As enamored as our society is with the noble concept of creating a world in which opportunity is equally distributed to all, we can perhaps see the ultimate folly of such a goal if extended to its logical extremes. Please understand, I am not here specifically referring to the goal of remedying the systemic oppression effectuated on racial and ethnic minorities in this society, though I suppose that such a goal is inevitably touched by the nature of this critique. Rather, I am talking about the advantages and disadvantages bestowed upon those born at certain periods in history, or even in different decades within the same historic moment--the factor of time, if you will, abstracted from other factors of inequality. If I had been born ten years earlier, for example, I would have found myself thrust into a booming economic moment in which I could have grasped the opportunities available to those in the legal market while the market was still expanding, ensconcing myself into a desirable niche within which I might have buffered the storm of retraction to come. Instead, I was born into a sluggish economy in which I have had to scrimp and cower, seeking unusual opportunities wheresoever they have arisen rather than establishing a singular competitive skill-set. I haven't done too badly for myself, I suppose, but I am much less far along than I should be, even given the specific misfortunes of my life--both the foibles of my own mistakes and the vicissitudes of fate.
The critic might respond that the goal of equal opportunity is not to equate the opportunities of disparate generations (or intra-generations given the swiftness of changes in our modern economy) but to provide equality for those similarly situated in a given moment. So be it, but this does not fully address the question, for those who proceed us in time artificially bend the nature of the economic reality in which we find ourselves a part (both for good and for ill). So lesser men and women, of lesser talents, employing lesser work and toil and thrift, harvest that much greater a portion from the fruit of their labors than we born into such a disreputable and dispirited age. And the fairness of this inequality is further degraded by the fact that the waning of this economic moment was caused by the very actions of these fortunate forebears--thus, they reap both the benefit and yet cause the disease that doubly afflicts my generation. Then these very staid and august precursors have the audacity to complain of my compatriots, while it is yet they who (indirectly and unintentionally, I grant) created this squalid age.
Fools! The old and the young have become as fools! And granted, it is these bitter fruits of our experience that yet may lay the sod upon which the future harvest of my generation may thrive. That is always a possibility, and I cannot see so far into the future as to deny this optimistic vision. But I fear that the sod of these bitter fruits are themselves bereft of nutrients, planting instead pestilence which will seep into the soil, poisoning the ground for generations yet to come. Ours is an unfortunate generation, born into an evil moment, and I weep for my fellows and for our children.