“One law for the lion and ox is oppression.” – William Blake
* * *
When I tell people that I don’t believe in equality, the response I get is invariably one that combines horror with incomprehension. How, people ask, could I not be in favor of equality? Equality is, after all (and as Tocqueville ably illustrated) the very business of America! How could I not think equality the most desirable state to which mankind can aspire, and that which we must work together to build? How could I not wish the government to pass laws to grant us more of it, and to want it implanted as a value in every human heart?
My reply is that they have misunderstood me. I do not say “I don’t believe in equality” in the sense that I might say that I don’t believe in Objectivism or Communism or Juche. I say “I don’t believe in equality” in the sense that I might say that I don’t believe in unicorns, or the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. I mean that I see no convincing evidence that the thing being discussed actually exists, either at an individual level or at a group level. Thus, it is immaterial whether I support it, or wish for it, or think it would be a great idea if we had more of it. Perhaps it would be the most wonderful thing in all the world if equality really existed, and perhaps I can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be. Similarly, I daresay it would be the most wonderful thing in the world if Santa Claus really existed, and I most certainly can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be. And yet reality remains what it is.
This, of course, runs up against two of the left’s most anti-reality tendencies. The first is its consistent inability to comprehend the difference between the descriptive and the normative – between an “is” and an “ought”. To the left, if something ought to be, then it is – or perhaps more specifically, if something must be true in order for their beliefs to be valid, then it is true, and questioning it will be placed beyond the pale. The second is their belief in the power that laws passed by governments have to restructure reality. They protest: “But we have passed laws to ensure equality! We have had Supreme Court decisions! The law is clear!” Perhaps it is – but it is also meaningless in the face of implacable reality.
So here is some reality: You cannot pass a law that will make human beings equal. You can pass a law that will force everybody to act as if human beings are equal, but that is not the same thing. The government could just as well pass a law forcing everybody to act as if unicorns existed, and enforce it with penalties so harsh that virtually nobody would be willing to speak up against it. In fact, you can go even father. You could mandate teaching about unicorns at schools and universities, and indeed, you could even set up whole Departments of Unicorn Studies. You could make sure that films and television were careful to never question whether unicorns existed. You could get people kicked off of social networks for snickering at the idea of unicorns. You could make it so that those who dared to disbelieve in unicorns were fired from their jobs, blacklisted from entire professions, and rendered unable to make enough money to put food on the table for their children to eat.
You could do all of that, and it still won’t make unicorns exist.
It is at this point that I can imagine conservatives and libertarians responding: “Alright, we accept that individuals are not inherently equal. But we should at least grant people equal treatment under the law! That is the cornerstone of liberty! It is the key principle to which free men subscribe! It is what the Founding Fathers fought for!”
I am afraid that at this point, I will rankle them by not only disagreeing with the premise of equality under the law, but by illustrating my point with something else I’m sure they’ll dislike: a defense of Islam.
To do this, let us start by looking at the rape epidemic sweeping Europe – at incidents ranging from the Rotherham scandal to the Cologne sex attacks – and ask ourselves why they happened. Specifically, why does the arrival of waves of young men from Muslim countries in northern European societies consistently correlate with a wave of sex-related crimes in those countries? The obvious answer is that they feel empowered to commit them, but at the bottom of that chain of discoveries lies a stark truth: The reason that they suddenly feel empowered to do in Europe what they would not do at home is because the system of restraints (statutory, religious, and cultural) that is sufficient to restrain Swedes, Danes, and Englishmen from doing these things is not sufficient to restrain Syrians, Somalis, and Pakistanis from doing them. In their own countries, they would likely be lashed, beheaded, or otherwise face punishments for these acts that Westerners would consider draconian, and they would be subjected to them after far less due process of law than Westerners are used to. And this, of course, is over and above all the preventative restraints found in Muslim societies such as a still-intact system of patriarchal control over wives or unmarried daughters, the covering of women in clothing that reveals nothing, and an honor code that takes sexual impropriety as a serious matter calling for retribution (often delivered directly by the family of the violated woman). This is a serious system of restraints. Would you or I want to live under them? Would we want to wrap our women head to toe in black cloth and face the lash (or lynching) for sexual indiscretions? Of course not. But we are (either genetically or by citizenship) Europeans, and these restraints would be unnecessarily harsh if placed on us. In criticizing Islam as regards these cases, therefore, we may be confusing cause with effect. It is likely that instead of causing incidents like these, Islam (and the set of restraints that it represents) is in fact the only thing that prevents them from being as much of an epidemic among young men from Muslim countries in their homelands as it is among groups of them in Europe*.
