The national motto of France is popularly believed to have been fixed in the French Revolution as early as 1789, but in reality it was not institutionalized in its present form until the Third Republic at the end of the 19th Century.  Each part of the tripartite motto had its own historical evolution.

The idea of the equality of women and men has its origin in the Judaeo-Christian Sacred Scriptures.  Jesus Christ, by word and example, taught that there is a fundamental equality between men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, all economic classes and all age groups.  The elaboration of each part of the tripartite motto grew out of the Age of Enlightenment’s preoccupation with the natural rights of man.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 defined Liberty as follows:

“Liberty consists of being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man and woman has no bounds other than those that guarantee other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights.”

That same Declaration defined Equality as primarily judicial equality:

“The law must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.  All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible for high offices, public positions and employments, according to their ability, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.”

The third term of the tripartite motto was not defined in the Declaration and had a very varied interpretation and history, appearing in various writings during the Revolutionary period with different interpretations and emphases.  Generally, it was assumed to refer to the moral sphere and related to the realization of a happy community.  With the execution of Robespierre the term was largely dropped from the motto and was not restored until the Third Republic.

From the French words egal (meaning ‘equal’) and egalite there has developed the modern concept of egalitarianism.  Egalitarianism has traditionally been regarded in modern English as referring either to the political idea that all people should be treated as equals, or the social idea of removing inequalities among people.

Under the influence of the growing left-liberal influence on news media and the entertainment industry, however, the term egalitarianism has come to take on so many shades of meaning as to defy simple definition.  One of its traditional meanings there has arisen a whole set of new applications to human behavior.
Thus, for example in the middle of the last Century the idea of “Unisex” began to influence human attitudes and social mores and even laws and regulations of society.  Unisex fashions in dress and physical appearance, unisex public toilets, etc became a norm for society.

The point of this little essay is to draw attention to the debasement of egalitarianism by the rejection of anything and everything that would promote individualism.  In its most recent incarnation, this tendency in European society and now in North American society seeks to outlaw anything that contributes to individual expression of one’s personality, religious beliefs, moral code, etc.

Nowhere has this tendency been more in evidence than in our nations public schools.  First came dress codes, then rules regulating hair length, then, more recently, the banning of jewelry or any ornamentation that would express one’s religious beliefs, such as wearing a cross.

This tendency was undoubtedly responsible for the abolition of prayer in public schools.
The abolition may have been motivated in part by a simple hatred of religion by the ACLU and its atheistic supporters, but it also probably had it origin simply in the complaints of parents or children without any religious beliefs that having to be present while believers prayed made then very self-conscious since they could not join in in the prayer.

Today comes news that some school districts now require that ALL student WALK to school and are not allowed to ride bicycles or be driven by parents to school, while other school districts now forbid students to walk or ride bicycles to school but must instead ride school buses to school.

I am enough of a libertarian to find such enforced forms of egalitarianism totally reprehensible.  In its most dangerous form of expression we can find it in Barack Hussein Obama’s goal of wealth redistribution.  The idea in not new.

Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, et al all had the same goal of not only erasing class distinction, but of producing a society lacking in individualistic expression.  The current proposed bills for a national health plan seek in their own way to erase all individual choice and to ‘level the playing field’ in a way that resembles the socialism of Communism.

Sad to say, there have even been manifestations of this perverse form of egalitarianism in the Church since the close of the Second Vatican Council.  The most outrageous manifestation has been in the liturgical life of the Church.

Immediately after the close of the Council there was the rush to impose on Catholics in the pew a uniform expression of liturgical piety.  Rosaries were banned.  Hymnals were required to be used along with missalettes.  The Novus Ordo was imposed with a demand for full, active participation in ways determined by liturgists.  Gone were the individual worshippers option to participate in the celebration of the Mass in his own way.

Options given by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II were arbitrarily limited by priests.
Catholics were told that they had to receive Holy Communion in the hand while standing.  Kneeling was forbidden.  Reception of the host on the tongue was forbidden.
All in violation of the rights of individual Catholics to exercise their choice of the options given by the Popes.

Somehow we, in the Church and in society need to find a way to preserve individuality and to resist efforts to make us all be cookie-cutter look-alike members of this Brave New World that is the Obamanation.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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