SELF-ESTEEM, STRIVING FOR EQUALITY, AND SOCIAL CONFLICT

Personal feelings of adequacy and self-esteem are largely determined by the degree to which individuals possess physical, emotional, and cognitive traits that are preferred.

Also, the degree of adequacy that people attribute to others is largely determined by the degree to which these others possess physical, emotional, and cognitive traits that are preferred.

Definitions:

X's - Individuals whose characteristics are not as preferable as are the characteristics of Y's.
Y's - Individuals whose charateristics are more preferable than are the characteristics of X's.

Many X's are apt to -

/ Feel inferior to Y's,
/ Assume that Y's feel superior to X's, and/or
/ Envy Y's.

Each of the above can result in hostility on the part of X's toward Y's.

In an effort to eliminate feelings of inferiority to Y's, X's may engage in certain behaviors vis-a-vis Y's. Generally, these behaviors involve -

/ Seeking the acceptance of Y's and
/ Venting hostility upon Y's.

Acceptance

The acceptance of X's by Y's can be viewed by X's as Y's declaring that X's are at the same level as are Y's and, so, are as adequate as are Y's. The result of this is that many X's seek the acceptance of Y's.

Venting Hostility

X's who feel hostile toward Y's are apt to vent this hostility upon Y's in order to punish Y's for making them feel inferior and for Y's possessing their more preferable traits. This venting of hostility can take many forms, from covert to overt, from indirect to direct.

A Common Occurrence

Something is commonly seen in this overall situation. This is that X's who feel inferior to and possibly hostile toward Y's due to the traits of Y's being more preferable are not apt to acknowledge the difference between X's and Y's in attribute desirability as being the reason for their negative feelings in regard to Y's. Rather, certain reasons, explanations, and jusitifications for negative feelings regarding Y's are declared. A major theme of these reasons, etc. is that Y's have wronged and mistreated X's. It might be pointed out, here, that from the standpoint of many X's, Y's actually have seemed to have wronged and mistreated them because of the feelings of inferiority, lowered self-esteem, and general negative feelings in regard to Y's, stemming from the differences in trait preference. At any rate, the various reasons, etc. are proclaimed in order to make it acceptable and okay for X's to experience the negative feelings in regard to Y's and, to the extent that X's are hostile toward Y's, to make it acceptable and okay to vent hostility upon Y's. The various reasons, etc. may also be used compel Y's to associate with and evince acceptance of X's with the understanding being that any Y's who resisted association with and did not evince acceptance of X's possessed those propensities stated or implied in the reasons, explanations, and justifications to be the cause of the negative feelings of X's toward Y's.

An Exacerbating Factor

Individuals who may be superior in certain traits, but not necessarily in certain emotional qualities, and who might be classed as Y's because they were more adequate in some attributes, might, from their position, taunt and disparage X's. This behavior can exacerbate hostility toward Y's on the part of X's. Also, the actions of those who behave in this manner can form the bases of the reasons, explanations, and justifications for negative feelings on the part of X's toward Y's. In fact, Y's can come to be generally defined by X's as being individuals who behave in this manner and are who are characterized by the emotional makeup underlying such behavior. It would be erroneous to assume, however, that a total cessation of this negative behavior on the part of the Y's evincing it would eliminate all of the hostility held by X's toward Y's.

Ineffectiveness of Altering These Circumstances and Consequences

Important in this area, is that human preferences are to a very large degree universal and common to people of all races, genders, ages, cultures, geographic areas, and historical periods, indicating that preferences are for the most part genetically determined.

So, the differences in the preference levels of traits possessed by X's and by Y's cannot be changed. Efforts made by X's in gaining the acceptance of Y's or in venting hostility upon Y's might yield a transitory -

/ Lessening of feelings of inferiority to Y's,
/ Or sense of equality to Y's,
/ Or even feelings of superiority to Y's.

But the level of feelings of adequacy of X's relative to Y's will always return to that essential level based upon trait desirability. Ironically, the more effort that X's put into gaining greater feelings of adequacy relative to Y's, the more the feelings of inferiority relative to Y's may become. This could occur because of the repeated failure of these efforts. Also, each failure and the resultant greater feelings of inferiority would exacerbate hostility toward Y's.

Note the following possibility. The increasing hostility toward Y's on the part of X's may cause X's to cease desiring simple equality with Y's when equality were the initial goal sought and to seek a state of superiority to Y's as a way of venting hostility upon Y's. Thus an already unlikely goal (already impossible probably) is replaced by an even more unlikely goal. Efforts to meet the new goal will fall further short than efforts to achieve equality. Thus failure is more pronounced. This greater failure causes feelings of inadequacy greater than the failure to achieve equality, exacerbating feelings of inferiority to Y's and, so, hostility toward Y's. A new and even less likely goal of achieving a state of greater superiority to Y's than was previously the case as a way of venting the more pronounced hostility upon Y's may come into being. These efforts will fall even further short than the previous efforts, thus be more pronounced failures, exacerbating the sense of inferiority to Y's, and compounding hostility toward Y's. Notice that this process may continue with the the efforts of X's falling further and further from their goal, with the feelings of inferiority to Y's which the efforts were meant to eliminate becoming greater and greater, thus causing hostility toward Y's to become greater and greater.

At any rate, the irony of this whole set of circumstances is that the efforts of X's to surmount feelings of inferiority to Y's only act to compound these feelings.

Comments

The problem presented in this essay is a serious one, one that is universal, and one that is not easily solved. It certainly is not solved by admontions that individuals refrain from feeling and responding as they actually do.

The problem is minimized in societies in which individuals are sufficiently similar in physical, emotional, and cognitive characteristics so that they a feel high degree of commonality and can form a society to which each person can feel a part and to which everyone can be dedicated.

The problem is maximized in societies in which various groups exist that have significant physical, emotional, and cognitive differences and, thus, no real sense of commonality and connectedness and in which there is a marked discrepancy in the average degree of preference of the traits common to those of one group (or groups) and those of another (or others). Group behavior in this case would be consistent with the behavior noted in this essay. A society characterized by this set of circumstances would be fragmented and there would be a relatively high level of conflict. In this case, separation of the various groups into different geographic areas would be the best course. This would yield a situation for each group consistent with what was noted in the preceding paragraph.

It might be noted that the problem examined in this essay can come closest to being solved only at the genetic level. It can never be solved by social, cultural, or doctrinal rules.

12/03