(I will note here that the harshness of the American justice system has long been, of necessity, set at a level necessary to deal with the disproportionate criminality of blacks. This means that it is in general much harsher than the justice systems found in places like Sweden, which were set up to restrain basically all-white societies. Whether this generally higher level of harshness has anything to do with the fact that there has been no notable rape epidemic among Muslims in America is a conclusion I will leave it up to my readers to make.)
The obvious answer for the afflicted northern European countries (other than disallowing immigration from Muslim lands) would be to establish different sets of restraints for Pakistanis than for Englishmen and for Syrians than for Germans. In fact, many Muslim communities in their nations have openly requested this by asking to be allowed to set up Sharia-based law courts to deal with infractions in their communities. And yet they are consistently opposed in this by their European hosts, whose unshakable faith in blank slate theory, human equality, and equal treatment under the law cannot permit them to enact an answer so obvious that even the supposed “victims” of this inequality would eagerly welcome it.
(It is worth noting that the Muslims in these communities were so frustrated by the refusal of European authorities to allow them their own courts that they took to implementing vigilante-style “Sharia Patrols” in cities in Britain and Germany to maintain order in their neighborhoods. The authorities cracked down on these aberrations against equality with a swiftness and sureness that one might wish it reserved for the likes of Al-Qaeda or ISIS.)
And here we face the trap that Blake warned us about. While it is impossible to enact a separate law code to deal with each different individual, it is both possible and, if there is to be true justice, necessary to enact a separate law code to deal with each identifiably different group. What happens if we do not? Then we must have one law for everyone. But if we do that, at what level do we set the harshness of its restraints? If we set it at the level of those who need the least restraint, then we will have endless chaos caused by those who need more of it. If we set it at the level of those who need more restraint, we will unnecessarily tyrannize those who need less of it. If we slosh around between the two in a hopeless attempt to somehow split the difference, we get what Sam Francis referred to as anarcho-tyranny.
This is why the American south’s now universally-reviled Jim Crow system was in fact both sensible and necessary. And oh, yes, it is reviled! A national mark of shame! To think that we ever required blacks to sit in the back of the bus, away from everyone else! What barbarism! And yet… what have the results of the abolition of this system been? Let us consider the case of the buses. Half a century after desegregation, what do they look like? The sad truth is that our roads are choked with cars – many old, rusted, and belching smoke – because nobody who can possibly avoid taking public transportation in this country does take it. And while there are multiple reasons for that, one that cannot be ignored is a desire to avoid the swarms of loud, scary blacks that are ubiquitous on public transportation in any big city in America (it is not for nothing, after all, that Jay Leno once referred to buses as “rolling bad neighborhoods”). This has a snowball effect. It keeps ridership low, which prevents expansion. It makes existing routes outside of poor black areas economically difficult to maintain, and new routes outside of them politically difficult to create (Why did the St. Louis MetroLink – known to locals as the “CrimeLink” – never expand into the wealthy suburbs west of the city proper? Why did the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART commuter train system never expand into rich, white, liberal Marin County, despite initial plans for it to do so? The reason is both obvious and rarely mentioned.)
So much for the liberal dream of us all giving up our cars and using public transit! More cars on the road, more traffic, more expense for the working poor, more pollution – all unintended consequences of the ideal of equality under the law.
