Many hope for a world where everyone is equal, but such a reality is illusory. Depending on family, home, and experiences from youth, which will invariably differ across the world, so will opportunity and quality of life. No two persons are subject to identical conditions in life; therefore, no two persons are truly equal.
For example, take Marge Piercy’s “A Work of Artifice,” in which a bonsai tree, which “could have grown eighty feet tall,” stayed at a mere “nine inches high” because a gardener “carefully pruned it.” In a way, children are like garden plants in that they have little real control over their lives and are heavily affected by their parents and the conditions in which they live; the gardener and the bonsai tree are akin to the parents and the child, respectively, as the former in both relationships determines the amount of opportunity that the latter can achieve through their treatment. Nurturing, loving parents who adequately nourish their child will allow for proper physical and psychological development to improve their child’s opportunities and quality of life. Meanwhile, neglectful, abusive, or even very controlling parents will achieve the opposite result.
Along with parents’ treatment of their children, familial and regional conditions from a young age also largely impact how the rest of a child’s life will play out. For instance, kids growing up with financial instability in an environment where “it’s all a negativity,” such as Baltimore, not only face restricted opportunities due to the lack of financial means, but also mental burdens and pressure to fall into the same bad patterns as others around them. This is especially true if your parents are addicted to drugs, as such was the case for one young Baltimore resident:
“Inherit the Earth” on Vimeo
In addition to all of the other struggles that this individual faced growing up in Baltimore, resolving to also financially support his parents and rid them of their addictions further weighed him down in life. Although that isn’t to say that he couldn’t live a happy, successful life in spite of these challenges, they did certainly make it harder for him.
Moreover, individual experiences during childhood also develop your views, interests, and passions to shape you as a person. Barry Lopez’s “Children in the Woods” provides an example of this concept with visiting nature: “My wife and I do not have children, but children we know, or children whose parents we are close to, are often here. They always want to go into the woods.” The developed affinity with nature from exploring the woods—a quality rarer among urban and suburban inhabitants—inspires careers “as writers, as scientists [particularly biologists and botanists], as filmmakers, [and] as anthropologists.” Life is like a funnel, where children start with broad, shallow interests/knowledge that they gradually cultivate and refine into specific passions/fields through experiences, practice, and education. Eventually, you must narrow down these categories and pursue an occupation in life, with different occupations boasting varying work conditions, availability, and levels of pay. Sure, you can always change your mind later in the journey and traverse another path if you’re unsatisfied with the one you’ve already taken, but this takes time and sets you back in life.
Some people are more fortunate in life; they’re endowed with natural charm, creativity, intellect, talent, healthiness, wealth, good family, and/or live in regions flourishing with education and opportunity. The select few possessing most or all of these traits essentially have it made and face (relatively) little struggle in life. Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum. No doubt, those who come from impoverished families and countries, facing malnutrition and forced manual labor from a young age just to make a living have far fewer opportunities and worse quality of life than those mentioned above. The same applies to those who are born with chronic diseases, conditions, or disabilities. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that some people will be inherently disadvantaged. Since absolute equality is impossible to achieve, what can be done about this issue? That’s a complex, difficult question to answer. In general, I believe that the fortunate should be philanthropic and aid the unfortunate.