A Striking Inversion

     Apologies for yesterday’s absence, Gentle Reader. It was a “low” sort of day. Perhaps today will be better. At any rate, it’s starting better. And for openers, I’ve got an old “favorite” subject on my mind, about which Divemedic has a few words to say:

     Prepare to see airfares increase to cover the cost of retrofitting all of the aircraft with handicapped restrooms. Now I know that many of you will say “I don’t fly, anyhow” but that isn’t the point. The point here is that the limousine liberals of the left want to be the only ones who can afford to travel, eat at nice restaurants, and go on vacations. They can’t stand the fact that poor people have access to the things that they have. It isn’t that they are really concerned about the environment or about carbon emissions. No, they want to make sure that the elites are the only ones who have access to luxuries like getting on an airplane. After all, you can’t be an elite if just anyone can fly off to Bali or the French Riviera.

     This is a fascinating case of inverted envy. Ordinarily the envier hates the envied one for having what the envier does not. In this case, the envier has everything the envied one has, and probably much more…but he’s obsessed with his need to feel privileged, superior, and above all apart from Us the hoi polloi. He detests any reduction of the difference between them.

     The desire to be different, unique, perhaps even superior to others exists to some degree in all of us. It’s the driving force for the process called individuation, which – surprise, surprise – produces individuals with distinct characteristics. It’s normally counterbalanced by a process we’ve heard a lot about in recent years: socialization. The force behind socialization is seldom spoken of; indeed, I don’t think I know of a term for it that lacks negative connotations. In essence, it’s the desire to be acceptable to others and not to be a target for others’ resentment or hatred.

     To be conspicuously great – an achiever whose deeds perceptibly change the world – is to be a target. People notice that which is different enough to stand out, and greatness always does. Those who are insufficiently socialized will envy them in the hatred-laden sense of the word. But the reverse of the coin is this: those who are insufficiently individualized will scramble to layer themselves with superficial differences – and they will resent any person or development that chips away at those differences. A society with a sufficiently free economy will chip away at them relentlessly.

     This is a huge subject that I can’t possibly give a complete treatment in an essay for Liberty’s Torch. Still, it’s worth a few words to delineate one of the pathologies attached to it.

     There’s a balance point between individuation and socialization that produces an individual who differs from others, perhaps even in significant ways, but who is equally socially acceptable. Many great persons, whose deeds make conspicuous changes to our environment, are insufficiently socialized. They can’t or won’t “fit in.” If their contributions are big enough and popular enough, perhaps they’ll be lionized by the rest of us. But great individuals have more effects than that.

     Others tend to gravitate to the great ones, to cluster around them. There are requirements for admission, of course: one must either be great oneself or have a shitload of bucks. But the perception of greatness is always accompanied by envy. It can be the wistful, nondestructive sort that’s best expressed as “I wish I were as X as he is.” It can also be the resentful sort that leans toward hatred. But there’s a curious middle position, as well. It’s occupied by the person who’s happy to have been admitted to the circle of greatness and desperate to keep outsiders away.

     When we speak or “elites” or “establishments,” we are often speaking of clusters that contain a few genuinely great men – achievers who’ve proved their greatness by actually doing things – and a much larger number of what we sometimes call “hangers-on:” persons whose admission to the great ones’ society have nothing to do with actual achievement. They prize their status as admittees, yet they know that they have far less to offer others than the truly great. So they pile distinctions around themselves that can be purchased, rather than attained through achievement. A few of the more common ones:

  • Huge mansions in costly districts;
  • Shriekingly expensive cars;
  • Private yachts and jets;
  • Personal assistants;
  • Exotic vacations;
  • Luxury diets.

     Time was, we called these things “vanities.” Be that as it may – and it do, Gentle Reader, it surely do – a largely free market will make such things ever more affordable by the “non-great.” If you’ve heard wealthy people denigrate “McMansions,” the proliferation of Mercedes and Bentleys, or the steadily increasing popularity of vacations in exotic places, you’ve witnessed envy in the sense I’ve addressed here. Ordinary free-market economic advancement diminishes the superficial differences that separate the hanger-on from the rest of us. And they hate it.

     A snippet from a great movie comes to mind:

Jake Gittes: How much are you worth?
Noah Cross: I have no idea. How much do you want?
Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you’re worth. More than 10 million?
Noah Cross: Oh my, yes!
Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?
Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.

     [From Chinatown]    

     While he won’t explicitly say so, Noah Cross wants power: yet another essentially meaningless distinction that separates the elite from the rest of us. If you doubt that it’s “essentially meaningless,” think about the gaggle of persons, from mediocrities to outright felons, who wield power over us today.

     And with that I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.


    • Sean on July 14, 2023 at 11:28 AM

    You are correct in you analysis, sir. I have wondered, ever since I was born a child, in, and of, the hoi poloi, what in hell people were so worked up about with their snooty attitudes, and looking down their noses at other people. It was always just human arrogance, and you’ve spotted it well. I learned that no one can make you feel inferior unless you give that thought permission in your mind. It was hard to learn, but once I knew the truth, I was free of a cloying annoyance that had no resemblance to integrity. A thing that gives me pause now, and some amusement, is how many people are wrapped up in their faux superiority, and don’t realize it is all rust.

  1. Lurch’s testimony before Matt Gaetz immediately comes to mind…..

    • The Infant Phenomenon on July 14, 2023 at 6:00 PM

    Very readable because well written. Special thanks and compliments for knowing the diff between “jealous” and “envious.” The word “envy” has all but disappeared from the language. Other, lesser writers would have used “jealous” in this article. You are a national treasure!

Comments have been disabled.