To define superiority is to examine its opposite: inferiority. Superiority, then, is the feeling of inferiority, and the consequent downplaying of those feelings. Superiority means that someone has to try harder to feel good about themselves.
Of course superiority has no place in a nation that praises the idea of equality. Nevertheless, equality remains an idea while the feeling of superiority is a common occurrence. The reason for superiority is the prevalence of an elite, which in a country priding itself on egalitarian values, is something of an anomaly. And as long as theres an elite, others will aspire to being superior; and everyone will aspire to it because its easy to be an elite. It doesnt take intelligence or sophistication It just takes money, lots of it.
The surest indication that a society is unfair is the tendency of the populace to embrace feelings of superiority. By that standard, no society is entirely fair, and no society is ever egalitarian. Equality, as such, is impossible. Nonetheless, some nation-states claim to value it more than others. This doesnt mean that the inhabitants of those nation-states value equality more than inhabitants of other nation-states do. What it does mean is that equality is idealized, given a mythical value designed to inspire the path to a better future. The better future is still only a dream, and equality only an idea, all too easily dismissed as only an idea.
Every idea is as powerful as people choose it to be. The idea of freedom is powerful for those who seek it. Likewise, the idea of equality has meaning only to those who believe it and attempt to actualize it.
There are those who critique equality as an attempt to level the playing field, to the disadvantage of those who already know the terrain and profit by it. To such people, equality is well and good unless its forced upon people. In truth, true equality can never be coerced. True equality is a feeling, after all, and no one can be made to feel something they dont genuinely feel.
As a feeling, equality comes from within, just as superiority does. But where the feelings of superiority thrive, the spirit of equality weakens until the goal is not fairness for all but, rather, getting what you can before someone else does.
The idea of equality fails only because people believe themselves unworthy of it. Feelings of inferiority and inadequacy turn to superiority for refuge and the elite shelters itself from the idea of equality which threatens to take from the rich and give to the poor.
True equality, however, should never be feared since true equality can never be coerced. To coerce it turns the idea of equality to the force of authority; and authority never steps aside long enough for equality to flourish. In fact, authority mistrusts equality and attempts to inhibit it; which is why authority prefers a fearful and tractable elite to a populace emboldened by ideas of equality and freedom. In like manner, an existing elite favors authority as the means to protect itself from equality. As such, elitism and authority go hand in hand, armed to the teeth against an equality that will not only dispense with the need for a suspicious authority but for an elite struggling with feelings of inferiority.
From this follows a definition of elite: like-minded people too fearful of falling short to take their chances on true equality. Better to retain a strong authority capable of keeping people at a safe distance from the cherished ideals of freedom and equality. Cherished to those who believe in them, yet dangerous to those who fear the consequences.
A firmly entrenched elite only becomes more firmly entrenched as time passes, the fear of equality bolstering the need for sufficient authority to protect themselves from equality. That authority, of course, takes the form of the state; and that elite, of course, includes the corporate vehicles some individuals use to empower the elite at the expense of everyone else. There would be no state if there were no elite to demand it. And there would be no corporations without some people banding together to better influence the transglobal economy.
Freedom may be an ideal, but it I still frighteningly uncertain. Society, after all, was constructed to ally the fears of a dangerous world. Tribal communities emerged to better protect humanity against its foes; and those communities evolved into cities and nation states ruled over by an increasingly aloof leadership; and once that leadership acquired the sheen of divinity, there was no turning back. The leadership, while just as fearful as everyone else, if not more so, became something to be feared. The most fearful building the highest walls for themselves and arming themselves against the community they once served. But now the community served the leadership, and one world became two: the haves and the have-nots.
The elite remain behind their walls, and theyre not stepping out without the full authority of the state at their back. As long as people talk of equality and freedom as ideals to be shared by all, those ideals will be feared. The elite, after all, have enjoyed the benefits of freedom and equality long enough to know how to use them responsibly. The same cant be said for those on the short end of equality and freedom.
Its not just fear and inferiority, its guilt that compels the elite to protect themselves from everyone else; guilt that the elite isnt superior and has no greater entitlement to the benefits of freedom and equality than anyone else. The only difference between the elite and everyone else is that the elite have walls to hide behind. Those walls arent literally walls anymore. They also take the form of capital and its the capital that gives greater access to the ideas of equality and freedom which can never be owned.
Theres nothing to make some people less worthy of ideals than others. Ideals are accessible to all. And theres, at least, equality in that. An idea cant be commodified, sold and owned, and it cant be walled off. Ideas are free, equally to all. Granted, ideas, alone, can feel meager. But from ideas come big plans, and theres no limit to the possibilities borne from ideas. The notion of a self-serving elite came from an idea that the leadership deserved more than everyone else. The idea that no one deserves more or less is a similar idea. It cant be forced by revolution or coup, however. It must evolve naturally. Only then will the elite feel safe enough to surrender their walls and step forth secure in their equality with everyone else.
