Think back to when you were 24 years old. What were you doing? Were you in college, or starting your first job? Perhaps you were getting married, or maybe you were working on your master’s degree.
The great artist Michelangelo, I recently learned, had just finished his famous “Pietà” sculpture at age 24. How’s that for putting yourself and your accomplishments in their place?
The comments on the above Tweet are revealing. One individual asked why we don’t have artists like Michelangelo anymore, while another noted, “The geniuses of a few artists, composers and scientists make me wonder if we were really created equally.”
That last commenter hit on the problem with one little word: “equally.” Equality is everywhere today. We urge equal rights for women and equality between the races. We advocate for marriage equality and trans equality and equality for genders we don’t even realize exist. We love equality so much that it’s almost as if we think all are equal, but that some are even more equal than others.
Society’s mass devotion to equality is so strong that it’s easy to assume that this trait alone will make us prosperous and advanced both as individuals and as a society. But equality comes at a cost, and it may be that instead of advancing us, equality is holding us back.
Alexis de Tocqueville explained the causes and effects of equality in his work Democracy in America. “Thus in proportion as men become more alike, and the principle of equality is more peaceably and deeply infused into the institutions and manners of the country,” he wrote, “the rules of advancement become more inflexible, advancement itself slower, the difficulty of arriving quickly at a certain height far greater.” In essence, if we are all going to be the same, then some must suffer, and the easiest way to make that happen is to make the overachievers and those in the middle of the pack go the pace of the laggards.
From hatred of privilege and from the embarrassment of choosing, all men are at last constrained, whatever may be their standard to pass the same ordeal; all are indiscriminately subjected to a multitude of petty preliminary exercises, in which their youth is wasted and their imagination quenched, so that they despair of ever fully attaining what is held out to them; when at length they are in a condition to perform any extraordinary acts the taste for such things has forsaken them.
We may well wonder why we no longer see geniuses such as Michelangelo and Mozart, or even the American Founders, some of whom signed the Declaration of Independence while still in their twenties. Yet the genius realm is not the only place this issue of equality is felt. The quest for equality negatively affects thousands of average students in today’s education system, where students are subjected to year after year of “petty preliminary exercises,” also known as standardized tests or diversity and inclusion classes.
The more time they waste with these standardized requirements or politically correct classes, the less time they will have to excel in imagination, creativity, or even the basic reading, math, and science that will turn them into the inventors, composers, and great men of the next generation of leaders. They will become bored and lazy, not caring to make the effort to step up in society, willing to sit back and be controlled by the few who hold the reins and know what’s going on.
And if we have no great men who can lead and think and create, then what more is left than for the entire society to become automatons, doing exactly what a few of the remaining, powerful elites tell them to do?
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