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Equality and Egality, Egalization and Globalization by Dakshinamoorthi Raja Ganesan and Lindner

Dear All,
Raja Ganesan was so kind as to send us his thoughts on the topic of equality and dignity, from an Indian point of view. I would like to share his reflections with you, see further down.
However, before that, I paste in some passages from my book manuscript on humiliation for you, passages that touch upon the topic of equality versus equal dignity, and introduce a word I coinded, namely egalization.
I hope, you find this discussion stimulating!
Most warmly!

The following is taken from my book manuscript on humiliation:

Once low, always low! How peripheral characteristics can be ranked and essentialized
As you already noticed, I prefer to speak about the vertical ranking of human worth and value, and less about inequality, hierarchy, or stratification. This is because the significant point for my discussion is not the absence or presence of hierarchy, inequality or stratification, but whether human worthiness is ranked or not. Hierarchy, inequality and stratification can very well coexist with the absence of ranking human beings as unequal. Robert W. Fuller (2003) describes this most vividly in his book Somebodies and Nobodies; according to Fuller, humiliation is not the use of rank, but the abuse of rank. A pilot, for example, in a plane, or the captain of a ship, is the master over his passengers when in the sky or at high sea; clear hierarchy and stark inequality characterize this situation. Yet, nonetheless, the pilot need not look down on his passengers as lesser beings.
In other words, using concepts such as hierarchy, inequality or stratification, would be somewhat misleading here, because they would invite statements and objections such as, “There have always been differences between people! Human beings have never been the same and never will be! Are you a dreamer who believes that we could or should all to be the same? This is not only impossible, but also boring!”
Such statements or objections are irrelevant to the discussion of this book and would represent a grave miscomprehension of its focus. The point that is highlighted here is not the absence or presence of sameness or equality, but the absence or presence of the vertical scale of human worth and value. Diversity and difference can, without a problem, go together with sameness of value and worth; there is no automatism that necessarily links diversity and difference to rankings. The vertical scale of human worthiness is conceptually independent of hierarchy, inequality or stratification. (I will come back to this point later and explain that there indeed are some links that, after all, may be conceptualized.)
The important point at this stage is that a system that condones the vertical scale of human value essentializes hierarchy, inequality, and stratification. In such a social framework, a street sweeper not only does a lowly job, the lowliness of the task is essentialized as inner core of his entire being: He or she is a lowly person. Something that could very well be peripheral to this person’s essence, namely the task of sweeping the street, is turned into her core definition: this person is deemed to be of lower human value and worth. This act of essentialization is what we find in many, if not most, traditional societies.
A street sweeper and a bank director could very well be seen as fellow human beings of equal dignity, albeit with different occupations; what differentiates them could very well be pure neutral difference and diversity. However, in traditional societies, this difference is being ranked and essentialized. Neutral difference is turned into lesser and higher. My Fair Lady, the musical, illustrates beautifully how Professor Higgins regards the poor flower girl Elisa as a lower human being, even after she has learned higher manners. Her essence, in his view, is fixed in lowliness through her initial poor status in society. For Professor Higgins nothing can turn Elisa into a human being of equal worthiness as compared to him and his higher cast.

This is taken from another text by Lindner:

The word egalization has been coined by Lindner in order to match the word globalization and at the same time differentiate it from words such as equality, because the main point is not equality. The point is rather equal dignity, even though there is a connection between equality and equal dignity. (The connection is “hidden” in the human rights stipulation that equal chances and enabling environments for all are necessary to protect human dignity.)
The term egalization is meant to avoid claiming that everybody should become equal and that there should be no differences between people. Egality can coexist with functional hierarchy that regards all participants as possessing equal dignity; egality can not coexist, though, with hierarchy that defines some people as lesser beings and others as more valuable.
If we imagine the world as a container with a height and a width, globalization addresses the horizontal dimension, the shrinking width. Egalization concerns the vertical dimension, reminiscent of Hofstede’s power distance. Egalization is a process away from a very high container of masters at the top and underlings at the bottom, towards a flat container with everybody enjoying equal dignity.
Egalization is a process that elicits hot feelings of humiliation when it is promised but fails. The lack of egalization is thus the element that is heating up feelings among so-called “globalization-critics.” Their disquiet stems from lack of egalization and not from an overdose of globalization. What they call for is that globalization ought to marry egalization.