Equality remains as powerful an idea as ever because it never ceases to inspire. True equality has no need of the state or of an elite. But, sadly, the elite that govern the state still fear the consequences of equality and freedom which, they believe, cant be shared equally. To share it is tantamount to surrendering it; and to surrender it is to become powerful and inferior. Its easy to understand the fear that keeps the elite behind high walls; and, yet, those walls are as much an idea as what the walls were designed to protect them against.
The fear of the world includes the fear of everything that cant be controlled. Without natural predators and only the occasional natural disaster, the greatest viable threat remains other people who, for all their ostensible obedience to authority, can never be entirely mastered. Fear turns from the world outside to the community to the community itself, to keep others from challenging the power structure that keeps the elite feeling safe.
The elite use a carefully constructed system of promises and restraints to keep the populace motivated by ideals and yet too controlled to make full use of those ideals. One promise is that there is neither elitism nor favoritism. Another promise is that there is nothing, enjoyed by the few, that cant be enjoyed by all, power and ownership readily available to all. In short, the elite denies its existence, claiming, rather, that there is no elite and that even if there were, the elite is open to everyone.
Since the elite no longer use walls to separate themselves from others, they turn to more subtle means of maintaining a safe distance, through the judicious use of police power to oversee the social contract that keeps most people in check while consigning the rest to prison; and also through a system of rewards and incentives to offer the hope of a better life, a life of ideals made real. Self-interest appears to make everything possible, although, in truth, the elite are offering little in the hope that little will be sufficient to satisfy.
The elite make many a promise, repeating them enough to give them the luster of truth. But its just a passing gleam that dulls with time. After all, promises only inspire when those promises are kept; otherwise, the promises reveal themselves as lies. On occasion, the promises prove true, and its those occasions that make the news. As such, no promise can be entirely false if it can be proved true at least once or twice.
Since reality tends to diminish the value of promises, the elite prefer to shield people from reality, just as the elite shield themselves from the people. Reality is unfair and its frustratingly limited, far removed from the ideals that inspire. And to inspire people is to remind them of whats possible, distracting them from the little they have.
As such, the elite dont want everyone else informed. They want them ignorant. Ideals should be sufficient, although the elite use those ideals - equality, justice, liberty - as bait; convincing people that following the bait will yield results when, in fact, the bait is only a distraction. Elites talk of freedom but want state control. Elites talk of education but they want to control what people learn and think. Elites talk of sacrifice but they prefer that others make those sacrifices. Elites talk of equal opportunity but they still expect better opportunities for themselves. Elites want to give, but only under limited conditions proven to be more beneficial to the giver.
Oftentimes, the elites are self-interested individuals claiming to work toward selfless ends. The contradiction, of course, is clear. The elite dont speak of a fair and free system if they didnt expect to benefit the most from it; and if they claim the lions share of fairness and freedom, there wont be as much for anyone else.
In brief, the elites often speak of fairness and yet its the elites who push for a system that rewards people unequally; as if only those who had a lot deserved more and those who had little deserved even less. Its as if the elite had convinced themselves of a version of the survival of the fittest, the elite having more because they deserved it, regardless of whether theyd earned it or not.
Its enough to be a member of the elite, those who influence public policy and run the state while, at the same time, demonizing the state as if it were a tool for greed and self-interest. The hypocrisy is obvious, and, fortunately, it stands no chance against the ideal of truth which survives every lie.
In sum, the elite control and distract, the better to feed the lie that perhaps some people deserve better. Its the idea of superiority that seeks to put the lie to equality when, in truth, superiority is the lie. Theres nothing that sets some above others but for the belief that not all men and women are created equal, some more equal than others; and as weve seen, superiority is merely a form of inferior thinking that seeks to believe itself more for fear of becoming less.
Without fear of inequality, theres nothing to convince people that equality either isnt possible or, at the very least, is something that should be guarded against. And yet its the possibility of equality that allows one elite to be replaced by another, each new elite more adept at justifying its elite status.
While the possibility of equality may be sufficient to replace one elite with another, only true equality can dispense with the elite altogether. Only true equality can dispense with the self-deception of superiority in favor of a belief in the equality that nature provides, giving no greater value to some. Our biology permits us unlimited self-value, but its only when that self-value feels threatened that we require walls for protection.
If the elite are the most fearful among us, the ones requiring the power of the state to feel strong, then only by turning from fear will elites step free of their walls to greet their fellow human beings as equals. They wont come out if the walls are attacked or even destroyed. New walls will replace the old walls, and a new state will show its stony face to its inhabitants.
Most importantly, the non-elites should cease to envy the elites since its that very envy that justifies elite status as something worth having as opposed to something not needed. To envy the elite is to envy what makes them elite: power, money, influence. This, of course, works to devalue what the elites cant monopolize: ideas like freedom and equality.
Equality isnt something we have to take by force, since the elites have no more of it than anyone else. Everyone has equality, regardless of whether theyre treated as equals or not. Equality is a given and cannot be given or taken away. Superiority, on the other hand, isnt a given and, for the insecure, must be proved day after day after day. Surely its time to discard the lie of superiority, the better to appreciate the truth of equality.