Equality of rights doesn't mean all of us are equal
One nice thing about being conservative is that you get to rely on established, unchanging truths. In liberalism, by contrast, notions dismissed as absurd in one generation have a disquieting tendency to become grim orthodoxy in another. Take equality ... please. Crusty old John Adams, America's second president, proved politicians from Massachusetts were unpopular long before they became wild-eyed liberals; he served one term as the last Federalist president ever (then his son John Quincy Adams served one as the last National Republican, after which parties tended to shun the Adams family as a horror story). But as Russell Kirk notes in The Conservative Mind, first published in 1953, he remains very readable, if little read.
In a letter to his colleague John Taylor, Adams insisted "That all men are born to equal rights is clear. Every being has a right to his own, as moral, as sacred, as any other has." But regarding the egalitarian fantasies of the French philosophes, he wrote "what are we to understand here by equality? Are the citizens to be all of the same age, sex, size, strength, stature, activity, courage, hardiness, industry, patience, ingenuity, wealth, knowledge, fame, wit, temperance, constancy, and wisdom?" Liberals at the time would have dismissed it as an absurd caricature of their views. But that was then.
Now Saint Mary's University in Halifax has told a student to stop selling his "Girls of Saint Mary's" calendar on campus because it is no longer a project for an entrepreneurship course (he got an A, and made over $10,000). If I were a college president, I would not have permitted its sale at any point, because I would have a conduct code requiring students to conduct themselves like ladies and gentlemen. It would discourage ladies from posing half-dressed and forbid gentlemen selling the resulting pictures on campus if they did. But such reasoning is dreadfully passé in the age of Charlotte Simmons.
As some way should nevertheless be found to protect young women from men's more predatory sexual impulses, listen instead to the complaint quoted in the National Post from "Sally Whitman, co-ordinator of the Saint Mary's Women's Centre ... one of the students who complained to the school's administration" with, one may assume, more than average influence. "I didn't think it was appropriate, not because we have a problem with using sexy images to turn people on. My problem comes down to the fact that it's promoting this narrow view of what women are supposed to look like to be beautiful and sexy."
The entrepreneur featured athletes as well as cheerleaders and stressed his presentation of the "diverse student body." But harpies are not so easily deflected, and they swooped. All have won the beauty contest, and all must have prizes.
To give it credit, political correctness does not assert that everyone is the same age, sex, size, ingenuity etc. But it's only partial credit. For in denouncing "ageism," it does insist that everyone shall be treated as if they were the same, indeterminate age. (A law professor wrote in the Citizen Tuesday: "The Supreme Court of Canada missed a golden opportunity last week to affirm that children under 18 are full members of Canadian society." Right. Shall eight-year-olds drive and four-year-olds sign contracts?)
In denouncing sizeism and lookism, political correctness insists not that everyone is, technically, the same size, but everyone shall be treated as if they were the same indeterminate size; under "fat rights," the medical profession is even told not to stigmatize obesity as unhealthy. Many universities now forbid discrimination in hiring based on mental ability (evidently, cynics might say); everyone shall be treated as if they possessed the same ingenuity. And don't even get me started on the unisex agenda.
Only in academia, you say? Regrettably not. During the great topless controversy of 1997, the Toronto Star editorialized that "a chest is just a chest, hairy or not." (As I asked at the time, "have you ever had sex?") Which makes girlie calendars hard to understand, if easy to ban.
In that letter saying all men had equal rights, John Adams went on, "to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credulity of the people, as ever was practiced..." and concluded "For honor's sake, Mr. Taylor, for truth and virtue's sake, let American philosophers and politicians despise it."
Ha ha. As if liberals would ever laugh at honour, truth and virtue.
[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]