What we need is not the neoliberally toted equality of opportunity, but an equality of means!!! The word opportunity can be interpreted in quite unequal ways, turning the equality of opportunity mantra into a trick to scam people into accepting gross disparity in real living conditions. The remote opportunity of the rags-to-riches legend which hardly ever turns into reality for anyone (and usually only by harming others in the process) compares poorly with what I would call a means equality. Considering the vast difference in life’s starting conditions between upper class privilege and lower class deprivation, the claim of having equality of opportunity becomes a sarcastic joke. Furthermore, when someone falls down on their luck, should we have no compassion whatsoever and deny any help based on the sociopathic idea of everybody being responsible only for themselves?
When I speak of an equality of means, I refer to a country or even global human world of equal financial safety, equal educational provisions, equal political say, and medical safety for everybody. A safety net for all, a guaranteed floor under everyone’s feet that no-one is left to fall and stay below... below where, in our current system, folks are left cringing, writhing, and helplessly struggling unemployed in a jobless economy; physically, financially, or mentally handicapped; overburdened with raising kids as single parents or the care they give to sick relatives; unassisted by those who can spare the means to help and may not even have earned their means; and on top of everything else shamed with the mockery that they somehow failed to make successful use of the single, tiny, almost non-existent “opportunity” to climb the economic ladder that they may have once had during a brief moment in their lives.
I always hear establishment puppets, who float into comfy political or managerial jobs offered to no-one else, saying that they want equality of opportunity for all, that we want that too, and that we already have it, or – if we vote for them – will get this equality of opportunity with one little tweak that will take care of that purportedly last missing inch.
What equality of opportunity are they talking about when someone like Paris Hilton is born ridiculously rich and has countless millions more flow into her wallet for simply living a wealthy socialite life? What equality of opportunity are they talking about when someone is born into the wealthy and well-connected Bush family, is a mere C student in high school, still gets to go to Yale and Harvard Business School on a path greased by his parents’ money, goes AWOL from the National Guard Unit where he was placed to avoid having to serve in Vietnam, is a coke-head and alcoholic, doesn’t even have a job till he is forty, and then – with the help of election rigging conducted by the governor of Florida who happens to be his brother – becomes President of the United States?
What equality of opportunity are they talking about when a man born into a poor family can’t get college paid by high-income parents, won’t inherit a penny, but being a brilliant student still manages to work himself up into graduate school with a teaching and research assistantship; once there however gets screwed out of his Ph.D. degree when he gets caught in the crossfire of infighting professors; then has to spend the rest of his life bouncing around between entry-level career changer jobs, getting laid off time and time again because of hostile business takeovers, Wall Street crashes, and the like, losing him his life savings every time when he is between jobs? What when he eventually builds up for himself a self-employed career in order to escape this professional nomad life but loses this career as well, this time due to unpredictable health issues he cannot get treated because of unaffordable health insurance? How do these three examples resemble equality of opportunity in any way?
These false claims of equal opportunity based on there being no law saying you can’t apply to a university, work yourself up a corporate ladder, or register a business — but everyone starting out in life with such vastly different means which, to a very large extent, determine the outcomes of efforts, make me imagine traveling back in time to tell the slaves on the southern plantations in our dark past that they have opportunity equal to their masters because, in theory, they could leave behind their family and try to run away, then after getting caught and having a limb amputated for punishment, they could – even though it was prohibited – somehow learn to read and write and thereupon forge themselves passes and manage to run away again and this time escape to Canada, and find some sort of low-pay employment with which to scrimp and save up enough money to buy the freedom of some of their relatives... Sure, it’s equal chances all around, ain’t it?
I am not satisfied with that sham. I want a less cruel system. In fact, I want a system that is NOT cruel.
Dirk Droll is the publisher, main writer, and senior editor of Beanstock’s World where many of his articles found here originate.