In this book globalization is defined as the coming together of humankind, both physically and psychologically in One single global village. Globalization promotes the coming-into-being into an interdependent global village combined with an awareness of how small and vulnerable the planet is that humankind inhabits. Both, growing interdependence as well as increasing awareness, are driven by myriads of large and small processes that coalesce and are powered by a growing world-wide communication network (telecommunication, air traffic, satellites, and television).

This technology promotes the perception of the world as One single global village on a small planet in a vast universe. Globalization is thus the physical, mental and emotional coming together of humankind on the tiny planet Earth. The process of globalization affects the hearts and minds of an ever increasing number of the world’s population. Numerous new tasks emerge, such as how to proceed with what we could call world formation.

If we imagine the world as a container with a height and a width, globalization addresses the horizontal dimension, the shrinking width. Globalization is when humankind huddles together on a planet that is viewed as a tiny human homestead lost in a vast universe, as opposed to a large Earth taking the prominent seat in the middle of the universe.

One of the most unique aspects of globalization is the waning of several villages in favor of One global village. In the current global village the security dilemma gets weaker, a win-win context emerges due to knowledge becoming the main resource, and all concepts that were previously connected to outside events fade. Words and concepts such as war, or soldier lose their anchoring in reality. Thus, globalization is seen to entail deep prosocial and pacifying elements. It is the lack of egalization that causes people to feel unease about the process of globalization.

Raja Ganesan wrote on 04.07.2004:

Dear Evelin.
Thank you for your interest in my views on human dignity under non-egalitarian ideologies. They are based on my observations and reading of Western and Indian sociological literature--the second one mainly secondary sources. First of all absolute equality is a myth. Such a state can never come about. As communism tried supposing we try for absolute economic equality: there will still be stratification in terms of physical beauty and attractiveness to the opposite sex! One man or woman will be liked by many, many members of the opposite sex and a few by not anyone. The Indian tradition --in theory, IN THEORY--has found a way out to ensure that one's basic dignity as a human being depends upon his or her behaviour vis-a-vis and not on birth. How far does he or she conform to societal role expectations is the received criterion in the traditional Indian ethical literature. Of course, it has come under historical distortion leading to a travesty of the original intention is a different matter.I will illustrate this point through a story. There was prostitute in a village. She conformed to the ethical expectations regarding her behaviour. She cohabited with whoever came to her--whether the person was young or old, handsome or ugly, true to the spirit that is supposed to infuse her calling. Still she was marginalised by society because she was a prostitute,after all. She was forbidden from taking her daily bath in the river that girded the town. It was supposed to be a very sacred one bathing in which gave the person final liberation--the summum bnoonum of existence as per Indian philosophies. She was unhappy and did not know what to do. As the legend goes,god made the river go through her courtyard because she was true to her profession! That is, according to the true Indian tradition,the prostitute had earned a superior dignity in the eyes of god because of her superior devotion to her calling. And one who has renounced his world --even if it is to escape from the debts he had incurred thanks to a profligate way of living and whatever his status before renunciation-- is deemed worthy of reverence --that is, more than the dignity accorded to those who stay put within the social order. That helps such 'prodigal sons'as a safety valve to 'escape into dignity' at anytime.This reverence persists to this day and it is exploited by pseudo-renunciates! There are so many such stories that attest that ancient Indian thinking had recognised the impossibility of absolute equality and yet found a way for everyone --whatever his status in its rigid caste hierarchy-- to earn dignity superior even to those higher in the caste status. Unfortunately the spirit of this ethos has evaporated. Of course, the rigid caste hierarhy too is crumbling. Class is taking its place. Afer all, as Daniel Bell pointed out, capitalism has one scheme of stratification and socialism has a different one, but stratification is ubiquitous across the ideological spectrum around the world.
Raja Ganesan

Posted by Evelin at July 5, 2004 07:46 AM