The second paragraph of the U.S. Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …”
It has taken two amendments to straighten out this “self-evidence,” the 14th and the 19th, but I take no issue with that here. Rather, I’d like to point out something that 99.999% of the world does when reading or hearing this, which the Gentle Reader most likely also did.
Most read this as “… all men are equal.”
The word “created” is ignored, dismissed, glossed over or otherwise discounted in arguments about the equality of individuals. Yet no sane person really believes that “all persons” are equal. The Revolutionary Soldier initiated by the Declaration certainly did not consider the British soldier to have an equal voice in the affairs of the new America. The British Soldier was being given two options, and two options only. Quit or die. Of course, the Brit was giving the revolutionists the same options, but the Brit was not kidding himself about anyone being equal.
When we decide to shoot someone, we do so from a self-styled position of superiority, where we believe we have the inalienable right to take away from someone all that they have, and whatever value they have to family and friends. This is why all arguments against war begin with someone saying, “Those people have as much right as you to their ideas, place of residence, choices, freedom to act, etcetera,” and all arguments for war answer, “No, they don’t.”
The word "created" is not an accidental adjective that flew off Jefferson's pen and was then ignored by the Declaration's 56 signers. It's very clear what it means. It means that what you do with your life after being created matters ... and that if you want to be treated as someone better than equal, you had better try be better than equal. Or else, you will have to live with being less than equal.
But our re-reading of the Constitution, and all like documents, discards this condition. "I have a right to equality because I am a human," the present-day argument goes. "I have blood, I have flesh, I have feelings, I am therefore the equivalent to everyone ..." followed by that most important rejoiner, "... and everyone is equivalent to ME."
A number of social philosophies have gotten us here. The whole Soviet experiment, along with Orwell's answer to it, which has stigmatized the words, "More equal than others," to the degree that anyone who dares to lift their head above the trough is trying to live in the farmer's house. Coincidentally, all those shouting at us to keep our head in the trough clearly have their heads out of it, since they can see us well enough to rebuke our momentary curiosity about things.
The insistence on absolute equality for all, regardless of distinction, is flooding through every social discourse at the present. In a recent interview with a long-time heroine of mine, Christie Blatchford, who used to write brilliant pieces for the Canadian Globe and Mail, when it was a good paper, Jordan Peterson made the point clear in this discussion:
Blatchford: "How is it possible that we don't recognize that ... there's that minimum on one end and then there's somebody who's sexually assaulting women, physically raping them."Peterson: "Well some of it is, there's a concerted effort on the part of the radical postmodern left to erase the distinction between categories of critical behaviour ... the postmodernists don't like categories. If you go way down into the structure of the current culture wars, what you see is that at the very base of it, there's two things that the postmodern neo-Marxists are, they're full-scale assaulting. One is categorization, because they believe that the only function of categorization is power. The other one is that there's a war on competence, because if you admit that there are hierarchical structures that are predicated on competence, then you have to grapple with the issue of competence."
Now, let's back off a little, because this isn't a political blog, this is a gaming blog ... and I am going in the direction of gaming, where I will get before this post is over. But I am laying the groundwork for what I'm seeing everywhere, because I believe the above attack on distinction is right. "Created equal" and then failing at life from a lack of competence is not "Always equal," something that we're told to believe but that we really don't. And there's the trough again. Argue against the latter and you're taking your head out of the trough and daring to think out loud, for yourself.
[I hate that this has all been assigned to labeled groups like the "neo-Marxists" or the "postmodernists." It's a short-hand, but it unfortunately plays into the hands of the alt-right, who can take a label and make it into an oppressor themselves. But I digress]
The subject of gaming is under siege as well by these same philosophical equivalencies. The most commonly used argument runs thusly: "It is just one of the ways to play, it is just a different system, everything has pros and cons, such and such does not automatically produce a better game and therefore can be dismissed," and so on. Arguments that don't specifically deconstruct or discuss the matter at hand, but rather take the approach that "I have seen an example of that sort of game, and it didn't impress me; and all of that sort of game is exactly equal, so once I have seen one, I have seen them all."
