Why I Read Great Writing Or Section 54 of John Locke’s Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government
“Sect. 54. Though I have said above (Chap. II), ‘That all men by nature are equal,’ I cannot be supposed to understand all sorts of equality: age or virtue may give men a just precedency: excellency of parts and merit may place others above the common level: birth may subject some, and alliance or benefits others, to pay an observance to those to whom nature, gratitude, or other respects, may have made it due: and yet all this consists with the equality, which all men are in, in respect of jurisdiction or dominion one over another; which was the equality I there spoke of, as proper to the business in hand, being that equal right, that every man hath, to his natural freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of any other man.”
I met a man once who seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders. As our friendship blossomed he kept inviting me to sign up to some kind of free enterprise online magazine club. Due to the twin facts that it cost money and that I don’t believe Truth costs money, I always rebuffed him. Just wasn’t my thing. Finally he offered to pay for the refundable intro lessons. I still declined. Later, at my pleading, he shared with me (for free) a link to some kind of private YouTube video (must have link to view) and I gave it a whirl. In the video, the lecturer declared, “Every word should have one meaning and one meaning only.”
“Puh. What garbage,” I instinctively reacted.
Equality is the word I ask you to consider with me today. Would you have guessed that Mr. Locke had announced which shade of meaning he was after when he said, “All men by nature are equal”? Of course, Thomas Jefferson didn’t include an explanation of which shade of equality he meant alongside his, “All men are created equal” within the Declaration of Independence, so don’t follow your mind to a place we’re not going. My question remains. Would you have guessed that Locke explained that he knew of other meanings of equality?
I would have. The reason I would have is because I’ve been reading great writing for some time now and it simply sounds different than contemporary writing.
For a variety of reasons, our peers are up in arms about equality these days. And they try to use Locke’s idea as a unifying backbone. “See? You, Captain American Declaration, already believe these disenfranchised people are equal too…” they say. It’s nonsense. The house of cards collapses with a single question, “Which sort of equality?” Kamala Harris doesn’t know which sort she means. She doesn’t even take time to evidence that she knows that there are different sorts. This means only that she is not a great writer. Who knew?
This is why I read great writing. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to discern the many nuanced meanings of equality. I wouldn’t be able to discern who is attempting to con me and who is attempting to persuade me. And without this discernment, my mind would be, at the least, enslaved to another man’s mind, and, at the most, enslaved to his will.
Lastly, to be clear, you don’t have to agree with Locke or the Founders’ assertion about all men’s equality in order to agree with me here. I promise, however, that whether you agree with Locke or not, you will not forget what he taught you about equality.
Read on, young man! Read on!