There are two kinds of equality: equality of outcomes and equality under the law. To get equality of outcomes, you have to have inequality under the law–you will have to treat everyone differently. After all, because people are inherently unequal in interests, intelligence, drive, etc., if people are living where the rules are equally applied, there will be inequality of outcomes.
The problem is that, much like with the two different ways one can be powerful, people confuse the two different kinds of equality.
“Everybody keeps calling for Excellence — excellence not just in schooling, throughout society. But as soon as somebody or something stands out as Excellent, the other shout goes up: ‘Elitism!’ And whatever produced that thing, whoever praises that result, is promptly put down. ‘Standing out’ is undemocratic” – Jacques Barzun
The problem, then, is that the pursuit of excellence is made increasingly difficult, as I’ve already observed. If we believe that equality means equality of outcomes, then democracy will inevitably drag everyone down into the mud. That’s why it’s so important that people understand that not all kinds of equality will result in equal outcomes. And, more, equality of outcome isn’t at all fair for that very reason.
Equality under the law, where people are literally treated the same through the rules of that culture/social systems/civil society, will result in unequal outcomes, but everyone will be treated the same. It also has the benefit of rewarding excellence rather than causing resentment toward it.