Written by Frank Li
Yesterday (August 28, 2013) was a big day in America. It was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech, and President Obama spoke from the same spot in front of Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King stood and delivered that speech exactly 50 years ago.
I watched this anniversary event with mixed emotions ... On one hand, I think Dr. King was a great American, and that speech was one of the best speeches ever. On the other hand, I think equality, one of Dr. King's messages, has been oversold and overbought in America in several major ways, just like American Dreams (American Dreams: Over Sold and Over Bought!), another one of Dr. King's messages.
Puzzled? Hear me out ...
1. Martin Luther King Jr. and America
I have deep respect for Dr. King for the following reasons:
He pursued an undeniable worthwhile cause and ultimately paid the ultimate price for doing so.
His message of equality is irrefutable.
His additional message of non-violence is particularly important today, not only for America, but also for the rest of the world (Democratic Imperialism).
However, it's premature to call Dr. King a "founding father", as Time magazine did recently (the 8/26-9/2 issue, as shown below) for one key reason: America, as a country, is more deeply in trouble than ever (The Coming Demise of America). Until a real solution is found, all the past should be open for scrutiny, including JFK's legacy (Detroit, Public-Sector Unions, and JFK) as well as the Civil Rights movement, epitomized by the final realization of one person, one vote, although it's hypocritical without the requirement of a voter ID! More on this later ...
Many believe Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech was one of the best speeches ever recorded in human history. However, speech is speech, reality is reality. With regard to various American Dreams, here are three publications of mine:
Now, let's focus on equality ...
Here is my overall position on equality: People should be treated equally, and fairly, in every way possible, from social interactions to the legal system (e.g. O. J. Simpson and Trayvon Martin).
However, we must accept the following inequalities as the reality they are:
We are born unequal! Some even argue that more than 50% of our ability, physical as well as mental, is determined by genes, I agree with this argument - the older (and hopefully wiser) I become, the more I agree with this argument, empirically at least!
Race matters! For example, it is widely acknowledged that while the Asians excel academically, they are hopeless in many sports (e.g. track and field). For more, read: Swimming, Olympics, and More.
Sex matters! Men and women are different! For example, men are typically physically stronger than women and are hence more suitable for "tough" jobs such as manual labor and combat.
Culture matters! A friend of mine serves as a volunteer at a food distribution center, providing food for the hungry. Rarely has he met an Asian there!
Environment matters! By "environment," I mean such things as family (e.g. two parents vs. single parent), school, your friends, and even the country you live in.
Because of these inequalities, some human beings will be more successful than others, as it must be, unless you prefer communism, wherein everyone shares equal misery!
3. The system matters more than anything else!
Communism achieves absolute equality by pulling everybody down, dirt poor - Yes, everyone has the same: nothing! Been there, done that!
Capitalism has proven to be the only system for prosperity. In a capitalistic society, you are allowed to achieve your full potential, which often means that you can live a life far better than others, if you are willing to work for it (and if you are good and lucky). In other words, capitalism allows you to achieve maximal inequality, in your favor. Better yet, the rising tide lifts all boats!
Democracy, as we practice it today, looks more and more like communism! In pure democracy (i.e. one person, one vote), people are treated absolutely equally in an election, without any difference between a parasite (e.g. Obama is going to pay for my gas and mortgage) and a genius like Bill Gates: one vote!
4. A few words on China and America
The biggest professed champion of equality I have encountered in my life was Chairman Mao. The image below shows one example.
Unfortunately, most of Mao's teachings turned out to be blatant, self-serving lies! Sounds familiar? Think about the campaign promises in the U.S.!
With one person, one vote becoming a reality as a result of the Civil Rights movement, America was fundamentally changed from a republic with full-blown capitalism and a limited-version of democracy to full-blown democracy and an increasingly crippled version of capitalism, totally against the wisdom of the founding fathers (America: Republic vs. Democracy)!
Still wondering why America is so deeply in trouble today? Wonder not! It's democracy, as we practice it today, stupid! For more, read my book: "Saving America, Chinese Style."
The only way equality actually works is equal opportunity. Our present version of equality is equal outcome. It is completely unworkable and destructive, just as we are experiencing today!
A recent analysis showed that a family in Hawaii living entirely on public assistance had the equivalent standard of living as a family with a bread winner earning $30/hour. However, the average wage for that actual bread winner in Hawaii is only $20/hour. Where's the equality when someone living off others is 50% better off than the ones actually working?
Equality is a good concept in general. However, as in everything else, the devil is in the details. In America, equality has been oversold and overbought, in my humble opinion ...
Mildly speaking, Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech may have been misinterpreted (Was MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech Misinterpreted?).
More profoundly, it’s time for America to fundamentally question democracy like the Chinese do! Watch this video (again): Eric X. Li: a tale of two political systems.