Quote of the week

The redoubtable Gagdad Bob, in a piece charmingly titled “The Satanic Fecundity of Envy”:

In America, we have the freedom to try to rise to the level of our abilities and ambitions. You’d think this would be a good thing, but it cuts both ways, at least. This is because it bakes hierarchy into the cake, and necessarily results in some people being at the top, others at the bottom. Way it is. The only way to avoid this outcome is via some form of injustice and tyranny that forces lions to dine on lettuce because that’s what rabbits eat.

Until relatively recently, Americans understood and tolerated this. And in order to tolerate it, they must tolerate their own envy, not indulge in it.

Or, if the person is excessively envious, he must at least try to put it to good use, and not just use it to tear down someone else in order to appease a frustrated sense of entitlement. The person who is truly motivated by envy won’t actually be happy once he achieves his persecutory dream, but at least this is preferable to attacking and parasitizing someone else’s.

Tolerance of envy is a marker of emotional maturity. For the same reason, indulgence in envy is a prime characteristic of immaturity. And envy flourishes when there is an absence of gratitude. Thus, the cultivation of gratitude is critical to both personal happiness and a functional society.

It’s a thankless age, one I failed to anticipate:

As deadly sins go, envy strikes me as one of the less lethal of the bunch. Certainly it’s as counterproductive as any of the others, but seldom does it drive anyone to graver matters; its most obvious Biblical warning serves mostly to remind me that it’s been a long time since a neighbor of mine had an ass worth coveting.

But that was almost a decade ago, before envy became a political platform.


  1. McGehee »

    9 September 2012 · 8:11 am

    But that was almost a decade ago, before envy became a political platform.

    Oh, it’s been influencing policy choices since before either one of us has been born. The only recent change is that now it doesn’t hide behind euphemism.

  2. McGehee »

    9 September 2012 · 8:13 am

    …since before either one of us WAS born.

    The cold front made it through yesterday, so I’m less tense and apparently have less tense sense.

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