Societal Equality… What Does It Really Mean?

In society, everyone has a role to play. We all have a prescribed duty. Are some duties more important than others? Certainly. But in terms of function, every role is equally important to contribute to the sustained survival of society. We need the street sweepers and we need the heads of Government. We need the school teachers and we need the students. The individual importance of each is not the same, but the importance placed on each function when considered as part of a whole society is indeed equal to the well-being of society.

The concept of ‘equality’ has been misconstrued over the years. For example, women’s liberation activists will petition that women and men are equal. This is correct in terms of function, but not in terms of ability and purpose – because ‘equal’ does not mean ‘the same’. Men cannot give birth. Women are much more poorly equipped, physically and biologically, for heavy manual labour, than men. Yet, we need the functions of both men and women. There is a reason that men and women are built differently, both physically and mentally.

Similarly, the concept of equality in society has been misunderstood and distorted.

Consider the physical body. We have legs for walking, a stomach for eating, arms for administrative work and to protect the body, and we have a head to do our thinking. All this bodily division acts according to its function and, when each part works as per its function, you have a body that is efficient and effective.

On a whole, if you look at society, the different divisions or inclinations of people in general can be akin to the body. In society, the legs are the labourer class. They are the ones doing the street work and our construction. That’s their function in society. The stomach of society is the mercantile class who engage themselves in business. They ‘feed’ society. The labourers would not have work without them. In society, the hands are the administrators. They do the admin work, police work, government duties, and general management of society. They set and enforce taxes, laws, and guidelines for daily life. Finally, the head of society are the thinkers, the philosophers, the priests, the monks, the scientists, the philanthropists, etc. The head protects the morality, ethics, and religiosity of society. They influence the administration class to enforce guidelines that would make this world a better place. We need all four ‘classes’ to have a fully functional society, but certainly there is an inherent hierarchical system.

Still not convinced? Think of a bee colony. There are workers, drones, and a Queen.  Individually, the Queen is obviously the most ‘important’. But if each worker bee and drone bee did not fulfil their function, the whole colony would fail and die, including the Queen.

We need each function in society, just like we need each body part. But one thing that is often forgotten is that a person becomes a member of each ‘class’, not because of birth, but because of qualification. This is where the caste system in India began to be severely misunderstood. Just because a person is born into a family of labourers, does not preclude that person from raising themselves through education, determination, and generally qualifying themselves to complete the function of a ‘higher class’. A person’s prescribed duty depends on a person’s values, upbringing, and set of inclinations.

According to our inclinations, we all have different work. The point is that whatever our calling is, we should fulfil it to the very best of our ability. If your job is to serve at a restaurant, then give the best service you possibly can. If your job is to run a company, then be the most professional, ethical, hard-working director that you can possibly be.

If today you are a mommy, then be the best mommy. Don’t complain about staying home; what type of society would we have if every single child was raised by a maid, rather than his/her parents? If you are a boss, don’t complain about having to go to work every day. Set a good example; this is your prescribed duty and it is you who aspired to be in this position.

One last thing to remember, is that in life, we all have multiple roles to play. A CEO is not just a CEO, but also a husband, a father, a friend, a son. When you go home, take off your CEO hat… Don’t start setting KPIs for your four-year-old child.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

3 thoughts on “Societal Equality… What Does It Really Mean?

  1. Haribol Japadas,

    Do you remember me? I would like to contact your brother Chuck.
    Does he have an e-mail address you can give me?

    Thank You,
    Alex Roka

  2. Hi Joseph,

    thanks for sharing such an inspiring story here.. in fact i enjoy reading some of the stories you shared here including "If You Complain, You Are To Blame" and Putting the ‘Happy’ in a “Happy New Year” that really inspired me.

    the profound truth that you shared here needs to be listened/read over and over again so that when each and very one of us can inculcate such gem of wisdom in them, the world would become a better place on earth in spite of its complexity and its inequality.

    Thanks again & keep sharing..

    Ray :-)

  3. HELLO THERE, LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF BEFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER. I AM A MALAYSIAN INDIAN, 48 TOO AND WORKING AS A TEACHER TRAINER IN A TEACHING INSTITUTE IN KUALA LUMPUR.I WAS SO TAKEN UP BY AN ARTICLE ABOUT YOU IN THE SUNDAY STAR YESTERDAY(29 AUGUST 2010). WHY? COS TO FIND THAT A LITTLE BOY OF NINE CAN BE SO INTERESTED IN THE LIFE OF GYPSIES AND TO DO AWAY WITH MEAT AFTER VISITING THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE. AND THE FACT THAT YOU ACTUALLY SPENT YOUR TENDER CHILDHOOD IN THE MOUNTAINOUS JUNGLE AND FELT DEEPLY FOR THEIR WELFARE. THE MOST I WENT TO GIVING UP SOMETHING WAS WHEN I DREAMT OF A TALKING GOAT WHEN I WAS 41 AND STOPPED CONSUMING MUTTON.

