As Americans, we’ve been taught to revere equality. Originally a notion that simply related to the court system where all of us are equal in the eyes of the law, the definition and application of equality is changing rapidly.
We used to think that America was the place where, if you worked hard and had talent, your efforts would be rewarded. We all had the equality of opportunity to succeed.
Now, unfortunately, a Marxian interpretation of equality is taking hold. No longer is the equality of opportunity enough. Many are demanding equality of outcome. They want everyone to win and never lose, no matter their work ethic and talent. They want everyone to be rich and never poor, no matter how smart or disciplined they are.
Sure, we all still agree that Americans should be equal in the eyes of the law, especially when it comes to due process and a fair trial. But the culture is twisting and distorting the admirable aspects of equality. The new pursuit of equality is akin to Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China or Orwell’s “1984,” where quotas were enforced, thoughts were policed and outcomes arranged.
The most recent example of this twisted thinking could be found in the lead-up to the Academy Awards, which took place Sunday night. News stories, in the context of the #MeToo movement, focused particularly heavily on the current and historic lack of Oscar nominations for female directors.
According to these stories, which began when award nominations were announced in January, there have only been five women nominated for best director in the Academy’s 90-year history. And only one female director – Kathryn Bigelow, who helmed “The Hurt Locker” in 2010 – has actually won the Oscar for best director.
I understand the #MeToo movement’s raising a skeptical eyebrow. One female win to 89 male wins sounds fishy. But just because the male directors are snapping up Oscars at an 89-1 clip doesn’t mean they don’t deserve them. Frank Capra deserves his wins, as do Steven Spielberg and John Ford and the many other men who have brought us great films. Their accomplishments shouldn’t be tarnished. Hey, even the great Alfred Hitchcock never won.
When I hear these #MeToo women complain about a lack of recognition, I wonder what their end goal is. I wonder when female directors will feel equal. When there is a one-to-one ratio of Oscar winners? It’s not enough that female directors have an opportunity to succeed, does the #MeToo movement want a quota system installed to make sure one female director is nominated for every male director? Or, perhaps, do they wish to go further and mandate that males and females trade wins every other year? Would that satisfy the #MeToo movement’s desire for equality among sexes?
But once we mandate equal distribution of awards, where the audience knows one woman must win for every man, will the awards mean much? Of course they won’t. A good way to kill the Oscars is for the Academy to enforce equality of outcome.
It’s not just Hollywood. While legislating equal outcomes across all of society would certainly solve the equality issue, quality would suffer. Under an equality regime, all that matters is quotas and not who really deserves to win. We’re already seeing this in higher education and company hiring policy. Colleges and companies are more interested in following quotas when it comes to admittance and hiring than finding the best candidates. While colleges have long touted their admissions quotas based on race and gender, last week’s revelation that Google has purposefully not considered white or Asian males was a sad reminder that equality of outcome is now the highest ideal throughout American society.
It all reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” which warns of the dangers inherent in a misguided pursuit of equality. In the dystopian story set in 2081, the American government imposes draconian measures to ensure that no one is smarter, more beautiful or more talented than any other. Smart people are forced to wear headphones that shoot out loud noises every few seconds to disrupt any coherent thought process. Beautiful people are forced to wear masks to hide their beauty. And strong people are forced to wear heavy weights to slow them down. The government’s aim is to make sure no one is superior to any other. More importantly, the government intervenes to make sure no one feels inferior to anyone.
Does this sound familiar to American life now, rather than 60 years from now in 2081? Vonnegut may have been a little dyslexic while foreseeing the future. Perhaps he should have flipped the 1 and 8 as it seems our whole culture in 2018 is quickly taking a dangerous path away from equality of opportunity and toward equality of outcome.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.