A friend told me a while ago that my desire to write and publish, as well as having this blog, exposed my desire for fame.  I’m not sure I convinced him that I wanted nothing to do with fame.  Not that I’m immune to wanting a little attention, or recognition, for creating something of value.  That’s human nature.  Though my primary motivation is creative expression, I wouldn’t mind earning financial freedom in the process.

When I was younger and more naïve, I would have welcomed fame, even though it probably would have killed me.  I would have feasted on the elevated status of being someone of merit – a rock or movie star or celebrated artist that the girls all looked up to, only I never would have been able to handle the pressure.  I would have been too unbalanced, too unstable, too drunk on my success and probably literally drunk to cover up the fraudulent fears.  I had to grow older and wiser to realize that status only imprisons us; it doesn’t create balance.  It only creates inequality.

Unfortunately we’ve built a society that encourages us to try to achieve it, to climb up society’s ladders, despite all the obvious evidence that celebrating the success of the few, rather than on balance for the many, is literally killing us.

There’s a lot of talk about the concept of evil, about hate crimes, about mental illness, guns, poverty, equal rights, jobs, religious intolerance, bad parenting, divisive politics, poor education, or whatever label or excuse we can come up with to explain senseless violence without ever shining the light on human nature.  Most of these explanations have some merit, but mostly they just help us to move on and forget, knowing nothing will change, nothing will be done, and it’s only a matter of time before the next mass killing.

Who can blame us?  The real work is too hard.  Facing the harsh truth that such murderers are a product of our hierarchical society, and trying to change accordingly, is too daunting, even though these killings are symptoms of a sick culture.

They’re like intermittent chest pains in a man with heart disease who continues to smoke and eat poorly.  A white man shooting black people, a cop gone bad, a maniac who slaughters children.  The latest was obviously racial, but race alone doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.  That’s too easy.  That’s too obvious, and pointing out the hatred doesn’t solve anything.  Hate is a result, it’s not the initial cause.  Underneath race and hate is a belief in status, the desire to elevate ourselves over another.  The white shooter, angry over his downtrodden failed life, looked for blame.  Instead of envisioning a balanced, equal society – or rather, instead of living in a balanced, equal society that focuses on developing a good life for all, he believed the privilege he thought he deserved was slipping away.  He thought he was born on a pedestal, above those immigrants or foreigners or descendants of slavery.  Above the other, whatever that other is.  He believed his privilege was natural.  Some cops, I suspect, do too.  At least that’s how they act – elevated by their acquired status, looking down at those they are supposed to protect.

They’re not alone.  Everyone does it.  It’s universal to judge, and all too easy to hate the other:  the other team, the competition, the other religion, the other ideology.  It’s easier to destroy something you look down on, and easy access to guns makes it possible to do so in massive quantities.  Gun enthusiasts say, if only someone else, a good guy, had had a gun.  Right.  But why do victims have to need one?  Maybe they’d prefer to live in a peaceful society where such concerns are unnecessary.  Why are they forced to arm themselves because our society refuses to deal with the problem.  What about their rights for living in peace?  Why do the rights of gun nuts matter more?

Think of one of those soccer matches gone bad, where fights break out in the audience, the mob goes mad and riots uncontrollably.  If only they all had guns, I’m sure no one would die, right?  Is that the society we want?

It is the society we’re building, constructed of hierarchies, with most of us struggling to climb up to what we perceive as higher, safer ground, protected from those left behind.  So we climb the corporate ladder, trying to become the manager, the CEO, the captain, the president, the priest, the principal, the great artist or athlete or writer, feeling more secure and better about ourselves the higher we go, celebrating the few who succeed, looking down at those below us, only to create an ocean of poor holding it all up so that the few can teeter at the top.  Then we wonder why someone at the bottom occasionally explodes to try to bring it all down.

