We aren’t equal, as people, nor can we be. Differences of physical ability, and temperament means that in the most equitable situations imaginable, we would not all be equals. Of course in an ideal world, inequality would only be about skill, creativity, desire for achievement and inclinations around what we prioritise. At the moment we like, as a society, to tell ourselves that it is brains and talent that gets you places, but this isn’t true – it’s the money and resources in your family. The best shot you have at becoming a millionaire, is to be born into a family of millionaires.
Affluence buys opportunities. It buys more time with good teachers. It buys physical resources to help achieve, it buys access to facilities. The best instruments, and opportunities to hear the best musicians playing. The best sports gear. Granted, money cannot make you clever, or a good problem solver, or creative, but what it will give you are the opportunities to develop.
This is where the myth of talent comes in. Natural ability is only ever a small part of what makes for success. Willingness to work, and the resources you have access to are also factors. It’s easier to get through the first few years of doing illustration for little or nothing while you get a foot in the industry door, if someone else can pay your bills. It’s easier to have a sporting career as a young person if someone else has the time and money to take you to events around the country, or around the world. The more we focus on the myth of talent in all fields, the less attention we pay to the power of privilege.
There are of course people who come out of no-where and by dint of sheer ability and determination, make it. They are the exceptions – luck often plays a big part. There are many people who become high achievers, not because they have any great inner resources, but because money has smoothed a path for them. Most of us are capable of far more than we are ever getting opportunity to do. How many great pieces of music will never be written, how many scientific breakthroughs won’t happen, how many brilliant bits of technology won’t be made, how many books not written, art not crafted simply because the person who could have done it was never given the opportunity to develop?
Now imagine what would happen if we had equality of opportunity. If we used technology to do away with tedious jobs, and created a culture in which anyone could seek to excel in any field. Jobs are on the way out as it is, and we don’t seem to have a good vision of the future. We could, if we innovate rather than being led by the preferences of the people with the money, come up with a whole new way of being communities of humans.