Arrogance: A Very Human Trait

Posted on February 10, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, language, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • arrogance = knowledge of one’s superior status
  • expert = a recognized or self-proclaimed know-it-all in a given field (but you may need to ask, “Which field?”
  • god = a being transcendent beyond humanity (a.k.a., expert)
  • AJ = Average Joe;  Average Jane

Just in case you didn’t notice, I sorta dabbled with those definitions.  Please, do not send hate mail to Wikipedia.

We, humanity in all its past incarnations, created language.  I noted somewhere in these articles  that information sharing (the venerable IT Dept) was the greatest of human* inventions.  Knowing how to make fire and passing that knowledge to others was a far greater achievement than just luckily starting a single friendly fire and using it as a one-time marshmallow toaster.  A spoken language was key to that achievement.

Each human is a mirror of humanity’s achievements.  In today’s societies, certain individuals rise above the general population in specific areas:  mathematicians, musicians, political leaders, legalists, investigators, athletes, teachers, medical practitioners, psychologists, astronomers, cosmologists, physicists…   this list could go on and on and still leave out some area of specialization.

Maybe “starter kit” is more apt than “mirror.”  All of these specialists rise from the general population by simply growing into a specialty according to their personal interests or by imposition of circumstance.  In order for that specialist to be recognized as superior in performance, the general population must also have the capacity to grasp that individual’s achievement, and — if so inclined — emulate that overachiever.  Ergo, there is healer, teacher, mathematician, priest, a beggar, a leader, a competitor ad infinitum in each and every one of us.  Because of that innate human capacity, superior achievements of other individuals are recognized and, often, revered.

There are social hazards associated with the ability — or simply the good fortune — to excel, exemplified by proverbs such as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” ** and terms such as smug, self-aggrandizing, egotistical, god complex, condescending, arrogant…   another list that could go on and on.  This is a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, there is the risk of alienating the general populace, that group providing back-light for your stage performances, and of provoking jealously from other overachievers who want to crowd you out of the limelight.  And, yet, a third group that feeds like buzzards on celebrity status, picking at perceived hot spots to enhance its own standing as self-appointed judge…   and, blabber-mouth.  (Hmmmmm!  Now that is very annoying.  Pardon me while I slip out and preen my feathers.)

On the other hand, the euphoric appeal of such elevated states is what drives individuals to exceed their previous bests, often enhancing humanity’s understanding of self and nature.  Those human traits that cause achievers to turn a deaf ear to criticism and their backs to their humble roots may chaff uncomfortably on some individuals (the jealous and the left behind) while simultaneously advancing the human condition.  If there is one thing we know about Nature, it is that individual comfort takes a back seat to the survival of the group.  Yet, paradoxically, it is that quest for personal comfort that propels the group forward.

KISS.**  Cutting through the rhetoric, societies consist of two parts:  experts and laymen.  (Okay!  A third group, also:  critics.  But, they walk the fence between the other two and could land in either camp.)  Many ignore that the two groups are but two manifestations of a single fluid in flux.  The tendency is to view the ambient social status quo as a firmament defining immutable human interaction, so that the extant hierarchy is the once and future way of things.  In Galileo’s time, the experts to be revered were the ruling religionists;  in the time of the Industrial Revolution, innovators were the revered;  in our time, it is the scientists who rule the expert roost.  Each time the fluid stirs, society is panged by fear of change, loss of roots, confusion, and loss of direction.  The individual, truth be known, prefers the comfort of known truths to that of new, untried truths (the devil we know versus the one we don’t…   blah, blah…)

Experts.  Holier than thou.  Smarter than you.  Superior to you.  Entitled to more than you.  Totally disdainful of AJ and AJ.

Aye.  There’s the rub.

_______________________

*human.  Actually, this should be hominin.  Humans inherited, then refined all of the achievements made by near-humans.  Had to throw that in for the Science Department.

**The Bible (KJV) Proverbs 16:18

***KISS.  Has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.  Keep It Short and Simple.

_______________________

Next up:  Manipulators, puppet masters, trick knees

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