On Respecting Our Betters
There are lots of things in this life that I'm not good at. And there are a few things that I am good at, even a couple I am great at. And while it is difficult for me to take on board, one of those things I am not so good at really yet is winning and losing.
Consider this: winning is sweet and losing is bitter, but the bitterness is stimulating or depressing, and the sweetness is toxic or memorable, depending on what game you believe you're playing.
Success partly lies in internalizing the reward-punition systems which society and economics provide external symbols for, or at worst lends a carrot and stick to drive the reluctant into action or out of the more destructive forms of inaction. Society tends to legitimize economics, in a way devolving social norms to the economic sphere. Essentially in modern societies the social more is outsourced to the economic sphere, so that work becomes a kind of extended living parable of character and moral and ethical ruminations. One internalizes the world through the economic sphere, through working, shopping, paying and buying, and thereby comes to know oneself.
This is a pretty good way it seems to me, especially when compared to the earlier forms whereby humans internalized this reward-punishment system. (Incidently, Freud refers to this system as "the ego ideal".)
For example, in the primitive forms of society such as that portrayed in the old English epic Beowulf it is not the richest, but the most generous rich person, who is considered the greatest. And even then it is not the generosity or richness alone which is rewarded but that which it implies: a sage and careful consideration of which warriors to fund, and which to starve.
Thus the conflation of material prosperity with ethical excellence is a mythology which it seems humankind wants desperately to believe. Despite almost half a century of "distrust authority" propaganda mainly from the U.S.A, we still want to believe our betters are in fact better kinds of human being.
Which is a funny part of the drive to be good in sports, or the pleasure of being savvy about technology, or for my part simply the delight in winning a game of monopoly or cards against friends: one really wants to be a better person, really wants to be better. I would argue that in people who have not adequately internalised a sense of respect for authority, this drive to be better manifests as a wish to appear to be BETTER THAN another person, and that is when it really becomes a trouble.
Because for me, at this stage of my life, I think I want to be better at being bad at things. I want to be the best person at doing new things badly at first, at second, and even at third try. From the point of view of the world, I suppose I want to look like I'm not very good at what I'm doing. But that's just because I want to be better at winning and losing both. I want to be a better player. In fact, I want to believe the game I'm playing is completely for the highest good.
It's a wonderful paradox that in order to be better, one must be willing and able to be bad at many different things. And that is as good a reason to trust and respect authority as I can think of.