Did your mommy tell you that you are special? Of course you realize she may have been biased.
You cannot look anywhere without seeing the results of the behavior of people who think they are special. The guy(s) who cut you off on the freeway this morning; the student who filmed his roommate’s private encounter; the bankers who take our help (read: taxes) after screwing the world’s economy and then give themselves billions in bonuses are a few examples.
Given a few days, I’m sure you could come up with one or two more. They’re out there. I just question whether we’re truly aware of how much damage this attitude causes.
I ran across a study on the civility of students from public and private schools. Being a product of both, I can testify as to the results of that study, whether you acknowledge my civility or not.
Would you be surprised that private school students were far more likely to consider it acceptable to lie, to cheat? They admit to being more apt to use racial or ethnic slurs. They lead the way in bullying, in hitting. Those in religious schools lead the private schools.
There is discrimination just in deciding who gets in to private schools. You are special by that definition. Religious schools also discriminate, using similar and additional criteria. Just being selected to be in such a school strongly implies that one is special.
So, there should be no surprise when these students internalize the “fact” that they are special. Being special in these cases is never interpreted as arriving at school in a short bus. It is always interpreted as being better; as being more deserving; as having more rights, fewer restraints.
Not every student buys into this concept. I would even contend that not every student that buys into it acts upon it. That said, the numbers in this study of 43,000 high school students demand attention.
Beyond high school, there are other ways of acquiring this special feeling. We are Americans. Our country came of age driven by the belief in American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny. That gives us the right to start wars against countries that didn’t threaten us. It gives us the right to “urge” countries to give American companies special considerations.
It drove the gunslinger mentality of the Old West, the Robber Barons in the late 19th Century, the gangsters of the prohibition era, the politician of today whose self-importance leads him to announce his intent to put a hold on every bill he doesn’t like and other expressions at other times. The feeling runs rampant throughout our society. There rarely are effective checks. Did the guy who cut you off get a ticket? Right.
We acquired this feeling of being special honestly a long, long time ago. We brought with us from Europe, and elsewhere, a religious concept that easily breeds that special feeling, the feeling that others are lesser, an intolerance for other ideas, other people.
Monotheism insists that it has the truth. Therefore, everything else is wrong. Being right is too easily seen as license to correct the errors of those others. I am not saying that being a monotheist requires such an attitude, such a position. It does, however, make it easy to arrive at that conclusion.
This intolerance stemming from monotheism plagued Europe for many centuries. It has, of late, once again become a problem in Islam. The simpleminded attitudes of the terrorist of today, those of the Crusades or those who presume to do god’s will by killing doctors performing abortion is difficult to avoid.
I have trouble seeing any god that I would want those performed in his name as one I with whom I would wish to spend eternity. I’m fed up living three score and ten with these miscreants here and now.
We are special to our friends and family. That does not confer the right to mistreat others. We laugh at the antics of a North Korean family, not recognizing the attitude upon which it is founded. We fail to see the faint images of them in our own mirrors. Please do unto others as you would have others do unto you.