It is an easy position to take, particularly in that my comfort with my game is never compromised by ideas that I can dismiss, taking the position that my narrow perspective is sufficient to make me an expert.
Here's something that keeps coming up with RPGs that is particularly telling ~ and I have done this myself. "I have been playing for 20, 30, 40 years, and I know what role-playing is."
Do we? Can any of us? Here is a game with no real universal presence at all. There are perhaps a dozen on-line games that can offer a shared media experience ... none of which are open to new participants, most of which are funded by the company, and none of which offers any in game discussion of the rules while the game is ongoing. In other words, these are mock-presentations that have little, if any, similarity to a real game between real participants who are not playing for the sake of celebrity.
And how many "games" can a person really say they've played in, say, 40 years. If you've DM'd all that time, most of those "games" are just one game, yours. Which is fully capable of deluding any of us into thinking we have all the answers, because by gum, we've been doing this so damn long. Most of the rest of these "games" that we've played were fleeting moments, a session or two ... and anyone with a lot of sessions under their belt got them at Conventions, where the DM was collared, with hands tied, by a presentation-agenda that did not allow much latitude. And what were these sessions anyway, in terms of hours? Three? Four? No one, anywhere, can hope to understand a gamemaster's world or style in a time like that.
So when we pretend we are "experienced" in gaming, we mean, "more than a noob." But this is not the same as a player in the NFL who has been playing football with and against strangers for hours since they entered their first league at six, amid a shared experience where every professional game and tens of thousands of amateur games are recorded, dissected and replayed over and over, providing twenty and thirty thousand hours of experience to every participant.
Our "experience" at role-playing is not equivalent. It can't be. And we should realize this. There is so much out there that we will never see, so many good DMs and Players that we will never meet, no matter how many games we play and no matter how many Conventions we attend.
So we can't just say, "I've seen that style of play and it doesn't work for me." We've got to explain exactly why. Without the generalized, personalized, supposed opinions based on experience. If it is random die rolls that are the problem, we've got to say why they don't work, in detail, with examples, conceding that there may be ways of rolling dice in a game that we just haven't considered. Because it isn't universal, this dice rolling thing. Not by a damn sight.
And if I take umbrage with something like Alignment, say, then I'm equally under the gun. I can't argue, "I tried it and it didn't work, so I don't use it." That is an argument from ignorance. That is me saying, I, personally, with my phenomenal brain [so conceived] couldn't make it work, therefore it doesn't. Horseshit. That is me arguing that because I'm equal with everyone else who likes alignment, my opinion is just as valid as theirs. And people who like alignment would be right to disregard any argument of mine that ran that way.
If I'm going to go after alignment, I need a better argument. I need a universal position, one that argues from evidence: as in, according to psychology, we have no evidence to show that human beings ever behave according to one set of dictates. Or, according to psychology, it is quite clear that every human being, given the right circumstances, is capable of being both the best of the species and the worst of the species. This argument doesn't argue my opinion or my experience; it argues the millions of lives spent contributing to a body of knowledge that is indisputable by any single person's opinion and experience. It is a body of knowledge that disregards opinion.
And those of us who are better than equal human beings are those able to recognize this, because it represents our movement forward from jungle law and imbecility, while those who resist this recognition are less than equal because they can't fucking tell the difference.
This insistent, ludicrous clinging to a false equivalency of opinion, as I say, has the social discourse by the throat. And the way out of it is to recognize the equivalency when we hear it and call it out for what it is: a desperate grasp at having merit where no merit has been earned.
We are not equal. We are created equal. And then some of us fail.
Some who have failed can and are ready to fix this. And some aren't. They want the world remade to suit them. But here's the key to that.
That we are created equal, but do not remain equal, is self-evident. That is, we have no control over it. Whatever laws we pass, whatever philosophies we engineer, whatever bullshit we tell ourselves at night to help us sleep, in every social system that ever is, the better than equal people will find their way to the top and the less than equal people will find their way to the bottom. The only winning strategy is not to be less than equal.