No, says Peter Hitchens. It’s a ‘sentimental belief’ that’s come back to haunt us…
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The American Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are created equal.
This is obviously not true in any practical sense. But that hasn’t prevented us from choosing not to notice this difficulty for the past two-and-a quarter centuries.
I suspect this - like so many other of our deep moral and political problems - has its origins in the slow death of Christianity as a genuine and heartfelt faith.
A sentimental belief in universal equality, not very explicit, has slipped into the space left vacant by the departure of Christianity.
But now it has come back to plague us. For it just does not work.
This is an interesting time for egalitarians. First at the Olympics and then at the Paralympics, we have cheered the astonishing successes of the medal winners.
By doing so, we have set to one side the grief and disappointment of the losers. No medals or anthems or adulation for them. So when frustrated athletes have exploded in tearful rage we have seen it as embarrassing bad behaviour.
But this same society now demands that its schools and its exams should be based on the opposite principle. The old eleven-plus examination was got rid of largely because we thought it cruel to ‘brand’ as failures those who could not pass it. It is now actually against the law to open any new selective state schools.
And this week the English Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has retreated from a leaked plan to reinstate rigorous ‘O’ level exams, lest they are too difficult for some children.
Just imagine an Olympics or Paralympics run on the same principles as British state schools. No heats, nobody eliminated, in case it hurt their feelings. And gold medals for everyone at the end, hundreds and hundreds of them.
This is one of the messes that equality gets you into.
But here’s another. Most people haven’t quite noticed this, either - but the official ideology of this country is now something called Equality and Diversity, based on the Equality Act of 2010.
So far one of its main effects has been on pesky Christians, who get into trouble for displaying crosses or following their consciences at work. Several have now gone to the European Human Rights Court to complain.
They imagined this was still a Christian society. But they are told by courts and tribunals that in fact their beliefs are ‘equal’ to those of any other religious grouping.
In their case, equality means that they must jostle for space with all the other religions, and with militant atheism as well. They must be taken down a peg or two, and learn that in practice some beliefs are more equal than others.