Over And Over Forever
( Originally Published 1916 )
THE other day I had a conversation with a genuine old troglodyte. He lived in an old town, in a large house surrounded by a cast-iron fence. There were a stone dog' and a fountain in the yard.
He belonged to one of the first families. One of his ancestors had heaped up a lot of money by making patent medicine, investing in real estate and never letting go of a nickel without a cry of pain. Subsequent generations had man-aged to sit on the money, so that the present scions of the house are the real thing. The females start playing bridge in the morning, and the males buy polo ponies and are deeply interested in club matters.
The gentleman I talked with has nice side whiskers, is head trustee of the church and the denominational college, is past grand high hewgag in the lodge, and has a large library of books bound in morocco with his "crest" stamped thereon.
He spoke to me in this wise: "This talk of equality is all bosh. Why, children in the same family have different ability. If you would distribute the entire wealth of the country, giving each inhabitant an equal portion, within a week some would have plenty and many would have nothing. Some men are born with genius, brains, and leadership, and some are born helpless and without initiative." And so on to infinity, and nausea.
Isn't that funny? For a hundred years or so it has been reiterated that all the equality any-body is clamoring for is equality of opportunity, equality before the law, the absence of unearned privilege, and has no reference whatever to natural capacity. Never in the history of language did the equality of democracy refer to personal worth or force.
Still, I suppose, a hundred years from now old gentlemen will be sitting on front porches and pooh-poohing the idea of all men being equal.
The beauty of social and intellectual life is its inequalities. It is because some people are better, wiser, and shrewder than others that life is so interesting. The garden of human souls contains more different species than can be found amongst the flora of the earth.
And it is precisely to preserve and emphasize these natural irregularities that we want justice and a square deal.
It is the inherited irregularities of money and birth that produce intellectual and spiritual dead levels.
When all babies "start at the scratch," all have an equal opportunity to make the most of their natural abilities, we will see human diversity in its full charm.
It is not aristocracy, but artificial aristocracy; not nobility, but humbug nobility; not the real superior class, but the non-superior, privilege-maintained class, that democracy threatens.