post in itself. I’ll stop now.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Celia! I agree with you. The saying “life has its ups and downs” is very true as we tend to oscillate about a state of equilibrium there as well. And don’t worry about making long comments! With Ryan above, my comment got so long I just decided to cut and paste it, into a blog post. Lol

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