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EQUALITY & COLLABORATION
~ Article written by Shawn Dwyer and L. Michael Hall PhD ~

In One Way, And One Way Only, Can We All Be Considered Equal

We are equal in terms of human value. Now that statement is an assertion of a belief or a premise. Legally in the United States we use that premise as an assertion for treating each other as equals in the eyes of the law. “All men (which includes women) are created equal…” Religiously or spiritually, this is a belief premise in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam given that the Bible says, “we are made in the image and likeness of God.” Therefore we can say that in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of faith, we are all equal.

Then Equality Ends.

In every other way, we are not equal. Rather than being equal, we are all different in multiple ways. Biologically, we are different in our genetic wiring and capacities and that leads to being different in innate abilities and talents which then leads to differences in the skills and competencies we have developed. We are also different due to growing up in different homes, with different parents, different environments, etc. So while we are all the “same” in that we are human and share a very similar neurology, we all differ mentally, emotionally, verbally, and behaviorally. Thereafter, we are all equal and unequal; same and different.

Now while what I’ve written here about equality and differences is obvious, surprisingly it is an area of tremendous confusion. There are some who equate equality with being “equal in all aspects” and therefore find the above paragraph about differences offensive. They want to think that we are all equal in our understandings, competencies, abilities, etc. Yet even a superficial observation of the facts reveals that we are not and when we to try to treat all children as equal, we only set them for tremendous disappointment later.

The fact of differences leads to another important sociological fact

When people get together to cooperate in doing something, in achieving something together, hierarchies of competence emerge. The reason for this is that not everyone is equally good at everything. Some are better at some things and worse at others. Consequently, when people collaborate on a project, as those best at any given task compete against each other they generate a hierarchy of competence. Those who thrive in math compete, those who thrive in language compete, those who thrive in athletics compete, and so on.

Trying to equalize everyone out in any given area of competence and pretend that all are equally informed, skilled, and/or competent denies the differences reality. In the political realm, Jordan Peterson has been speaking out about the critical role hierarchies of competence play in any society. He says this term from biology is used by biologists to refer to
any social animal group which competes. They inevitably create hierarchies of competence and not “dominance hierarchies.” He aruges that human organizations are sufficiently complex so that dominance by itself is insufficient to create a sustainable hierarchy. Among chimps, for a hierarchy to last over time, the top chimp had to be quite social so he can have companions who help maintain order. Stable chimp groups have friendships among the top ones. That’s because pure or raw power is an unstable basis for a stable hierarchy. In using the idea of a hierarchy of competence, Peterson contrasts it with the idea of equality-ideas which show up as capitalism against socialism and Marxism.

Within Any Area Of Competence In Society

It is smart to identify those who are competent and especially the most competent, and to reward them. After all, isn’t that what you want when you are looking for someone to do something? If you need a plumber, you want someone who is competent in plumbing. If you need a mechanic for your car, you want someone who knows what they are doing and has the competence to do it.

An effective society (or community) encourages hierarchies of competence and reward them.

This creates capitalism. If you’re going to be a plumber, be a good one! Find a genuine hierarchy of competent and climb the ladder to its top. Learn everything you can, practice the required skills, and make something of yourself. If you want to be an architect, be the best architect you can be. If a coach, be the best coach. If a trainer, be the best you can be. To all of this Peterson adds two of the predictors of success in Western Societies-intelligence and conscientiousness. Study what you need to study and put in the hard work needed to become fully competent.

Collaboration In Community

Now given all of this, a community of people who collaborate together are both equal and unequal. They are equal in having equal value as human beings. They should all be treated with honor and dignity as persons. They should also be treated as unequal in knowledge and skill. Some are more competent in managing the finances and others are terrible at that. Some are highly competent in running trainings, managing events, and others suck at that. Some are skilled in delivering a training or seminar and others are not sufficiently competent to do that. Therefore everyone’s voice is not of equal value or weight in every decision that arises. Because I do not have knowledge, experience, or skill in architecture, medicine, IT, and thousands of other areas, my voice in those areas cannot and should not carry equal weight to those who do.

These facts naturally lead us to recognize and give more prestige to those who have developed expertise in a given skill. We recognize that they have developed superior understanding and skill so we defer to them when a debate arises. After all, shouldn’t the most informed about a subject provide information as well as an example for us? It is precisely because we are not equal, not the same, that collaboration works as it does to enable all of us to win- to win more than if we worked by ourselves.

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