Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What is Equality?

I was reminded today that somepeople feel victimized when they are not selected for promotion or tenured positions at rates they believe equal that of their male peers.  It took me back to my early days in the Air Force when I heard similar complaints by a minority.  Officers who were not afforded opportunity to command, and in turn were promoted at a lower rate then their peers.  While it would be easy to believe this was just another manifestation of racial bias, I am referring to a discrimination that had nothing to do with the color of a man’s skin, but rather the shape of the crest on his wings.  At the time the argument was public law forbid anyone but a pilot from commanding a flying squadron.  Navigators were second-class airmen not capable of commanding combat units in the Air Force.  As in all discrimination it took a number of events to change and there was resistance along the way, but as with the integration of blacks or women, it did.  I am sure we will see a similar change as we incorporate the skills and service of today’s newly recognized minorities.
But that is not what I want to talk about; it is about how those affected deal with the issues and climate before them.  What I saw from my peers were individuals taking one of three approaches to the restrictions we lived under.  Some accepted their lot in life.  They would grumble about the unfairness of the system, but make no effort to demonstrate they were better than those they flew with.  Others would rail against the restrictions to a point they would eventually separate from the service complaining they were treated unfairly.  Finally, others would go quietly about being the best officers and airmen they could with the expectation their hard work would be recognized and rewarded. 
I look back on my career and I have to admit I had tremendous fun.  I didn’t start off too strong, I was happy just to be flying.  But about the time I was a mid-level Captain I came to realize I could compete with anyone.  I never really got the first choice in my assignments, but I always got the best assignment for me.  For example, I wanted to move to Europe and the AF sent me to Japan.  I wanted to stay in Special Operations, and the AF sent me to instruct in Navigator School.  I wanted to come back to the 8th SOS and ended up in a specialized planning group.  But over the course of my career I learned to build teams, lead men and woman; never make excuses for my performance, or wonder why I was where I was.  I never worried about how I ranked against my peers; I just did the best I was capable of at whatever job I was given.  All of this has played out to make me who I am today.  I think more people would be happier if they would learn to make the most of their choices and worry less about what was going on with their peers.
Now back to what started this.  It is funny the hugely liberal academic establishment goes to such length to maintain their status quo, yet at the same time rail about how society needs to change to conform to what they are teaching their students.  How in our cloistered institutions of higher learning do we actually force the idea of equality of opportunity so that promotion is truly based on performance and not social networking? 
What separates us all from equality is natural selection.  Some are smarter, stronger, politically astute, or more charismatic than others, like it or not that is true and inescapable.  Should everyone have an equal chance to be what they want?  Assuming equal ability it is easy to say yes, but we are never completely equal in life so what is the right answer?  
My one piece of advice to anyone who would listen is; life (or work) is a puzzle those who figure out how to make the pieces fit together succeed.  Those who don’t -- complain about how unfair the system is.  Learn to be a problem solver.

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