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The Way to a Meaningless Life

sunflowers-fukushima-537x339 [1]1,017 words

Spanish translation here [2]

In a book he wrote some twenty years ago, Jonathan Bowden said that meaning originates in difference, or inequality. This interests me because, prior to discovering the text, I made a very similar argument in an essay, published about a year ago, where I attacked the idea—almost universally accepted in the West—that equality is a moral good.

My argument was that the nature of value is both qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective). Qualitative value exists when something is special, when it is different from other examples of the same, because it has special or unique qualities. Quantitative value exists when something is superior, when it is different from other examples of the same, because it is measurably better or of a higher quality.

Of course, qualitative value can sometimes be subsumed into the quantitative, for something may be superior because it is special, the same way that quantitative value can sometimes be subsumed into qualitative value, for something may be special because it is superior.

It goes without saying that qualitative and quantitative value are not necessarily interchangeable, but they are, nevertheless, both forms of value because they are both forms of difference, and in both cases we are talking about some form of quality arising from inequality.

Meaning is, of course, a form of value—specifically, of qualitative value. For when something has meaning to us, it is also valuable—it may not be measurably superior than other examples of the same, and the value may not be quantifiable, but it exists subjectively nonetheless.

It follows from this that a process of equalisation involves always and necessarily a destruction of value.

There is no conservation of value through transference, because equality necessitates the elimination of difference, and quality is created in or through difference, or inequality.

In turn, it follows from this that if the good life is a meaningful life, then a good life has value, and a bad one has not.

We can conclude, then, that living in equality is a life without meaning, and therefore a life without value to the person who lives it.

Presumably, a life that is interchangeable with any other life has no value if the cost of replacing it is zero. This is never the case, so all life has some value, however interchangeable. But it can easily be seen how interchangeability, which depends on equivalence (that is, equality), proportionally reduces value.

This may be why life was so cheap under Soviet Communism, a system predicated on maximalised equality. Suicide rates were high, since a life under the Soviet system was less valuable to the person living it, and mass murder was also high, since other people’s lives were generally less valuable to those in charge.

This may also be why humans seek to add value to their lives through various strategies of individual or group differentiation, or inequality, because there is also value in belonging to a group that is deemed superior or special in some way.

There can never be perfect equality, so ways to give life meaning can always be found (though whether the level of meaning is deemed sufficient by a given individual is another question). On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine desiring to live very long in a system where any kind of differentiation was absolutely impossible, for a meaningful life would be impossible, and so would finding things in life with meaning. Indeed, only an automaton would be able to live that way, so we can legitimately describe such an existence as inhuman, and a perfectly egalitarian system also as inhuman.

Is there any justification then for regarding equality as an absolute moral good—as a good that is worth pursuing in all cases for its own sake?

It seems not, since equality destroys all that which makes life worth living.

It might be argued that equality policies have brought benefits to a great many, making Western societies very attractive to people either living or seeking to live in them. However, the pursuit of equality policies is one of the features that has made Western societies different from non-Western counterparts, so the value of the former lies in their inequality respective to non-Western societies. Moreover, those who pursue equality policies in the West do so for inegalitarian reasons: to feel morally superior, to be seen as morally superior, or, which is the same as the latter one, to eliminate barriers to a continuous increase in economic power. It is not, therefore, equality that is generally sought, but some form of superiority, be it moral or economic.

Worse still, it can be argued that one of the features non-Western peoples consider least attractive about the West in liberal modernity is its nihilism and superficial materialism, both of which are products of equality. The idea behind liberalism was to ‘liberate’ the individual, who was to be the measure of all things. Among other external powers, the individual was liberated from the transcendent, which implies hierarchy, and without which the world becomes entirely material, and material increase the obvious source of betterment in life. The liberal project has also sought to liberate the individual from de facto collective identities, based on factors outside his or her power to control, such as race or gender. Marxism, a more radically egalitarian ideology, the absorbtion of whose critiques by liberalism resulted in a more egalitarian version of the latter, sought also to eliminate class. This process of ‘liberation’ has ignored the fact that people find meaning within, or against, the categories it sought to devalue or eliminate. The result is a loss of respect for everything. And it is worth noting, in this context, how first-generation immigrants often fear their offspring will lose respect—for them, for themselves, or for their culture (understood racially)—through Westernisation, which today means liberalisation.

In the final analysis, equality is anathema to the good life, and can only be considered an evil.

Therefore, attacking equality—in all its forms—is morally righteous, and anyone seeking to create a more meaningful future ought to do it openly, proudly, with vigour, and with rage.