Thursday, 12 March 2015

How Inequality Created Mankind

A long time ago, when our ancestors were still living in the trees, there lived a humanoid, whom I will call Lucy. Times were tough for Lucy. She was what later humans would refer to as “the runt of the litter.” Due to her small size and consequently weak physique, Lucy always got the worst of everything. She got the worst food, the worst mates and the worst spots to sleep at night. One night, when the group was  staying in a particularly small tree, Lucy was kicked out of even the worst spot. She was forced to spend her time on the ground, terrified out of her wits. All her nerves were on edge as she curled into a ball between the roots of the tree, too scared to even open her eyes.
Morning came and Lucy crawled out, all stiff and weary. After another difficult day of foraging and gathering, that night, Lucy was again denied a spot to sleep in the tree. But this time, she felt braver. The one night that she spent alone on the ground had toughened her. This time, instead of squeezing inside the tree’s roots, she gathered a bunch of leaves and fallen branches, and fashioned something resembling a bed inside a rather spacious section of the roots. And that night, she slept peacefully. She wasn't  afraid of the ground anymore. 
Next day, Lucy did not climb back up the trees. Why should she? She was safe on the ground. And gathering food from the ground was easier than from the trees, where she would have to fight the others and still up with the worst.
Some days passed by and Lucy noticed that she was no longer alone on the ground. More weaklings had opted to climb down and try their luck on the ground. The different was slowly becoming the norm.

Lucy could be the torchbearer of a very significant step in human evolution because she was physically disadvantaged. This disadvantage forced her to improvise and adapt, and thereby devise something new and innovative. To make a very generic statement (as I have done in the title), the entire human civilization owes its shape to inequality. I use the term in its widest sense, that of an inter-species, universal inequality.

Except for our brains, human beings are the most disadvantaged among the species on earth. Most of our primal, landmark innovations seem to be aimed at getting over this disadvantage as a species. A variety of innovations ranging from the first clothes to the airplane comes to mind. Another major part seems to be a result of the intra-species inequality, that is, disadvantaged humans trying to be at par with the well-off of their species, or, the latter trying to widen the gap. Invention of the wheel and numerous other means of convenience serve as examples.
I would go so far as to posit that without the inherent inter-species and intra-species inequality, the Homo Sapiens would still be stuck in some primitive phase of evolution. In fact, such a line of reasoning would allow us to question whether the very idea of evolution, or that of life itself would have been possible without the idea of inequality.
The basic tenet of evolution is the diversification of genes. Natural selection and differentiation come much later. And diversification – or difference of any sort for that matter – presupposes inequality. If things are equal, where is the scope for diversification?

Moving away from abstract notions and minutiae to a more complex level of affairs, is it possible to conceive of a society that is Equal in the complete sense of the term? I simply cannot wrap my head around the idea. I can think of such a society only in terms of what it would lack. For instance, in an Equal society, which would inherently be homogeneous, there will be no place for art. This might be an extreme generalization, but in a world without differences, how can there be any comparison, and therefore art? In fact, even the notion of a society would not arise in an Equal world. What would be the motivating factor for a species to form into a group if every member is equally efficient and therefore self-sufficient?

Inequality seems to be the norm in the basic foundational concepts, including nature . Equality then takes the shape of an unattainable and Utopian ideal.

While my logic may find its peace with such a notion, my rationale may find it hard to accept. And that’s rightly so. Human civilization has expanded this notion of inequality to such an extent that it can no longer be sustained by logic. Sure, nature isn't equal. But unlike humans, nature is justly unequal.

Nevertheless, I find it rather interesting a notion that our entire existence may be based on an ideal that we oppose and try to resist day in and day out.