Equality Intelligence

Liberty, Fraternity and Equality

The Marseillaise was the bloodthirsty war-cry of the French Revolution: exactly the sort of thing that aroused the hatred of those who sang it. Such powerful feelings were easily heightened. The three words liberty, fraternity and equality constantly repeated and shouted out loud had a powerful hold, especially on all the underdogs. Enhancing the envy of the have-nots by appealing to their grievances with emotive words has always been very effective. Here again we note the power of three. One word more or less would immediately spoil the impact. Look back to my article “The Magic Three” which tells us of the impact over the mob exercised by Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar”.

I shall now examine the three words, liberty, fraternity and equality and how they affect people in their attitudes to life.

Liberty is the most powerful word of the three. We all want freedom, or we think we do. So what does ‘freedom’ mean?

The psychotherapist, Erich Fromm, wrote a splendid book ‘The Fear of Freedom”. Why should we be frightened of it. With very good reason. The more freedom we have the more we are obliged to make decisions and take responsibility for them. Those people who feel insecure and won’t think for themselves still feel they want to be free. Free from what? Free to do what they like. But you can’t have your cake and eat it. Freedom is for the brave who do not depend on others and think for themselves. The American President, Harry Truman, quoted from Harry Vaughan “Don’t go into the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat.”

Fraternity comes next. I believe that what was meant here was that we are all connected and should respect our fellow beings. Weak people who cannot stand their own company, love to have lots of

folk round them for support. Real friendships are made when we speak openly to each other and do not try to make people like us.

Equality is linked to fraternity, but is not quite the same thing. George Orwell wrote in his book “Animal Farm”, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”: a delightful tongue-in-cheek comment in one of the best satires of the 20th century.

Equality does not mean that we are all the same as each other. It does mean that everyone should be treated in the same way in the eyes of the law regardless of their status in society. We are a long way from having reached such an attitude. People are still very much judged not by what they are but how much they know.


Are you intelligent?

This word is misused as much as education. Intelligence’s real meaning is being able to think and surprisingly enough education has exactly the same meaning. The common and mistaken belief is that intelligence is measured by a test and education consists of going to school and accepting and remembering what we have been taught, whether we want to or not.

The fact is that intelligence is the ability to work things out for ourselves from the moment we are born and the same is true of education. We come into the world knowing nothing, a huge advantage. We have a survival kit that enables us to pick up a language (or two or three), suck for food, cry when we need help and walk within the first few years. All parents have to do is pay attention by talking to us and feeding us.

All children are avid to learn. They alone know what interests them most. Therefore the richer the environment into which they have been born the sooner they will find out what interests them most. The best advice anyone could give to parents is to encourage them to do what they like best, and they all have preferences. Children want to get their own way and rightly so. They are small in a world of giants. They fight for their independence. They need help but the sooner they don’t need it the better. All the time they are adjusting to their family and the world around them.

I dislike the phrase ‘bringing up children’. They bring themselves up if they are allowed to. Of necessity since they are surrounded by dangers of which they know nothing, it is imperative that parents make certain rules to keep them safe and to help them to consider other people.

Observing parents who listen to their small children are astonished at how fast they learn. Here is an example of a small boy asking his mother for a drink.

“Mum, I want a drink. Will you make it jackwarm?” His mother was puzzled for a moment, then she realised what he said “Oh; you mean lukewarm.” The small boy had two friends called Jack and Luke.

Lukewarm was a new word for him. He couldn’t quite remember but he knew the first part was a boy’s name. This is a wonderful example of a child thinking logically. Making connections between very differet things is a sign of high intellegence. We were not surprised when he sailed through school and ended up with a degree in Oxford.

All too often adults laugh at a child making a ‘mistake’ and try to correct them. Stephen Pinker opines that this is a bad strategy, and I think he is right. It could be the beginning of shaking a child’s sense of self-confidence.