The Declaration of Independence tells us that all men are created equal, but we sure don't want to be treated as such when we get older. Americans steadfastly and openly proclaim their belief in the concept of equality, yet adamantly refuse to be treated in this manner. Equality, therefore, is an American myth and one reason why we tend to act more like stubborn individualists as opposed to team players. Being treated equally and fairly sounds nice, but it's a matter of who knows who, and what we can do for each other (aka, "Politics 101").
Waiting in line is a good example of everyone being treated equally; basically, everyone waits their turn in line, but inevitably there are people who want to cut in line, or go directly to the front of it and are willing to pay handsomely to do so. Celebrities and the rich pay for special privileges, e.g.; to get the best table in a restaurant, the best medical treatment, legal breaks, free drinks, and the best seat in the house.
Equality in business is definitely a myth. First, you have to understand companies act more like dictatorships as opposed to democratic institutions. We use job titles to differentiate people and reflect the chain of command. Organization charts, which depicts a hierarchy, represents documented proof that people are not equal, even if it is nothing more than a management versus labor relationship.
Even in nonprofit organizations and fraternal groups that openly promote the concept of equality, you will not find it. Instead, you have people craving recognition through titles, sashes, badges, pins, and other such nonsense, thereby trying to delineate themselves from everyone else. Basically, it's a game of one-upmanship. As an aside, I find it amusing when a a person who didn't accomplish anything in their professional career, tries to find glory and power through nonprofit organizations. I refer to this as "much ado about nothing."
There are three areas where people try to differentiate themselves:
- Their physical attributes, such as strength, size, abilities, and appearance.
- Their intellect whereby we try to discern who is smarter than who.
- Their social attributes, which is probably the most powerful of the three, as defined by wealth, personal connections, social standing, and conduct.
More than anything, equality is about ego and we are taught at an early age not to be just be as good as someone else, but to be better than them; and if you cannot be better than them, then undermine them every chance you get. Compare this to the Japanese who are taught at any early age to work together collectively towards common goals. Even as you enter the workforce you are placed on an even footing with others in your "class." It is only after a number of years working at the company (ten normally) when it is decided what your position and job title will be. The Japanese may not tout equality in their culture as much as the Americans do, but it is much more ingrained in them than the Americans.
In the United States, we have a lot of rights, we have a lot of rules, but we really don't have as much equality as people believe we do, which is why I call it a myth. You might have an understanding about racial, gender, and social rights, but you will never have equality in the minds of the American masses. So, please put down the placards saying you want equality. Don't make me laugh. You don't want equality, you want to leapfrog ahead.
I am reminded of the story of the ant and the aardvark who happened upon one and other on the street. The ant being somewhat nervous about the aardvark's intentions said to him, "Brother Aardvark, it is good to see you. We are both creatures of the earth, we both drink the same water and breath the same air. We're equals." The aardvark shot out his long sticky tongue and devoured the ant in the blink of an eye, burped, and replied, "I'm afraid you've been misinformed my boy."
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.