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More equal

The extent to which societies accept big differences in hierarchy shows a long-lasting decreasing trend. This goes for countries, for cities, and for organizations. The most important reason is the continuous spread of knowledge, stimulated by new technologies. The increasing knowledge can have great impact. In the earlier days citizens, thanks to then new technologies like newspapers, were informed about decisions being made centrally, therefore got involved in what happened, and in the end helped to get rid of some very dominant royalties. These then made place for republics or democratic societies. Through books knowledge could be shared with others, after which many countries adopted compulsory education at the end of the 19th century, so that children could develop themselves. The higher the level of knowledge, the smaller the hierarchical differences. These days leveling is very clear.

The Netherlands are a great example of this. In the 19th century, the dignitaries were still placed on a pedestal. Halfway the 20st century this was mainly true for doctors, teachers and professors. Knowledge was power. The time of the teacher’s standing is over, the professor turns out to be just a nice guy who can’t possibly know everything, and the doctor these days gets to see well prepared patients who have searched the internet and want a referral immediately for the hospital they have chosen already. A doctor therefore gets more the role of a coach, a more equal role. And thus the Netherlands get more equal than they already were.

The big difference with this historic development is that this trend is now taking place worldwide. And I really mean worldwide. Everyone will be online. Even the amazon Indians who now can only be reached by canoe. The highly praised project one laptop per child (in the third world) also contributes to this, and besides the mobile use of internet will explode further. It will worldwide lead to enormous generation gaps, with as end result (after decades) more equal cultures. And every culture will make a big or small step in this. The more hierarchical a culture today, the bigger the step. The Netherlands, together with Finland, Denmark, and New Zealand, are the most equal cultures in the world, and thus will take a small step. Other cultures like Malaysia, Russia or Panama still have a long way to go though. Cultures with strong hierarchy can be easily recognized, for example by visible display of power, their attitude towards other countries, or repression of citizens. In these kinds of cultures a lot is going to happen.

The increasing amount of equality is a long term trend that started with the art of printing, from the moment knowledge could really start spreading. In the years to come this trend, through worldwide connectivity, the increased understanding of internet applications, and new technological possibilities, will speed up tremendously.

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