Freedom and fraternity distorted by equality

Discordance at the pediment

Of the french republican trio equality-liberty-fraternity it is the third that has been most often erased and replaced by a less discouraging noun: charity of Christians, comradeship of communists, solidarity of socialists, humanitarian of NGOs. Less discouraging? Yes, fraternity is so easy to sully. Collectivism quickly derived into groupism. That of the haves against the poor, of the bourgeois against the workers, of the first arrivals against the emigrants. The letters of ‘fraternity’ disintegrate on the pediment, but its successors are pale imitations, where an ideal of the human species is lost.

‘Liberty’ is no better. Who really feels free today, without being hindered by that of others? This is indeed the most ambivalent concept of the trio. Individual freedom is carnivorous. Total at home, it devours that of the neighbors. To believe oneself free is an effort to abstract one’s surroundings. We have inscribed solipsism on the pediment! Embarrassing when it’s a social pediment. The maxim exhibits the fundamental conflict between the individual and her environment rather than a harmonious trio of fundamental ideals.

A sauce or gelling agent?

‘Liberty’ and ‘fraternity’ rub shoulders as polite enemies. Can ‘Equality’ serve as a binding agent for this bitter sauce? Oh my dear, it is the contrary. It spoils the recipe! At least ‘liberty’ and ‘fraternity’ are sincere aspirations. But ‘equality’? Who wants to be equal to everyone else? I want to be equal to the best and not to the mediocre, to the rich and not to the poor, to the land occupier and not to the migrant. My desire for equality soars in the face of rewards and ebbs in the face of disappointments. Equality is not an aspiration. It contradicts the most intimate human nature, which is to do better than average, and take advantage of it. Reason uses the ‘equal’ sign, but desire uses only the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’. The brain is attentive to contrasts, everything else is a background of dispassionate habits.

Social equality is a farce. But since it was inscribed in the company of the worthy ‘liberty’ and ‘fraternity’, no one laughs anymore. On the contrary, its appearances provoke the greatest seriousness. Or even a recollection. The jester became a saint, the object of a new religion. Extremist, moreover. Who today dares to question sacred equality? The importun is immediately beheaded. This is also the last article of this blog 😉

Before the guillotine

Because of this long series of beheadings, we must go back to Tocqueville to find a trace of a relevant reflection on the consequences of equality:

“When all the prerogatives of birth and fortune are destroyed, when all professions are open to all, and when one can reach the summit of each of them by oneself, an immense and easy career seems to open up before the ambition of men and they gladly imagine that they are called to great destinies. But this is an erroneous view, which experience corrects every day […]. When inequality is the common law of a society, the greatest inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is mean, the least hurt it […]. It is to these causes that we must attribute the singular melancholy that the inhabitants of democratic societies often show in their abundance.”

Equal opportunities open the door to all ambitions. But it’s about the odds at a competition. The results translate virtual equalities into real inequalities. Produce a frustration all the greater as the hopes were phantasmagorial. The principle of equality increases the number of very satisfied as well as the very desperate. This explains why the steady rise in the standard of living does not increase the average happiness felt.

Living in a suicidal transvestite?

Our revolutionary ancestors, simple and wounded souls, made a critical mistake by inscribing this damn equality on the pediment. Could we believe that it would serve as a buffer between the enemies ‘liberty’ and ‘fraternity’? Bad idea. It actually blocks any management of their conflict. Do you think that in a particular context it is necessary to privilege certain individuals, or on the contrary the collective? Holy Equality will forbid you to act. Even if the measure is consensual, there will always be a small group to wave the banner of the sacred, and block everything. Or eternally delay. Equality ended up infiltrating democracy with a dictatorship: that of stupidity. A few opinions “equal” to others, although stupid, are enough to freeze everything.

A society based on pure ideals does not work. In practice it uses nothing but compromises. By symbolizing itself by unattainable ideals, it wears makeup. And by incompatible ideals, it commits suicide. We live in a transvestite with an incurable disease. And hope? A trio of ideals can only be a hope if they are consistent with each other. Otherwise it’s promising the mess! That is what is happening. With such a pediment, which no one can believe, we pass from revolution to revolution. Even democracy, despite its unprecedented flexibility, is falling apart.

What should be inscribed on the pediment?

What merits registration? What we must never lose sight of: ideals. But also, since they are contradictory: which weakens their interpretations that are too radical, hyper-individualistic or ultra-communitarian. Which describes the smooth running of a society in perpetual transformation, the management of its incessant conflicts. Like what:

“Liberty, fraternity, arbitration”

Inequality is a genetic gag. Denying its existence does not make equality a serious principle. Of the nobility, certainly it possesses. But we already find it in fraternity, which attributes equal importance to all, and in freedom, which is that of equaling others. This quantitative equality in no way diminishes the intensity of the struggle between ‘liberty’ and ‘fraternity’, irreducible qualities. We will never prevent them from engaging in their eternal conflict. But it is with arbitration, and not equality, that we will keep it… polite.


1 thought on “Freedom and fraternity distorted by equality”

  1. A good friend said recently: without cooperation there is no civilization. I think that is right, inasmuch as the cooperation piece is rapidly going extinct. So, we are left with third party intervention, a remedy long embraced by employers and viewed with distrust by labor organizations. Arbitration seems an only answer at the moment.


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