In reality there is never equality. Even in the forest, the lion is not the same as the gentle deer, which has to gather in large numbers to remain safe. But, still it always takes a lesser number of lions to terrify entire herds of deer to keep them in check. The lion cannot eat herbs just because its eating meat can offend the sensibilities of the deer which is larger in number in the forest. The deer cannot eat meat because the lion terrifies it into doing so. The lion shall continue to eat meat and the deer shall continue to eat its grass and herbs because it is in their natural essence for both to do so.
A sense of equality is a notional concept in a democracy.
How should a majority behave? Gracious, noble, generous and always mindful that they may be taking more just on the merit of their numbers without meaning to? How should a minority behave? Grateful, submissive, insecure and always mindful of its numbers? If one was cutting up a pizza for ten, should one cut equally? If seven went to the same family, and three went to different individuals, would the bill be divided equally? Who stands at an advantage? Who stands at a disadvantage?
What happens when some rules come in to ensure the minority is given some safety guards which the majority do not need because they are protected by their numbers? Does that make it less democratic, a little unfair? Is it practically possible to actually offer the same thing to the lion and the deer except to ensure that both are allowed to live, and as per their own nature ? It is not the lion's fault that the deer happens to be its food, nor the lion's fault that even numbers do not protect the deer.
What happens when the minority demand those safety guards because that is the only way they can match the majority in principle? The majority feel less gracious. noble, generous and almost disadvantaged because of their numbers even when it is higher. What happens when the minority are deprived of those safety guards to match up with the majority to even the playing ground? Do they still feel safe, secure, privileged and submissive or does fear or the anger at the lack of equal opportunity make them demand in a way that riles the majority up.
What is the loss of tolerance after all, except the majority losing its willingness to be gracious and the minority refusing to be grateful and submissive.
Democracy is not a great thing after all. And, not so fair nor easy either. But, it is the best that we have at the moment in putting the lion and the deer in the same forest at all.
- Srividya Srinivasan