    THE VERY FACT THAT YOU CONTINUED TO VISIT AND OFFER HELP TO THE ASHRAM JUST GOES TO SHOW THE BUDDHA IN YOU. ISN’T THAT WHAT WE ARE LOSING NOW IN OUR CHASE AND PURSUIT OF THE MATERIALISTIC HAPPINESS?

    SUCCESS , AS YOU SAY , IS BROUGHT ABOUT BY MANY FAILURES. AT THIS AGE, ESPECIALLY THIS YEAR, I AM CONFRONTED WITH SO MANY DIFFICULT SITUATIONS. I SEPARATED FROM MY HUSBAND OF 24 YEARS IN WHICH THE TWO YOUNGER CHILDREN (16 & 18 YRS)ARE LIVING WITH ME. MY SON ,22 STAYS WITH THE DAD AND VISITS ME OFTEN WHILE THE ELDEST, 23 A MEDICAL STUDENT ALSO VISITS ME DURING HER HOLIDAYS. I ASKED MYSELF WHAT IS IT THAT I WANT IN LIFE:TO BE IN TOTAL CONTROL OF MY LIFE, ESPECIALLY IN NOT CONTINUING A MUNDANE, TAKEN FOR GRANTED MARRIAGE IN WHICH MY SPOUSE HAS BETRAYED BEGINNING THE 50TH DAY OF MY MARRIAGE AND MANY MORE. I AM ALSO GUILTY OF ENTERTAINING SOME ADMIRERS, WHOM TWO I HAVE HAD AFFAIRS LATER IN LIFE. NOW THAT I HAVE BOUGHT MY OWN CONDO, I HAVE LEFT HIM FOR GOOD. IT WAS A BIG SLAP ON HIS FACE, ALTHOUGH HE TRIED POISONING MY KIDS BY PAINTING ME BLACK.

    ALTHOUGH WE ARE OF DIFFERENT FAITH, I HAVE CONTINUED THE MARRIAGE UP TILL NOW FOR THE KIDS’ SAKE. HE MOCKS AND RIDICULES MY FAITH ALTHOUGH HE DOES NOT PRACTISE HIS FAITH WHILE THE KIDS HAVE BEEN RAISED IN MY FAITH. I HAVE COME TO REALISE THAT OUR MAIN STUMBLING BLOCK IS HIS INADEQUATE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE OPENLY WITH ME WHEN THERE’S A PROBLEM. PROBABLY I DID NOT MATCH UP TO HIS EXPECTATION, I GUESS. BUT IT’S OKAY, I HAVE COME TO ACCEPT IT IN MY STRIDE. YOU ARE RIGHT, YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER.

    I AM HAPPY, AT LEAST TRYING TO MAKE MYSELF HAPPY. I HAVE PROVED THAT I CAN HANDLE MY LIFE ALONE, HAVE THE FREEDOM TO MAKE DECISIONS WITHOUT EXPECTING MY SPOUSE AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, I CONTROL MY OWN LIFE. MY PARENTS FEEL BAD THAT WE HAVE SEPARATED, ESP MY DAD WHOM HE HIMSELF IS STILL MANAGING INTO HIS 53 YEARS OF MARRIAGE DESPITE HAVING QUITE A BAD RELATIONSHIP WITH MY MUM. BUT I CANNOT GO THROUGH SUCH A LIFE. I MEAN I ASK MYSELF, WHY SHOULD I GO THROUGH A MARRIAGE WHERE MY SPOUSE CHOOSES TO SPEAK WHEN HE WISHES TO.

    BEING ALONE, I DISCOVER CAN BE VERY DAUNTING, ESP WHEN YOU HAVE TO BEAR ALL FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES. I KEEP TELLING MYSELF ,IT WON’T BE FOR LONG. MY KIDS WILL BE ON THEIR OWN, SO LESS DEPENDENCY ON ME. MY PRIORITIES WOULD BE DIFFERENT, I GUESS. I CAN CONCENTRATE ON WRITING (SOMETHING THAT I HAVE ALWAYS PLANNED FOR THE FUTURE). RIGHT NOW, I AM WAITING TO PUBLISH MY COMPILATION OF 20 POEMS. ONE WILL DEFINITELY BE SENT TO YOU, MR BISMARK.

    ANYWAY, HOPE VERY MUCH TO GET YOUR ‘THE GEM COLLECTION’ SOON. THANKS FOR ALLOWING ME TO SHARE MY RANTINGS WITH YOU. HOPE VERY MUCH TO CORRESPOND WITH YOU
    BTW, ARE YOU IN MALAYSIA? IF YOU ARE, I LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING YOU HERE. HOPE TO NETWORK WITH OTHER TIGERS. THIS IS OUR YEAR, ANYWAY!!!

    GODBYE& THANK YOU SIR.

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