Equality and Freedom

Tuesday, 14 July 2009 08:55 By Maurice Ulrich, Truthout | name.

Equality and Freedom

    Two hundred and twenty years after the taking of the Bastille, new Bastilles offer a challenge to reason. Hundreds of millions of men, women, and children live on less than a Euro a day, but that's not all. Access to water, massive air pollution, access to health care, to education, the situation of women, children, and minorities are so many abysmal and often criminal inequalities in a world that people say has become a village. In developed countries, in France, how can anyone justify the fact that the CEO of a big corporate group earns three hundred times more than the employees of the same group? What is equality for the most humble employees, the unemployed, youth going from one temporary job to another without any security, immigrants deprived of the right to vote, the undocumented, the homeless?

    The crisis has revealed the many scandals of golden parachutes, stock options, phenomenal bonuses that the big bosses and their elite circles help themselves to. Indignation seems even to have overcome the head of state, although he is very much their friend, as he frowns, shrugs his shoulders, raises his voice. Some heads have been lectured, it's true, but the whole thing has only taken off again with renewed vigor and, above all, nothing has changed with respect to the basis of the system. The seizure by a small number of people of the wealth produced by many more. That's called capitalism. The rents paid to those who owe everything to other people's labor: that's called dividends.

    So it is that obvious? Undoubtedly not, since equality has quickly been reduced to the struggle against inequalities, then to the fight against discrimination. The various discriminations are, clearly, unbearable. The salary gap between men and women is scandalous, as are scandalous the barriers put up for hiring and in life because of national or ethnic origin, name, sexual preference, or any other expression of the diversity that makes for the richness of humanity. Equality is not uniformity; to the contrary, it's the possibility for everyone to be himself. It is, to borrow from Marx, the formula by which he defined communism: "The free flowering of each person's creative faculties without any pre-established standard." Which also means that equality is not only a necessary and urgent response to injustices, but also the development of each person's freedom.

    Nicolas Sarkozy and the boss of European bosses, Ernest-Antoine Seillière, oddly use almost the same words to oppose freedom and equality. That's an archaism of capitalist, reactionary thought. We may still be surprised that it should come from the mouth of the President of the Republic, when Equality and Freedom are, with Brotherhood, the Republic's specific motto. It doesn't sit well with him? But freedom and equality truly form an indivisible couple, the progeny of which could well be brotherhood. The three terms, in their tension, in their future, express that community of people who all acknowledge themselves as free agents associated together in the responsibility for the res publica and construction of a common humanity. That's exactly what Jaurès meant when he wrote that Humanity is yet to come.

    Now there's not an inch of the planet that eludes the exploitation of man by man and the exhaustion of the earth's resources in the race for profits. But modernized capitalism is not modernity. It's what we have to get beyond, in the permanent conquest of new rights, new freedoms. People are born free and equal in rights. That's not an observation. It's an affirmation and a program for action.

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    Translation: Truthout French language editor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 July 2009 09:29