Here’s one of the most intriguing aspects of the human condition: we are unique, yet we live in a society where inevitably some qualities are more valued than others.
Beauty criteria differ on each society or era, but some people will always be considered more beautiful, and they will always be few of them, because what is more rare draws more attention. Intelligence, physical stamina, a talent for arts or even for social interaction will always be valued, and if these gifts are extraordinary, they will certainly make life easier.
Even under ideal circumstances when competition is actually discouraged, I believe people would make comparisons anyway, and those who saw themselves as less qualified would still feel discomfort and humiliation.
Yet I believe that in a non-competitive environment, many people would not feel as afflicted for not being special—which is the opposite of what happens in societies such as ours in which ambition, even when excessive, is seen as a virtue.
Maybe we should give a closer look to the negative aspects of having such valued qualities; for instance, and this example can be expanded to many other situations, several women who are known to be very beautiful end up neglecting other aspects of their personality. But life is long and beauty is fleeting, so their older, more mature years can be much harder to them than to people who never gave that much importance to their looks.
Although only few people may be so affected, and even so, not as intensely, some might feel they’ve been slighted because they were not “chosen” to have every single valued quality, and when they compare themselves to others, they feel the sting of hurt vanity, which is humiliation. They’ll feel attacked just by the existence of those virtues in someone else, and will react with the aggressiveness typical of the mechanism of envy: they will make a deprecating comment, belittling exactly the quality they wish they had. They’ll add humor, to hide their sense of inferiority that imbues all envious actions. The subtle aggression against people who did nothing except exist and be how they are is the stamp of envy.
I believe it’s almost impossible for envy not to exist; people would have to humbly accept their condition without any frustration. We’d have to live in a society that did not value exceptional virtues so much, instead of democratic qualities everyone can have. When comparing themselves, people would not build a hierarchy; they’d have to see themselves as different, not better or worse. This would be an ideal world, where people would be friendly and helpful to each other. But we’re closer to the end of times than we are to this ideal society.
What makes no sense whatsoever is acting, consciously and deliberately, in the opposite way, stimulating vanity and competition and, therefore, rivalry and hostility between people.
I don’t know if everyone is fully aware of this behavior, so this is a warning. This current path is not an imperative; we’re not slaves to our biology. We can restrain or trigger different aspects of our nature. But we are going in such a way that makes others into enemies, rivals. People are becoming lonelier and more vulnerable, and the weaker they get, the more they’ll be slaves of “aristocratic” joys, which can make them important for an instant.
The vicious cycle in which we live in is disastrous, and we already have clear signs of where we are headed.
Tradução: Amanda Morris