Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We are not equal

The other day I was watching an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic with my daughter. This particular episode was about a village where everyone was equal. Everyone had the same talents, the same jobs and wore the same clothes, even their smiles on their faces. The village leader had the premise that “too many differences can lead to disarray,” to bitterness and misery. So instead of learning to embrace their differences and working together with their differences, everyone was made the same. The message of the episode was, in the words of Princess Twilight Sparkle, everyone “has unique talents and gifts and when we share them with each other, that’s how real friendship” is enjoyed. Why are we trying to make everyone equal when it’s obvious we are not? I am not saying that we cannot be treated the same. The U.S. Constitution says that we are all born with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is often confusion about equality with rights. We all have the same rights but we are not all equal.

We all have different talents, different skills, and different abilities. I’m smart. I can recall facts which helps me play games like Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit well. If I have the time, I can write a 1,000 word blogpost in a couple of hours while I know some people who struggle with writing a single paragraph. However, give me an engine to fix and I wouldn’t know where to start. But give that same engine to a master mechanic and it’s a piece of cake. I am not equal to the skills of that mechanic. My husband has better customer service skills than I do. He can talk and create a rapport with just about anyone and I have a hard time starting a conversation with someone I don’t know or have little in common with. I have family and friends who are better at being assertive and speaking their minds than I am. I have my own talents. I am a better reader. I read fast with better comprehension than some. I’ve read books that made my middle school English teachers shocked that a 13 year old would 1) read it and 2) enjoy it. Do my strengths and weaknesses make me better or worse than others? No, just different. It took me a long time to realize that I may never have the same skills as others. I’ve learned to embrace my strengths and utilize other tools to help me with my weaknesses.

With different talents and skills, we all can do different jobs. We all can’t be CEOs or President of the United States or talented musicians or inventors. We all can’t be rich and powerful. We still need people to fix our cars, fix the plumping, and mow the grass and any other job which help our daily lives function. Every job is worth doing when a demand is needed. You may think people do these jobs due to a lack of skill or even education. Many people don’t realize the education and training people go through in order to fix our cars, especially cars with more electrical and computer components than before. However, some jobs have a component that cannot be taught: creativity. Do you think creativity can be taught? I don’t think so. A creative person with an eye for fashion can see a bolt of cloth and imagine a dress or shirt when someone else just sees a bolt of cloth. I can look at an empty word document and write a short story or a book review. We all have a unique set of strengths, of challenges and views and opinions which we can use to do different jobs and functions in our society.

Different talents and skills doesn’t mean that we do not have equal opportunity to use those talents and skills. Equal opportunity doesn’t mean equal outcome. A group of students should have an equal opportunity to be a success but what differs is their motivation and means to achieve an outcome. Individuals born into upper- and middle-classes have the means to be a success but may not always have the motivation to do so. Some people are born into poverty have a longer ladder to climb and have a fiercer motivation and determination to achieve success than is greater than their means. There are countless examples of rags to riches stories. JK Rowling was a single mother on welfare when she starting writing the Harry Potter series. Now she’s worth an approximate $850 million. David Geffen is a music mogul with a natural talent for recognizing musical genius. With a business sense taught to him by his mother, he was able to become a millionaire by the age of 26. Despite the fact that he did poorly in high school and flunked out of college. What about those who were born into “riches” and ended up in rags? What about those stories? The Vanderbilt family was once the second richest family after the Rockefellers. Six generations later, the empire that Cornelius Vanderbilt built would no longer operated by the family. An example that means does not equal success just as lack of means equals failure.

We all have different talents and skills. We all face different challenges and we all have different means and motivation in order to meet those challenges. We can’t all be the Super Bowl winning quarterback or Employee of the Month. There is nothing wrong with different. If we all are the same, the world would be bland and boring as depicted in the My Little Pony episode. Our differences help make this world vibrant and interesting. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird once wrote “We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe- some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others- some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men.” We are not equal. Where we are the same is that we have the right to use our strengths and talents, to overcome our weaknesses, to make a difference in our world. The difference we make may not be in the grand scheme of the entire world but our everyday lives.