There’s only one solution, as far as I can tell, and that’s to create a more balanced society, focused on the good of all instead of elevating a few.  The perfect utopian vision of a happily balanced society is unattainable, but trying to get there would be far better than what we’ve created so far.  Sometimes I wish I could buy a large island, and fill it with like-minded, evolved folks wanting a balanced society.  No guns allowed.  End of problem.

I know what a gun enthusiast would say.  That’s a fantasy, not dealing with reality.  But giving everyone a gun is giving up, and accepting reality.  Taking them a way is dealing with it.

Now, any comments that would like to elevate my ego with lavish praise are welcome.

23 thoughts on “Status

  1. I have pondered this so many times and have come to the harsh realization that human nature itself is at fault. We have move from the rock and spear to the sword and finally the gun. There will always be those striving to rise to the top and others who fall behind and all we can do is learn to find peace within ourselves and spread our passion for peace by living it each day. I don’t know what it is in certain humans where they seek control over everything in there lives, but I don’t believe that it has ever been any different. Our population is much larger and with so much access to media it comes to light in our homes each day when we witness these horrible atrocities of mass killings. I have to turn it off.

  2. Hmm. I both agree and disagree. You’re right to say we should focus on the good of all rather than the good of a few…but discussing the concept of evil and hate crimes, it seems to me, are just as direct an approach to the problem as a discussion of hierarchies, *because* they are just as close to the root rather than the gun-blasting effect.

    The fact is that all people are sinful. Everyone can be tempted to evil of one sort or another, and your utopian island of like-minded people would in time have its own problems of politics, of hurt feelings, of hurt bodies, of death.

    Solzenitsyn said it best: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.”

    • Sure, but where do evil and hate crimes come from, human nature, and it is within our nature to build hierarchical structures. We all have that balance of good and evil – thus my focus on balance, which is what Solzenitsyn is ultimately discussing. Which is why my utopian island, which I stated was unattainable, would have in its constitution, no guns allowed, recognizing some would always falter. Or, if I could just alter our own constitution, to more adequately reflect the times when it was written, you have the right to bear muskets…

      Seems like we mostly agree.

  3. Excellent & timely. I wish there was some way to raise all children with a love for mankind, blind to the colors & status of humanity. However, that doesn’t seem to be in homo sapiens dna. Children soak up what they see & hear & instinctively wish to be number 1. In some ways that desire to excel is what has propelled humans forward. Now, in this age of instant communication, our tribal instincts are front & center for the whole world to see. I like the utopian concept but it won’t happen. So we need to work on changing our blind belief that more weapons will make us a safer society. I cannot wrap my head around the idea that if I just had a ‘bigger gun’ I would be safer. No, it just means that I could kill some one. Our freedom to own a gun is not really freedom – but don’t try to argue that with a gun owner. Didn’t mean to go on & on. Great article.

  4. I enjoyed your article. I like what you had to say about balance within society. I think there is serious legitimate thought behind what you wrote and shared with us. I would just like to state this thought. Generalizing about a group of people, as you did in your above reply about, “you can’t argue with a gun owner,” also creates elevated status within society. You are implying through your statement that you are above a gun owner because they are a close-minded person who won’t process the rational thoughts that you are having about how to build a better society in which to raise future generations. Now I understand that when writing, you are putting a thought out there and then it is up to your audience to interpret what you meant. This means anyone can pick a fight with anybody over anything that they penned and poke holes all over an argument or statement. All I am stating is this, by saying things like, “You can’t argue with a gun owner.” you continue to enforce the societal stigma that all gun owners are uneducated, low-brow individuals who are whining about having toys taken away. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I do own guns…for hunting food for my family because meat is expensive where I live. And I respect that you may not have the same view as I do. But I caution you against putting your own opinion so high on a pedestal to think that there is no way that you and I could have a down-to-earth conversation about what the best solution for improving society would be. Generalizations lead to stereotyping…and isn’t that what we are all trying to move past?

