Rather than think of the world as a space of equality, students learn to think of it as one of possibility; adopting the liberal frame, equality is not to be expected but a “fair shake” is“ (Khan 2011, p. 76).
In the ethnographic work of Shamus Khan — now a professor at Princeton — he walks us through the lives of the privileged here in the United States. St. Paul’s School, an elite boarding academy in New England is the setting of his story. As an alumni himself, the book explores the various ways our new upcoming class of elites learn to embrace the meritocracy, their individuality, and ultimately their own privilege.
Through the vast revolutions, downfall of the former aristocrats, and birth of democracies — Khan shows that our societies did not become more equal, but gave the elite the tools to ”...view [inequality] as fair” (Khan 2011, p. 194). The elite are no longer caught up in their own culture, acquiring their own exclusive “cultural capital”, but they can integrate across the class scale. The students at St. Paul listened to rap music, valued their hard-work in getting to where they are and beyond, and took pride in their own “individual” accomplishments. ”From this point of view, those who are not successful are not necessarily disadvantaged; they are simply those who failed to seize the opportunities afforded by our new, open society“ (Khan 2011, 197).
This is what Khan calls the “Democratic Inequality“ — which is brought into light even more in our contemporary setting in 2021. We see riots, bills, videos, screams, and agony opposing this inequality. But in that same crowd, we see the very same people who are privileged by this democratic inequality — those who fight for equality for the case of others, not themselves. Those who fight for equal opportunity for others, need not themselves.
”No justice — no peace”. Yet, it is the injustice — or shall I say the inconsistency of morality and behavior — that has brought out peace for some. What justice do we seek from that? The antonym of justice is not injustice — it is justice, just seen from the other side.
Is it the dogma of equality we hold onto — or the morality? Do we merely seek for more to enter onto the other side of justice?
“It is not a sign of arrogance for the king to rule. That is what he is there for”.
- William Buckley Jr.