He had always been convinced that human beings should be equal. Not identical. But equal. Equal in rights, equal in obligations. After all, he was born in the country which decreed in its declaration of human and citizen rights, several centuries ago, that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights”; assertion that United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights had extended, geographically and semantically, proclaiming that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.If the latter text had abandoned, in the fundamental article, the mention of perenniality for innate equality, its authors had added in Article 2 a pinch of universality, following the enumeration of characteristics that could not lead to unequal treatment by “or any other situation”.
In addition, he had spent most of his adult life in a kingdom that placed multiculturalism and the celebration of diversity at the centre of his social and cultural policy. A kingdom where one must declare, during any job application, gender, age, ethnic origin, religion, and sexual preference, in order to be able to back claims of non-discrimination on a solid statistical basis. Suffice to say, he had never pondered the question of equal access to all aspects of modern life in a Western society. Like air or drinking water, that was self-evident.
And then he made that mistake. A despicable, illegal behavior that led him to the courts. He had come out convicted, severely. Social sanctions being unsurprisingly added to the judicial sentence, he had now to re-invent himself. The prospect was agonizing, although slightly exciting. He was no-one, and could thus become anyone. He had always been competitive. And he used to give his all in what he was passionate about, which in the past had included his professional activity. So, since equal opportunities and treatment were obvious, he should be able to cope.
The first clue that things would not be so simple came from his social network. Hitherto ultra-connected and in constant communication, visually or via various analog and digital artifices, he now entered the silent world. After a dozen messages of support, his interactions were mostly limited to his family and anonymous members of various administrations that he had to meet on a periodic basis.
He started quickly to look for a job. He knew, of course, that the doors of certain fields would now be closed. Moreover, as long as the period of rehabilitation was not completed, he had to mention the sentence if asked. But he never had the opportunity. His applications remained unanswered, or the interactions ended after an initial contact. That is, as soon as his identity was known and led to an online search. His case having been widely exposed in the press, this did not come as a surprise. The extent of the phenomenon was more puzzling. Tired by the impossibility of being recruited into an organization or a traditional company, he tried “freelancing”. In order to start his business, he attempted to register on global platforms, counting millions of subscribers and managed abroad. However, he was rejected there as well, without any particular reason being invoked. Nor did things stop there. When he wanted to renew his home insurance, he was told that it was not possible. After some online research, he found out that most insurances were declared null and void after a conviction. When he decided to take a subscription to the local gym, he was asked to cancel it on the next day.
He then discovered a little known fact outside the judicial domains. Anti-discrimination laws do not apply to people who are not “rehabilitated”. He could now be barred from any activity or place arbitrarily without the need of any justification. He was entering a hidden apartheid, involving hundreds of thousands of people in his own country of residence. He was now a second-class human, with fewer rights than the others. From an “alpha plus plus” of the Brave New World, he had gone to a “gamma”.
The question that now arose, in this era of absolute memory, was this: Since we could be relegated to second class, would it be possible, with time, to regain a position in first? To become again, one day, a man, “free and equal in rights” with his neighbor?