Let us consider another example: The left is absolutely correct that “stop and frisk” laws have disproportionately targeted visible minorities, especially blacks, in many cities (perhaps most notably in New York). And when they did, crime went down drastically. As a result, black neighborhoods became drastically safer. Many non-criminals who lived in these neighborhoods had their effective level of freedom increased, because they were no longer imprisoned in their houses out of fear of walking the streets. Whites, no longer afraid to come and spend money there, did. Businesses started to thrive again. Things got better.
And then Black Lives Matter showed up and demanded equal treatment under the law – or else. Cities burned, and policemen were put on trial (after intense pressure from BLM or its allies on the left) for doing their jobs. The new mayor of New York declared his support for the protesters and antipathy toward the police. As a result, policemen started staying in their cars instead of patrolling, and started to turn a blind eye to what they once would have stopped. Predictably, crime started to rise again. This will not end well for anyone.
In Europe, one law for native whites and for Muslims is a disaster. In America, one law for white and black is a disaster. It is obvious why. Middle easterners are not Englishmen; blacks are not whites. Nor are any two distinct and identifiable groups of people the same as each other. For example: Jews are not Arabs (a fact reflected in the law of the Jews’ own homeland) nor are they whites. Women are not men. Aristocrats are not craftsmen, craftsmen are not peasants, and peasants are not slaves**. Yes, exceptions exist to just about any generally true observation. But we can’t make sensible law based on exceptions and edge cases. The “talented tenth” may be inconvenienced by laws like Jim Crow, but the untalented 90% is a huge problem that must be realistically dealt with. Besides which, wisely-exercised human judgment among authority figures can more than adequately adjust for exceptions and edge cases. (Though this is exceptionally difficult under the current system, because Moderns have a horror of human judgment, preferring to believe instead that impersonal, automatic, universal systems of law and bureaucracy will provide us with just and wise leadership).
Everywhere we either find helpless acceptance of the anarcho-tyranny that inevitably accompanies equality under the law, or we find people engaging in elaborate schemes by which to treat different groups of people differently without letting it appear that that’s what we’re doing (often by finding ways to price certain groups of people out of certain markets, thus making the cost of living skyrocket for everyone). Aside from the patent ridiculousness and injustice of all this, it is not sustainable. So why do we not simply formalize the obvious solution, which is to treat distinctly different groups of people with distinctly different attributes differently? The answer is simple enough: Because that would be an arrangement based on truth, and we are a society that both fears and hates the truth.
But law that is not based on truth can neither ever be just, nor can ever stand very long. Lions are not oxen, pretending that they are is delusion, and having one law for both really is oppression. This is the truth, and in the end, the truth cannot be ignored forever. As the old saying goes: “Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret”.
(*I will go on record as saying that we in the West don’t give Islam nearly enough credit. It manages to keep some basic semblance of order in a lot of very rough places – and among a lot of very rough peoples – that would almost certainly be much worse off without it. Thus, I do not at all question the utility of Islam when practiced in those places. I question only 1) its validity as a genuine revelation from God, and 2) its compatibility with other – especially Christian/European – cultures.)
(**There are some people who are natural aristocrats of the soul, and there are other people who, as Aristotle noted, are natural slaves. Just as it’s true that it’s basically impossible to stop a natural aristocrat from becoming some form of elite within the society around him, so too is it true that it’s basically impossible to free natural slaves, because “slave” doesn’t describe their employment or legal status, but simply describes who they are. They will inevitably, invariably become some form of slave within the society around them. Witness, for example, the permanent welfare class – disproportionately the descendants of the slaves of 150 years ago – who live in a form of slavery in which they are utterly dependent upon their masters, who [the actual labor of slaves being obsolete in the post-industrial age] ask them to work only one day a year. That is, election day, when the time and effort they put into voting is required in order to maintain their masters’ power over them – a labor which they gladly supply.)
Pingback: The Lion And The Ox | Reaction Times
Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2016/03/27) - Social Matter
Pingback: No Jeffersonian, he | Ex Cathedra 2.0
Pingback: The Very Best of Last Week in Reaction (2016/03/27) – The Reactivity Place
Pingback: Outliers (#2)