    • Point taken, it was a flippant response to what someone else had said. To be more accurate, I would say I’ve never been able to change the mind of a gun enthusiast, and I would make a distinction between an enthusiast and all gun owners. I grew up in a small northern Michigan town and hunted as a teen into my early 20s before giving it up. I still have friends that hunt and own several guns. Although my personal preference would be to eliminate all guns, especially after the Sandy Hook massacre, I understand that having a shot gun in the home, especially if you live in the country, isn’t the problem. Gun violence would drop to nearly nothing if that was the case. Why anyone needs more than a shotgun, I’ll never understand. I think that changes things from gun owner to, at best, an adult toy.

      Some things, unfortunately, such as putting my opinion on a pedestal over others, can’t be avoided. Everyone should be equal in a balanced, peaceful society, but I’m confident my opinion, for instance, is better than the man who shot up that church. If you and I are having a peaceful, down-to-earth discussion on how to improve society, I’m all ears, but when it comes to guns, although I’d certainly listen to your opinion respectfully, these days, if the goal is a peaceful society, I doubt I’d agree with it (I’ve heard all the arguments), and I doubt I could change your mind. I suspect I’d walk away from that discussion with me being forced to live in a society with you and others owning a gun (which, of course, could be taken away from you and used inappropriately).

      • Forgot to add the main point, that in a balanced society, no one gets what they want, there has to be compromise or it would never be balanced. Thus, I know I can’t get what I want, the elimination of all guns, so a reasonable compromise would be the legal ownership of a shot gun. I wonder how many gun owners would be willing to make that compromise.

  5. nice post; i think that many of us are wondering what causes some people to be so angry and full of venom, or to think they’re better than others or are more deserving… as we get older, we realize that we’re here to learn, we’re here to teach and help each other along when needed., but we should also take time to just soak it all in and notice the good things… sometimes we teach by example in positive ways, and some teach thru negative ways (‘i don’t ever want to be like that..”) but we hobble along..

    when it gets too overwhelming for me, i retreat and work through whatever it was/is.. i need a lot of silence in those times. hte recent headlines leave me sad regarding our societies, and i am glad to live where the 24/7 news isn’t in my face!

    i’ve saved your ‘trees’ post to read again offline when i get home.. am in town recharging the batteries, as power is again off in my area.


  6. Thoughtful post. I agree that the goals we are taught to seek out in our education system and throughout our culture lead to great imbalance. I am normally not too impressed with politicians, but I have been impressed with Bernie Sanders of Vermont who is challenging many of the ways we support the few at the top and leave behind the majority of people in our current system.

    Not sure if he has any chance of winning, but I find it encouraging that someone is standing up and saying it’s time for a massive shift in priorities.

    I do think it’s possible to become more balanced in society, but many people will have to be willing to change.

    • Thanks Karen, I like Bernie, too. I don’t think he has any chance of winning, either, but at least he’s being heard by some. Every little bit helps, we’ve just got a long ways to go.

  7. Consider yourself praised! I’m ready for that balanced, egalitarian, check your guns at the door society. Even though our progress is achingly slow, one day we might get there one day. Gotta hope.

  8. I live in a country where it is pretty much illegal to own a gun. Here the weapon of choice is instead the knife. Certainly, it was be harder to go on a mass killing spree with one of these but I wouldn’t want to be the parent of a teenager who lost their life to another angry teenager with one of these.

    Yes, guns may be part of the problem. Yes, there might be something in the human genome. And yes, hierarchical societies, celebrity culture may be antagonising the situation. I think a culture of aggression is another possible reason why such behaviours are exhibited.

    • Better knives than guns, at least the numbers would be reduced. No doubt the issue is complex, but if a society as a whole is focused on balance and a good life for all, compromise being a welcomed word instead of a dirty one, with a decent income doing decent work, growing healthy foods in an environmentally healthy way, a good education for all, limiting/eliminating pollution, etc., then at least some of that aggression might get reduced.

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