Reality Check with Mark Pellegrino

Episode 3: Equality

Transcript of Equality

Hello and welcome to Reality Check.

Hi, I’m Mark Pellegrino and today I’m going to talk about equality.

When our founders birthed this nation into existence, their opening salvo went something like this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and from that glorious moment, when the ideal of a free society was loosed upon the world, that singular concept of equality has worked its way into the founding documents of every country that aspires to liberal government.

And that’s good, right? Of course, it’s good. There’s a catch. There’s always a catch. What does it mean to be created equal? Does it mean we’re all the same, because equal means the same, right?

Now, while it’s true that some species in the animal and insect kingdoms are a little more than knockoffs of each other, a quick trip to the neighbourhood grocery store or a bustling city street anywhere in the world will confirm to any thinking person that we humans are not the same.

We come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and colours. Some of us are strong. Some of us are weak. Some of us are super smart and some of us are democrats … okay I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Some of us
are republicans, and something else too okay.

The point is that when we’re talking about humans, nature loves diversity. So if nature loves diversity in humans, then equality or sameness can’t apply to any of our natural endowments.

It can’t apply to our physical appearance or health or to our relative talents, to our luck or the economic status we were born into.

When it comes to natural endowments, some of us were just graced with blessings and the rest of us have to make do with what we got.

So if nature doesn’t make us equal, who or what does?

We do! But how?

Living in society means living in the company of others. And in order to live in the company of others and keep conflict to a minimum, it’s a pretty good idea for that society to have clearly defined rules that everyone can understand.

Most importantly, everyone must have the sense that they are all subject to those rules in the same respect.

Sameness of rules and sameness in our relation to those rules. That is what equality means.

So while we may not have literally been created equal, we come into the world equally subject to the laws of nature and recreate that sameness in our application of the laws of men.

Yeah, equality can only be before the law. Now, why do I make a big deal out of that?

Because some folks think equality is about equalizing natural endowments. We call these peeps egalitarians. Egalitarians see the natural inequality that results from equal liberty and the equal application of the law as a problem society must fix.

How?

By unequally applying laws and restraints to handicap some and privilege others. In other words, they claim to create equality by practising inequality. I know, it’s weird, but weird is what happens when you don’t understand what you can and can’t control.

So let’s be clear here. You can’t control that there can be huge differences between people and that those differences can create huge disparities and outcomes. That’s equal liberty for you.

You can control whether or not the law applies to all and whether all are equally free from force.

Fighting for sameness before the law. That’s what equality really means.

Check.

Episode 2: Liberty

Transcript of Liberty

Hello and welcome to Reality Check.  Hi, I’m Mark Pellegrino and today I’m going to be talking about liberty. 

That’s right, liberty. Liberty is a word that everyone in the world seems to know and use but very few understand.

Okay, so liberty is freedom, but freedom from what? Ah, there’s the rub.

See, people want to be free from all kinds of things. The problem is most of those freedoms don’t boil down to liberty. Wait. Did I just imply freedom is not the same as liberty? I did! 

Well technically that’s true. Hear me out. Freedom in the broadest sense just means without constraints, but the real world is filled with all kinds of natural constraints.

Take gravity for example. You want to fly? Leap a tall building in a single bound? Gravity will constrain you! And there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, you could but…

Life itself is very constraining. You want to live, you got to work. It’s okay, you’re not unusual. Every living thing in the world from the smallest bacteria to the most complex organisms must work to live. And every living thing in the world knows that except human beings. Only human beings think that the conditionality of life and the facts of reality are things you should be liberated from. 

Now where did that come from, I wonder. The desire to be free from the world as it is, seems to be a natural part of the human psyche. People have always wanted to have their cakes and eat them too. And through the ages there has been a steady supply of utopian thinkers to fill our imaginations with stories that appeal to that desire. Now the utopian idea was this. Human existence was once pristine, conditionless, and innocent, but is now fallen, depraved and harsh. The object is to return once more to that pristine and innocent time by creating a social system that could make that possible.

And that’s understandable, right, for most of human existence, life really was hard. Conditions did suck, everywhere, and still do in far too many places in the world, so it’s understandable to want to be liberated from them. The problem is you can’t! You can only be liberated from another moral agent, i.e., human being. You can’t be liberated from the conditionality of the natural world and the constraints of life.

Now what does that mean? It means natural constraints just are and have to be understood and worked around. A moral agent, i.e., human being, is another story. Moral agents do everything by choice, and since one of those choices could be to impede another moral agent’s ability to live and work within his own natural constraints, moral agents set up a rule between them not to. And that rule is what we call liberty.

