Humans are not equal

The coronavirus pandemic brings the delusion of human equality into stark relief.

There is a myth that institutions, from the UN to countries and NGO’s, like to propagate. This is the fantasy that humans are born equal and that their lives are of equal value. All across the world we now see that the infection carriers are mainly younger and asymptomatic. The dead are mainly among the old and the weak. Everyone is now seeking “herd immunity”, but a herd is always on the move. Its security lies in leaving behind and sacrificing the old and the infirm to satisfy the predators. The coronavirus is predatory. It is the younger and stronger who can get the economies to start up again. And the old and the infirm are being left behind.

It has happened in Spain and Italy and the UK as well but I take Sweden as an example where the myth that human lives have equal value is particularly strong. It has become exceedingly clear that the lives of those who may place a greater burden on the nationalised health services are worth less than of those who won’t. Almost 90% of all deaths attributed to the coronavirus in Sweden, (actually 87% currently), are of those over 70 years of age. Many of these were because the infection entered the care homes where the elderly were trapped, mainly through asymptomatic care workers. Unions have then blocked care workers from providing care in some infected care homes. Government institutions have even formally promoted the downgrading of the value of the lives of the elderly. The Swedish Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has explicitly lowered the priority to be given to those with a lower “expected remaining life”. It is not just coincidence that some Stockholm hospitals have rejected some of the elderly from available intensive care places, in case younger patients with a greater chance of survival might have need of them. (Expressen 23rd April)

There is nothing right or wrong with the reality that humans are not equal. Far better to openly accept the reality than hide behind a delusion.

Humans are not born equal, nor do they live equally and they do not die equal.

Humans are born genetically unique. In one estimate by the FBI for identifications in court, the chance of a DNA profile being matched by another person is much less than 1 in 260 billion. All the humans who have ever lived over 200,000 years as “anatomically modern humans” number about 110 billion. No two have ever been genetically alike or have had identical DNA profiles.

Humans are not born “equal” in their genes. The capability envelope – physical, mental and behavioural – for any individual is already set at birth (actually soon after conception). Nurture then determines what an individual can actually achieve within the capability envelope. But, no amount of nurture (nourishment, upbringing, training, learning or experience) can enable an individual to break out of the predetermined envelope of capability. Nurture may have enabled me to run faster than I can, but no amount of nurture would have made it possible for me to run as fast as Usain Bolt.

Humans are not equal either in the nurture they receive. The reality is that all humans are born naked, with no resources, no debts, no liabilities and with only those privileges as may be granted, or liabilities that may be imposed, by the surrounding human society. They are born utterly dependent upon surrounding humans for their survival. Nourishment and upbringing are determined by the far from equal capabilities of parents. Education and learning and experience vary according to the means of the parents and the surrounding society. The vastly varying levels of support they receive from others, at birth and through their upbringing, further emphasizes that they are not equal. They differ in nourishment, upbringing, training, learning and experience. They differ in what they contribute to, or receive from, their surroundings.

Humans do not behave equally. From birth and through their lifetimes, they differ in their actions and behaviour and interactions with others. They differ in the people they interact with. They behave differently from each other, to each other and differently through their lives.

Human lives are not lived equally. The value any creature places on its own life is entirely subjective and not something that can be estimated by others. Presumably this value is at the maximum possible for the individual concerned. The value of any human life within its own society varies with manifested behaviour and over time. The value to its own surrounding society is also a subjective judgement. However, it varies across societies, from one human to the next and over the life of that human. It is neither static nor a constant. The value of an undistinguished human life may be priceless to friends and relatives, but quite low in its immediate society and may approach zero to a distant society. The value of a distinguished life may extend far beyond the boundaries of the local society and long after that life is over. 

And when a human, no matter how distinguished or productive earlier, is committed for life to a care home or a hospice, the reality is that the current value of that human life, to that society, has dwindled to not very much.

Humans are not born equal, nor do they live equally and they do not die equal. 

There is nothing right or wrong with that. It just is. Far better to openly accept the reality than hide behind a delusion.



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4 Responses to “Humans are not equal”

  1. Robert Says:

    “Equality” was a concept established by the Deists who wrote the Constitution. It “ONLY” meant that people could not be discriminated against based on their Religion. Since then it has been extended to include Race. And only recently has it been applied to the Sexes.
    By have equality under the Law established by the Law, this prohibited the practice of persecution by Faith. Otherwise, the Equality argument that you are pointing at makes no sense.

    • ktwop Says:

      Yes. Unfortunately “equality” has become overused and is used very sloppily. We rage against discrimination but the purpose of justice (always by the prevailing power) is to discriminate against what is judged to be “bad”.
      In Sweden the phrase “människörs lika verde” is treated like a commandment from on high. It translates to “equal value of humans” and is so grossly overused and misused as to have become meaningless.

      • Robert Says:

        Equality under the Law is the foundation of Western Liberal Democracy. It’s not saying you are as Tall or Smart as your neighbour, it establishes that all members in a pluralistic society are treated Fairly with all else being equal, no preferences given to any group based on religion, race or sex. It doesn’t mean a woman makes as good a Construction worker as a man, nor does it say she can’t be as good as a man. The judgement is based on merit, not circumstances of birth.

      • ktwop Says:

        This is an interesting use of the word “equality” which deserves a post in its own right (when I can get around to it).
        “Equality under the law” is not about the sameness of people but about the sameness of the manner in which law is to be applied to all people. Some principle for application is necessary for any legal system and this is a fine principle. However, it is a theoretical principle and there is no country where exceptions to the principle are not built into the legal system. Real systems are applied, in principle, in the same manner to all people, but make exceptions variously for,
        • those who are below a certain age,
        • those who are judged to be mentally disturbed,
        • those who have compounded with the enforcing power,
        • those who are explicitly included/excluded in the provisions of the law in question,
        • those who cooperate with the enforcing power,
        • those who admit guilt but compound with victims,
        • those who make settlement with alleged victims,
        • those granted immunity for a variety of reasons
        • those selected to be made examples of
        • ……
        The principle is further softened by the unavoidable inequalities introduced by the inequalities of competence (judges, lawyers, investigating authorities, …), or work-load or political expediency. The Law itself is not sacrosanct or immutable. Laws can be unjust, or badly formulated, changed by the enforcing power (whether a democracy or a dictatorship), or even obsolete.
        Sameness of people does not exist.
        Sameness of the manner of applying law is a laudable objective.

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