- Education and Science»
- Sociology & Anthropology
Why There is Envy of the More Successful and Affluent in Our Society
The Cult of Averageness in American Society
People who are more successful and/or more affluent are often the objects of derision in American society. Even though highly successful and/or more affluent people are respected for their ability to achieve their goals, many people are threatened by their success. Successful and more affluent people threaten the average person's comfort level and threshold.
American society exhort the average person. The average person is the all around person. He/she is happy with his/her station in life. American society admonish us that it is good to have goals but not too lofty goals. When people are highly successful and very affluent, people maintain that they are getting conceited, arrrogant, and high and mighty. Furthermore, it is the thought of the average person how dare they want to be highly successful and/or affluent.
This societal admonition against being highly successful often starts in childhood. Smart and highly intelligent children are often derided by other children. They are called negative perojatives such as "smarty pants" , "nerd", "conceited", "egghead", and other related names. Intellectualism and being smart is clearly not respected in American culture. Smart and highly intelligent children are often shunned and sometimes bullied by their peers. Averageness is the name of the game as children prefer their peers and classmates to be like them.
Even teachers and other adult figures in a child's life feel threatened if he/she is smart and highly intelligent. Teachers and other adult figures particularly parents prefer that children in their charge and/or care be like other children. For example, Oprah Winfrey as an exceedingly smart and intelligent child related that she was told by her mother to stop reading so much and play outside like other children.
In junior high and high school, many smart and highly intellectual children are often ostracized by other students. When I attended high school, I remember a schoolmate who was the smartest at the school. Other students consistently derided her and called her pejorative and derogatory names. She hardly had any friends at the school. However, she did not let the other students' derision and jealously deter her.
Many teenagers are highly conformist and wish to be like everyone else in their peer group. The worst thing for a teenager is to stand out for any reason. There are some teenagers who hide their intellectual acumen to be part of the group. During the junior high and high school period, tweens and teens are the most susceptible to peer influence. Many teenagers are afraid to be smart and intellectual because they believe that they will lose their friends or worse, be ostracized and/or bullied.
In a new study by Lisa Williams, a graduate student at Ohio State University, it authenticated that smart and highly intelligent Black and Latino students tend to be bullied because other Black and Latino students view them as threatening to their status quo. Not so long ago, 16 year old honor student Derrion Albert, who attended Chicago's Fenger School, was beaten up and killed by fellow schoolmates on his way home from school. At the college level and beyond, being smart and highly intelligent is de rigueur and a part of higher education.
In adulthood, there is often envy of people who are highly successful and affluent. Many people feel very uncomfortable about highly successful and affluent people because it is simply not in their cultural milieu. Most people prefer to be at a certain success and socioeconomic level. Furthermore, they are more comfortable with people who have similar success and socioeconomic level as they have.
Larry Winget, employment and business adviser and speaker, stated that people often have friends with similar success and socioeconomic levels. Mr. Winget further asserted that if a person wishes to becoming more successful and affluent, it is best to ditch these people and have friends who aspire to be more successful and affluent. However, let us not digress. People are comfortable with those who are like minded as they are and feel threatened by people who disturb this status quo.
Oftentimes, highly successful and more affluent people sever relationships with family and old friends because the family members and friends sent messages of wanting them to remain at the same success and socioeconomic level as them. Many family members and friends are very threatened if a family member or friend obtain success and/or a socioeconomic level beyond theirs because it threatens the group comfort level. It may be the opinion of the family members and friends that "no one" in their circle succeeded or obtained an economical level beyond what is prescribed within the familial or friendship circle. Such family members and friends feel that it is an affront for a family member or friend to be successful or obtain socioeconomic levels beyond theirs.
Many people glorify in the fall and disgrace of the affluent and successful. Let at the newspapers and the tabloids. People like nothing better to see a celebrity and/or a famous person falls from grace or have difficulty in his/her life. People have a perverted glee in seeing more successful and affluent people "suffer".
Many people envy the more successul and affluent among us because they are of the mindset that life should be a constant struggle. They believe that the affluent life is an extravagant and hedonistic life. They further believe that affluent people are "spoiled " because they do not have to struggle as they do. They have inundated with the philosphy that being affluent is morally wrong and that struggle is morally superior.
Many people are further inculcated that success and money are covetous and evil acts. This inundation result in them being fearful and afraid to succeed and to become more affluent. These are the same people who view more successful and more affluent people as characterless and amoral. This mindset is a result of American Puritan thought that life is not to be enjoyed but ought to be a constant uphill battle to survive. Most people are actually striving and surviving instead of living at their utmost success and socioeconomic potential.
Many people are also afraid of their own greatness and uniqueness, having being raised to conform and not to threaten the status quo of their particular ingroup. Because of this indoctrination, they are content to be average and to achieve such levels of success and socioeconomic status. They are often afraid to venture beyond their purview and they do not want to lose the inclusion of their particular ingroup. They would rather be safe and sorry than to venture to achieve their success and socioeconomic dreams.
In conclusion, many people envy the highly successful and affluent because such people threaten their comfort level. Many people are highly comfortable being average because most of their family, friends, and associates are average. People want to be part of the group because they feel more secure.
This inundation to be average and not stand out begin in childhood. Children want to conform with their group. Children who are smart and highly intelligent are often viewed as threatening to the other children. Oftentimes, smart and higly intelligent children are ostracized and/or worse bullied. This pack behavior is more prevalent during the tween and teen period where conformity to the group and being average is de rigueur.
Many adults envy highly successful and affluent people because they are living the lifestyle that they wish to live but are too risk adversive to implement. Some adults are further inundated that success and affluence are immoral and that struggle is morally superior. Still many more people knowing that they can do better; however, they would be rather be safe and mediocre than to take a risk and achieve success and socioeconomic levels beyond their wildest dreams.