Equality is the basis of any democracy and the theoretical strength of our modern governments. In practice, however, the wealthy and the powerful still end up holding most of the power. The rich and the entitled can have better education, better jobs, and in the end, a stronger voice politically. Democracy, the dictatorship of the majority, becomes an oligarchy of the rich, a sham to hide the fact that no, all people are not equal, we do not have power.
And what better example to this privilege is than the University of St Andrews? Here we have the wealthy, the powerful. Duchesses have studied here, along with princes, kings, and queens. How can these privileged individuals possibly support an equality that serves to take some of their power away? How can individuals in a university like this support a Labour party, a Socialist Society, or even equality in general? And even if they were to take a moral stand against inequality, how could it not be hypocritical? Equality means the wealthy and the powerful lose some privilege in favour of those that have less. A noble cause, a righteous cause, even, but in practice, the wealthy end up keeping most of their power. They satisfy the people for some time, give them an inkling of a taste of a voice of change, and then stop, content to be seen as magnanimous and yet not willing to lose more than they have already.
So, are wealthy St Andreans being entirely sincere when they talk about egalitarianism and social justice?
Let’s take the St Andrews Labour Society as an example. The Labour Party in the UK is built on “equality, social justice, and compassion.” Here is a party that wants nothing more than to bring power back to the people. Up until recently, the Labour Party had no real representation in our beloved town of St Andrews. This year, finally, the Labour Society has gathered enough members to be officially affiliated with the University. Some thirty courageous and moral individuals have answered the call of equality for all, paid their membership fees, shared a beer in the Students’ Union, and allowed the Society to exist.
But the question remains, why would someone with privilege ever give it up? And now the answer: Because it is the right thing to do. Because power belongs to the many, not to the few. And because, according Labour Society leader Lucy Howie, being wealthy but also caring about social justice is not hypocritical in itself. She claims that supporting movements such as Labour only becomes hypocritical if one also supports private schooling or other activities specifically aimed at entrenching wealth and privilege.
Despite the irony of her position, leading a branch of what began as a working-class movement in one of the most middle class parts of the country, Miss Howie is adamant about the inclusion of all people in the movement for equality. And she is right. After all, it took an obscenely wealthy Friedrich Engels to support his penniless friend Karl Marx to develop his ideals and to create a fire of revolutionary change that spread across the world.
So no, it’s not hypocritical for St Andreans to support movements for equality. In fact, our privilege makes it our duty to support social movements. Those who have the most can do the most good. Those who have the most can change the world.