On Sunday 19th July at 3pm BST, we are thrilled to welcome Dr Liam Kavanagh, our Director of the Life Itself Institute. On the back of his ground-breaking paper on Collective Wisdom, this Sunday he will take one extract from it: The Equality Complex and discuss with you, our community. This is a Salon not to be missed. Here, Liam introduces this topic.
Equality is not a source of suffering but the equality complex isZen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh
We all say we want to be equals, but nobody wants to be average; in fact we want to distinguish ourselves in all ways, including morally. This involves treating others more equally than the next person does. This is an obvious contradiction woven into Western moral life. Being less egotistical is one helpful way of relieving the resulting tension, but in this talk I suggest a complementary, though taboo, route.
We can recognise that ideals of equality offer an amazingly effective moral ‘rule of thumb’ often pointing the way to desirable outcomes, but have, unhealthily, become enshrined as the truth, taboo to even question. They have also become a very unsatisfactory substitute for compassion and love, which in more ‘spiritual’ times were the center of moral life.
However much ideals of equality have done for us, they are still only an ideal, an intellectualisation. No ideal can guide us cleanly through all moral decisions (can smokers and non-smokers have equal rights on a train car?) No ideal gives us the ability to actually live up to those actions they do guide us towards (such as sharing our wealth). Ideals are also a basis for psychological violence. Relationship psychologists have long said tell us that non-verbal contempt is the greatest predictor of relationship dysfunction, perhaps the turbulence in our social compact could have been anticipated long ago from this basis. I will invite discussion of the equality complex’s role in this dynamic.
This is continued in more depth in ‘Questioning Equality’, Liam’s pamphlet on the Equality Complex.
Read more on our Sunday Salon and book online.
Here is are the links from from Liam’s talk.
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And his slides to download: