Of course we are not born equal. Yes, we all undergo process of birth; that is every human being must be born either through the vagina or by caesarean operation. What is common is that a human being must be born. It is the commonality of birth that has been stretched to imply equality. Even the treatment given to each unborn baby is not equal, and the moment a child staggers into life his/her reception is not equal to that of another child. Throughout life we strive to attain equality with the next person. It is a battle of struggles and strives and that is what defines individual efforts. At the very beginning, at birth, a child born to a billionaire is not equal in any parameter to a child born to a pauper; the world does not even receive them in equal measure. What is prevalent is the commonality of birth; not equality.
Equal before the law? Would I deceive myself that I am equal before the law when I am in contest with Dangote? Dangote comes to the court with a thousand SANs while I manage to appear with a ‘Charge & Bail’ lawyer with his outworn oversized second-hand jacket. Even without saying a word, the court knows and recognizes two unequal personages.
When God looks at an elephant and an ant, does He or She see equal creatures? Are the two creatures of equal size? Of course not. What is on ground is the commonality of breath of life; the fact that the two creatures breathe air to live, but even at that the air that an elephant gulps in a split second is more than the total amount of air an ant feeds on in a year! God created the fingers, and for sure the fingers are not equal!
Equality and commonality are two different and separate words; different in quality and import. But for centuries, especially since the phrase of ‘men are born equal’ was coined the world had been deceived by its self denial that mankind was born equal. The phrase gained momentum during the years of extremes of man’s inhumanity to man, the years of persecutions when some people in authority-religious, political and military- sought to destroy and exterminate others and their victims sought to assure themselves and reassert their undeniable humanity that ‘men are born equal’. It is the same blood that runs in our veins. It is the same brain we carry in our skulls. We all came to this world naked. All creatures except the bird came into the world unclad. But all these are COMMON features. These are attributes common to all mankind from birth. But to each and every child born there is a degree of difference in the quality and even quantity of their brains, of their skulls, even of their physical properties.
We need to re-examine our thoughts and fixed opinions on some age old aphorisms. We cannot continue to mouth what we know is not true, and what is obvious to be the opposite.
Equality is the ideal we all seek throughout life. Every one would like to be in the first position in his class. Every one would like to be the best footballer in his team. We all aspire to be rich and wealthy, and probably be the richest in the family if we cannot be the richest in our village, town or city. We want to be the most beautiful girl in our street, be the toast of the town. And because we cannot all be the first, we all aspire to be EQUAL to the first, the most beautiful and the richest.
Throughout our life’s journey we want to recreate Nature. We want to be equal to the other person when it is obvious even from conception to birth and to facilities available at growing up years that we are not equal. The nurture and nourishment some babies receive even at embryo stage are out of this world. Such babies are already at great advantage even before they are born. But they are born naked like all other babies. That feature at birth is only common to all babies, but it does not confer equality on them or their status.
A simple question: if we are born equal at what point does inequality set in?
Nature did not design mankind to be equal. If we are all equal, this life would be so dull and devoid of activities. Let us for a moment imagine a world without competition! It is in the over all interest of humanity that there should not be equality. Even in the material world we ensure there is no equality. There is commonality in the brand of cars manufactured, but the shapes differ, and the quality of accessories differs. The vehicles are made unequal to cater for the need and taste of the unequal consumers.
Houses are as varied as they come, and they do not share equality. Some of the materials used in the construction may be similar and common; they are never equal in gauge and measure depending on the architectural and engineering dictates.
We have all seen the huge fuss made at the birth of babies in the royal palace or in the State house. Not long ago, the Queen of England had a great grandchild; there were cameras from all the media houses in the world to herald the delivery in the hospital. Yes, it was childbirth. And the process of childbirth was as common as the process of babies in similar circumstances. But there was no equality even in the process and the fuss attached thereto.
It does not make sense to attach ourselves to self denial and glorify in it. We are not born equal and Nature did not design us to be born equal. We are thrown into the world under very different and dissimilar, but common circumstances. We spend our whole life time struggling to create equality, to be equal to Zik, Awo, or Ahmadu Bello, great men who themselves struggled hard, in spite of their own birth and background to attain greatness and a degree of equality with their peers.
We are not born equal, and there is no equality in life even though it is a desired ideal. Among the poor, there is no equality; we have the poor, the poorer and the poorest. Same goes for the rich fraternity. There is the rich, there is the richer and there is the richest. That is the way life is structured.
Let us recognise and accept that we were not born equal, we were not equally raised, and we must continue to struggle with determination, focus and strong will to equal the person next door in decent competition. But if we shun that path of reason and continue to delude ourselves that we are born equal, we would remain at the bottom of the ladder till God knows when!
However I dare say that human beings should be treated fairly, decently, equitably and ‘equally’, and people who have momentary advantage over others should always bear in mind that it is the advantage of differential in opportunity that they are enjoying. Those who enjoy a better start-up in life should not unduly rub it in to the detriment of the less privileged.
At the end of the day, you could be born with a thousand silver spoons in your mouth and end your life with a wooden spoon or no spoon at all! Inequality at birth is not a life sentence.
By Tola Adeniyi, Public Intellectual and Philosopher