I was on the treadmill today watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (for some reason, I am on a mission to watch them all, in order) and Captain Picard referred to his "superiors." I had a thought at that moment that liberated me from the chains of equality.
Of course, Americans have the idea ingrained in them that "all men are created equal." This fuels a kind of independent spirit (no pun intended) and a sense that we are just as good as anyone around us. Those who think they are "better" than us can sod off. On an existence level, this is true... No one is simply born with more worth than anyone else.
At the same time, I have always been respectful of those who have achieved higher levels than I have. This would seem incongruous, no? I use, and have always used, the word "sir" when addressing elder gents. (I use "ma'am" more reservedly, if only because I have known women who think this is an accusation of oldness...)
In the end, I do not think a Colonel is a superior person to a Private. But I do think he, within his organization, has reached a level worthy of respect and deference. Picard is a star ship captain in the show. He has reached great heights, but not as high as his commanding admiral. To refer to the admiral as his "superior" is not as metaphoric as a rebel soul like mine would always see it. For the organization to work, one can, with sustained dignity, throw off the chains of ego and bow to one's superior.
The only remaining question is how important it is to compare our lives with those of the humans around us. But that is a post that is building in my inferior little head as we speak...