Ultimately, politics comes down to making it possible for each person in society to reach their full potential, to live a comfortable life. We often speak about equality, that each person, no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation or ethnicity, should be treated equally.
Following the cruel episode of Lamin Jaiteh the injured young 32-year-old man from Gambia left abandoned on the pavement in a street in Mellieħa after falling two storeys at a building site where he was working, government MPs have again spoken about equality, saying they will keep on working for a more equal society in Malta. But what does a more equal society mean?
Everyone, no matter their type (sex, gender, race, ethnicity), is talented in their own way and has something to offer society. Each individual within those groups should be put in a position where they are supported to nurture these talents, benefitting both the individual and the community.
The idea is to remove arbitrariness and prejudices from the selection process so that everyone gets a fair shot at success.
For example, men and women should have the same opportunities and they should be free to choose their career path and succeed. This idea opens up the playing field and allows everyone to compete and cooperate in a fair environment that rewards hard work and perseverance.
This idea, however, is not perfect as it assumes that everyone starts from the same point. We know this is not the case in practice. Data shows that, for example, ethnic minorities are more likely to be living in relative poverty compared to other groups in society. Even if employment was to be awarded to individuals solely based on their merit, how people come to acquire this merit has a lot to do with the privileges they were born with.
The idea of equality of outcome tries to plug some of the gaps left by equality of opportunity. It assumes that, since not everyone in society starts the race from the same point, success should not be biased in favour of the privileged but should be equally distributed.
The ultimate utopia of equality of outcome would be to ensure that every category of person is represented in precise proportion, in every possible level of the social hierarchy. But this presents its own issues.
What does a more equal society mean?- Rebekah Cilia
First of all, there are serious questions to be asked on the number of groups required to fully categorise every individual in society. If all categories are not equally represented, in every level of society, then this would infer the existence of some kind of oppressive systematic prejudice that is independent of any natural biases.
Secondly, this idea also assumes that every single group in society wants the exact same thing, meaning enforced equality. For example, generally, the average man and the average woman do not prioritise the same exact things in life. It was found that, in general, women are more interested in human interactions and are more people-oriented while men are more interested in materialistic things, a phenomenon which sheds some light on the varying proportions of men and women working in different fields.
We need both of these traits for society to function, so why should we force the different groups to do the same things when we could leave it up to people to pursue and organise themselves naturally? Although equality of outcome might sound like a good idea on paper, there is no way you could ever regulate a society so tightly that every single one of those groups gets to be equally represented everywhere without causing additional prejudice.
The goal is to make sure that people from different groups get to decide what they want to do and for their decisions to be supported.
And, now, back to the point of departure – the episode of Jaiteh Lamin. This government has made it its mission to bring less privileged, low-paid workers to Malta to fill the gaps and they often end up being taken advantage of. Any thought of equality immediately vanishes when people are exploited to make a quick buck for their superiors while working in dangerous conditions and living a suboptimal life.
How can the government talk about an equal society when it is the major driving force behind so much inequality? The leader of the Nationalist Party, Bernard Grech, has made it clear that money generation should not come at the cost of humanity. Let us not allow our hearts to turn to stone from spending too much time looking at the modern-day Medusa: money.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us