Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I have long thought that jealousy was the most dangerous emotion. For many reasons, not the least of which is that those who are jealous are prone to just taking things they want from those who have them. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement was based on little more than simple jealousy. Its organizers framed it as the struggle of the bottom 99% against the top 1%. Which sounds great if you’re in the bottom 99%, which most of us are. And it’s tempting for the top 1% to support such nonsense as well, just to show what nice people they are, despite their wealth. “Please don’t hurt me – I’m nice!” So it’s easy to get something close to unanimous support for such populist movements. Who can argue against it? Nobody, really.
The problem, of course, is that if such jealousies and resentments are allowed to fester (or even, as in this case, are encouraged), they can tear a society apart. It gives me the right to take my neighbor’s money simply because he worked harder than I did. That leads nowhere good. Wars have been fought over this. That’s the point of the 10th Commandment. After “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” God throws in, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s donkey.” Why did He think that was so important? Because He knew where that type of thinking leads. So for various reasons, I think jealousy is the most dangerous emotion.
Thomas Sowell has said that white guilt has enormous destructive power. Several of his books discuss the tendency of guilt to lead to all sorts of foolish and unhelpful behaviors. There are many reasons that guilt is so dangerous. But let’s just think about one: Suppose the bottom 99% decides that the top 1% really don’t deserve all the wealth that they have earned. They didn’t build that. They only ended up rich because of their privilege, social advantages, exploiting others, and so on. It wasn’t talent and hard work. No, it was just luck. They really don’t deserve what they have. That is a dangerous thought.
But it becomes more dangerous when the top 1% can be convinced that it is actually true. Their guilt will lead them to do destructive things. Like what, you wonder?
Like support Democrats and other totalitarians who seek absolute control over society. If the bottom 99% and the top 1% agree that the only fair way to distribute resources is not meritocracy but rather centralized control, then that can only lead to one place: Venezuela.
Now, suppose we are moving along that road to Venezuela, and halfway there, something happens. Like gas lines, inflation, foreign wars, unemployment, and social malaise. I mean, hypothetically, of course.
But suppose we catch a glimpse of what’s coming, and we attempt to back away from the precipice. It can be done. Scandinavian countries and England did. So perhaps we could too, right? Right.
Unless the totalitarians have gained sufficient control that they cannot be removed from power. What if we’re so far down this road, and so close to the precipice, that we can’t go back?
This is an important time, right now. It will be interesting to see how all this turns out.
Unless the 99% and the 1% can recognize that we’re all on the same team, our society is likely to continue to deteriorate. And our schools, media, corporations, and government are doing their best to encourage the jealousies and guilt that have lifted our current leaders to power. Of course. Why would they not? It’s working for them so far, right?
Jealousy is dangerous. The combination of jealousy and guilt is extremely dangerous. Because in combination, they deny opportunities to the right people, and they present opportunities to the wrong people.
The wrong people have gained enormous power in American society. If we want to remain free, we need to reverse course. Quickly.
I hope that we can still do so.
If we can’t, the blame will be shared by those who wallow in jealousy, and those who wallow in guilt.Published in