Wait, so liberty is a constraint? Yes! It is the constraint of force so that moral agents can work within the natural constraints of life. Peaceably. Translation: liberty is freedom from people. Because people are the only things that can use force when they don’t have to.

People can oppress you. Life and the realities of life can’t. They just are. So any liberation movement that seeks to liberate people from conditionality in order to achieve [utopia] winds up achieving [oppression] because the natural constraints of reality in life cannot be pretended out of existence. At best, the burden of complying with these unalterable realities can be shifted temporarily to another. But since they are the price of living, the cost must be borne by someone.

So ask yourself if you want freedom or liberty.

Check.

Episode 1: Evil

Transcript of Evil

Hello and welcome to Reality Check.

My name is Mark Pellegrino and I’ll be your host on this journey of evil.

Now is evil really a big bad scary monster that we should all fear? Or is it just a big fat flop that’s not worth the snot in your used Kleenex?

Gesundheit.

Look, every society in the world has big stories that frame human action as a struggle between two titan and equally powerful forces.

Good versus evil. Light versus dark. Some god versus some devil. And in most of these narratives, evil maintains a strong hold on power and the good guy succeeds by the skin of his teeth.

Sometimes he doesn’t succeed at all.

Ooh. Well, that’s actually very suspenseful writing, for sure, but why do we think evil is so strong? Could it be Satan?

Or maybe it’s because of the way we define what’s good. Here’s what I mean. Now, I bet if you were to ask most people whether it’s better to be materialistic or spiritual, they would probably say spiritual because materialism is shallow and crass. Just ask Madonna.

Now if that’s the case, is it true to say that the more we embrace the spiritual and deny the material, the better our souls? Let’s see. Have you ever heard anyone say something like this before:

“Oh she’s so materialistic with her designer yoga pants and personal chef. Ew. So gross.”

“Chad went to the Himalayas on a silent retreat. He meditated for a year. Oh my god, that’s so cool”

Right. Or how about this one. It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. Actually, between you and me, anything passing through the eye of a needle besides water hurts me to the core. Ouch. You’re still not convinced?

Okay who do you think are better people? These [spiritual] guys? Or these [entrepreneurial] guys?

This idea that the material world is bad, and the spiritual world is good, was given to us by Plato.

He thought that all we see in this world are mere reflections of a better place. A world of forms. And that world can only be reached by contemplation.

Thinking was the highest good you could achieve. While doing what most people did, living, in the world, was just crass. In other words, the world of Plato is nothing more than a discount trip to the funhouse mirrors of a body dysmorphic teenager. Thanks, Plato, for all measure of eating disorders in the 21st century, you [****].

Now this idea was picked up by religions, particularly Christianity, and became embedded in our culture as a massive dichotomy. Here’s Christ. He’s perfect. You can never be Christ. You suck. The seemingly inherent conflict between the spiritual and the material became the basic plot of many of our cultural narratives, and still informs our standard for good and evil to this day.

Here’s the rub though. Since we’re material beings who live in the material world, and living is sort of our base responsibility, acting, thinking, and desiring are natural results of living. So it follows that making what’s natural bad, creates a conflict.

Live and accept being bad or be good and deny yourself the pleasures of life.

That’s why evil is so powerful and alluring to people. Because we’ve defined good by that which is opposed to life, to living. In this material world. You want to get rich? Be a rock star? Have sex? Eat good food? There’s a sin for all of those. Denial [The Nile] ain’t a river in Egypt, folks, it’s what’s for breakfast.

Ah, really.

Okay here’s a question. Answer honestly, would you want to be like this [successful] person or this [spiritual] person?

Now you know you want to be this [successful] one. But you think you should be the other one who looks to be suffering the most. And that says it all.

Evil is powerful, seductive, and beautiful because life is powerful, seductive, and beautiful. And an attractive bad versus an unattractive good is what happens when you make what’s good work at cross purposes to life.

So how about instead of making the good the anti-life, we make the evil the anti-life?

Check.

Achieving a thriving life is no easy task. It requires a dedication to fact, a commitment to thinking, honesty, and the will to persevere. Literally every good thing you see around you is because someone was thoughtful, honest, and durable. And everything bad is from the denial of facts, the refusal, to think, willful dishonesty, and fragility.

So, here’s the reality. Being good is the only way you can live and be happy. And evil is just a big fat flop.

Check.