Humans are equal! This has become a universal slogan. But are they? I have heard people comparing their educational backgrounds to those of the underprivileged ones. Why is our vote equal to an illiterate citizen’s, they ask.
So, is equality a human right or is it just an excuse used by the uneducated and unskilled to rob the ambitious ones of their assets and rights?
The idea of equality became part of the international political discourse when the UDHR was drafted and signed by all sovereign members of the UN in 1948. The concept was derived from the works of the Enlightenment philosophers who disapproved of the ideas like monarchy’s divine right to rule, the aristocrats’ right to have a monopoly over the powerful positions of the state, and the church’s power to manipulate the lives of the masses by providing religious cover to the absurd and inhumane practices of the monarchs.
Ironically, these practices are still prevalent in today’s Pakistan. People are being ruled by political dynasties and religion is being used as a political ideology, blackmailing people into voting the political parties to power that present themselves as ‘pious’ and ‘righteous’.
If we agree with the equality-for-everyone principle, what about the concept of meritocracy, ability, and expertise? Can an illiterate person be considered equal to a Ph.D.? Of course not. But that is what the state does at the time of elections under universal suffrage.
People can’t be equal. But then why is the concept cherished so much?
It is cherished because equality of all humans means that all humans should have the right to equal opportunity. There can be no excuse for discrimination under any pretext. All humans cannot possess the same skills but they can acquire the required skills given equal opportunity.
Many among us are faring better than others only because we had the privilege of being born in privileged families. We can’t let the fate of a person be sealed at the time of birth. We must acknowledge the fact that billions of people don’t have access to basic needs and it is because they weren’t given equal opportunities.
We can’t look away. Those of us who have had the opportunities in life must strive to improve the lives of those around them. Helplessness and vulnerability shouldn’t be accepted as ‘fate’ and the concept of ‘fate’ shouldn’t be allowed to condemn people to a life of misery and despair forever.