Superiority: Are We Good Enough?
The positive and negative judgments we form about ourselves are often based on comparisons with others. That’s part of how we make sense of the world around us, and how we understand our place in it. When we make these judgments, we hope to find that we measure up well. The yardstick can be nearly anything: for example, our intelligence, professional success, community stature, or the quality of our relationships. These comparisons can also revolve around more abstract notions like moral values, “chosenness,” and future destiny.
To reinforce our positive self-appraisals, we sometimes intentionally focus attention on the worst characteristics of other people or other groups. After all, if they’re inferior, then we’re definitely superior. This perspective is especially pernicious when taken to extremes. Others may be viewed as less than human, as undeserving of even meager expressions of respect and decency. History has taught us the awful repercussions that such levels of contempt can bring. Our uncertain self-evaluations—driven by the desire to be “better” or at least “good enough”—are going on all the time, consciously and unconsciously. As a result, they’re prime targets for the manipulative appeals of today’s plutocrats, who seize the opportunity to turn our hopes and doubts to their advantage.
In POLITICAL MIND GAMES: How the 1% Manipulate Our Understanding of What’s Happening, What’s Right, and What’s Possible, I take a close look at four of the 1%’s favorite superiority mind games: They’re Losers, We’ve Earned It, Pursuing a Higher Purpose, and They’re Un-American.