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Is Equality For All A Realistic And Desirable Aim Within Society?

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Equality exists in many contexts. It can exist in the political level; individuals have the same rights under the law. It can exist in a social level, between categories of people, for example gender, or race. It can even exist on an individual level, as to how each person is treated. Equality cannot be confined to simply equal opportunities for all; for an equal and fair process is still equality. An equal and fair result is also equality. At each of the different level, equality shifts from being realistic or being desirable, sometimes both, or sometimes neither.

Modern societies often take for granted that social quality is desirable. Democratic values mean people from all backgrounds should be given an equal say to affect decisions in the country. All individuals should be given the equal right to education, and a chance at success in life. While this is amiable, one must consider if such a notion is in fact a realistic one. There is only so much that society can do to ensure equality. Taking a case of two boys, Tom and Jerry. Tom is from a respectable multibillion-dollar company owning family. Jerry on the other hand lives alone with his single mother along the streets. Assuming the every effort of equality, both Jerry and Tom are offered places in the same college. Upon entry to the college, Tom is instantly the popular guy with the hippest clothes and accessories, while Jerry is ostracized for his faded wear. The situation is simply not equitable. Tom comes from a 'normal' family and has potentially the love of both parents. Jerry has had to come to terms with only one parent. Hence in terms of psychological development, they are not equal. There are too many factors, too complicated to be realistically resolved within society's reach. It is thus, unrealistic for society to aim to ensure equal chance at success for people.

Society may also aim to provide equal opportunities for people. This could be done through education, hence the rich and the poor will both be admitted on grounds of meritocracy; if they do equally well they should have equal chances at the same job. However this is not always the case. Tom's parents may have connections, which obviously Jerry's mother would not have, giving him an edge in finding a job. His upbringing in a family business, may instil a keen eye for business in him, again giving him an edge over Jerry. In terms of purely academic criteria, assuming they both have equal capabilities, Tom would have a slight edge in background and upbringing. This analogy shows equal opportunity is not entirely a realistic aim for society. The extent at which society can aim for equality is limited to areas under state control, like education. Even then there are contradictions. Meritocracy is intended to preserve equality, where in the deciding factor for success is neither social background nor race, but rather ability. Therein lies the discrepancy; the talented will receive better attention than the not so talented, hence the process is hardly equal. Genuine equality would mean equal process as well, regardless of inherent differences, even in ability. Hence even to ensure an equal starting point would be to deny equal process, as such, equality in this sense is unrealistic.

However, there must be some truth in whether equality can ever be a realistic aim. For example, a mere century ago saw the gender roles of men and women in a very different state. Men were assigned the traditional breadwinning role while women were then regarded as child bearers and housekeepers. In modern society, it would seem the gender roles have now met at some point nearer to the centre. Both men and women now take on the top jobs in countries, with women in previously unheard of positions, sometimes even as a leader of a nation or one of the chief ministers. The attitudes and expectations of both genders have undergone much change; male chauvinistic mentalities are now ruthlessly condemn, not just by the women but also so men, in the name of equality. Society's expectations of men and women have changed much, for it is not uncommon now for women to be the breadwinners in the family as well, nor is it seriously frowned upon to be a househusband. Hence one could argue that a certain degree of equality has been reached.

The same case can be made for racial tolerance. In the 19th Century wherein America was rife with racial discrimination against the Afro-Americans, there was strong opposition to even a mere suggestion of equality between 'blacks' and 'whites'. In modern American, one can hardly see any signs of the touchy issue that tore the nation into two in the past. In both these cases, education over a long period of time is a clear factor; people gradually accept change. From known examples like Sri Lanka and Rwanda, where ethnic conflict is rampant, it is not realistic to expect change through imposing equality onto people through state policies. However, what the previous two examples have shown is that too a certain degree it is realistic to aim for equality, given amply time to change the mindsets of the people. How long would have to depend on the extent some mentalities are rooted in people.

But just how equal are those two examples. In a sense they too do not reflect equality properly. For example,

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