August 28, 2009

There Are None So Blind

... as those with their heads stuck up their ...
No, sorry, that's a bit coarse, isn't it. Better stick to the original, whatever it is:
"Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" ... agrees that this saying has its roots in the Bible, specifically Jer. 5:21 (King James version): "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not"
... The proverb has been traced back in English to 1546 (John Heywood), and resembles the Biblical verse quoted (above)."
Of course we are spoiled for choice, when it comes to people who are determined to ignore the obvious for their own benefit:
alt-med charlatans
talentless "celebrities"
... the list is depressingly long.

Today, however, I wish to comment on a very specific example of blinkered vision - that of people who seek to justify their
own positions by assuming that everyone must want to be like them, and therefore deserves their pity or scorn, for "failing" to achieve that goal.
Such blind arrogance is counter-intuitive, of course. Those who do inspire genuine admiration and respect are never the sort of people to demand it, or to treat others as failures or, worse, as rather pathetic wannabes.

An Illustrative Case
(Details are vague for the usual reasons, but if you think that the subject
is not unrelated to a recent post of mine, I can't help that.)
Let's say someone with a rather mundane job and limited qualifications happens to be in the right place at the right time, and knows the right people. He might suddenly find himself in a powerful position for which he knows he is manifestly under-qualified, so he sensibly finds some talented assistants, maintaining his position due to the simple fact that he is the only one getting paid, which entitles him to exercise his authority in a way that would have been unworkable in a "real" job.
After a few years, however, he starts to lose interest in the project, so he creates a new management level below his own, so that his trusted assistants can take over most of his former role. However, in order to keep his salary and his position at the top, he ensures that this new level is not autonomous, and can be overruled at any time by himself.
Consequently, these new "managers" quickly discover that their initial pride at being promoted above their peers turns to dissatisfaction and frustration, so they now feel obliged to justify their own positions, until eventually they lose interest as well, and yet more have to be chosen to fill the gaps left behind. (An eerily similar situation is described in my Fairy Tale post, but please don't jump to any conclusions, will you.)

And so the cascade of condescension continues, because there is nothing that makes some people feel more important than identifying someone less important than themselves, and preferably reminding them of it as often as possible.
However, if they stubbornly refuse to believe in their inferiority, or fail to show you the respect you know you deserve, there are number of options available:
  • Start by idiculing them in public, highlighting their pathetic inability to achieve what must surely be their heart's desire - ie to be like you.
  • Threaten to reduce their admittedly trivial responsibilities even further. Because you can.
  • Persuade their colleagues that they suffer from delusions of grandeur. (Pot? Kettle?)
  • Randomly exert authority in unexpected ways, such as reversing their decisions and publicly criticising their actions.
  • Private harassment works well too, if the public campaign doesn't put them in their place.
Fortunately, most people can easily see this self-aggrandizement for what it is - a short-sighted effort to increase a sense of importance which was completely unjustified in the first place.

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