Underconfidence is growing amongst us, and like the worst of mental diseases, it spreads like a plague and infects everyone. When we no longer trust our abilities to meet the demands of the real world, we often compensate that feeling by boosting our ego. This is why all the dumb idiots are anxious about wearing the latest clothes, driving the fanciest cars, listening to the latest chart hits, and voting for the most socially acceptable political candidate. Underconfidence drives us to find comfort in, and build our identity upon, the external. It's a safe world, we think, because materially we can excel by simply making money, while being a good writer, good composer, good painter, or good speaker, require natural talent, courage and motivation.
The easiest way to conceal underconfidence is to project our own inferiority on things and people around us that appear as weaker or easier targets. Bullying is the obvious example: most bullies are intellectually crippled and therefore try to compensate that weakness by using their physical strength and social power, by picking on the computer genius with big glasses and outdated jeans. It feels good to punch him and call him a nerd, because it means we have established a new power relationship in which we are no longer victims. Of course, reality always keeps up with us. The same idiots from high school will spend the rest of their life picking up trash in parks, shooting heroin, or driving around in pimped up cars to pick up 14-year olds outside McDonald's. Once a fool, always a fool.
We call this behaviour false superiority, because it projects our feeling of inferiority on external reality to fool the internal reality into thinking it doesn't suffer from the same neurosis. Expression of false superiority easily leads to passive aggression, which Theodore Kaczynski neatly explained being a key component in the mass psychology among liberals and leftists alike:
Words like "self-confidence," "self-reliance," "initiative", "enterprise," "optimism," etc. play little role in the liberal and leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone's needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his own ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser. (Industrial Society and its Future, §15-16)
False superiority is common among most people in our society today and it takes a variety of forms. One form is irony, where we mock those who fail at succeeding with a particular goal or task, which gives us a sense of false pretense: "How ironic that he wanted to become an author but ended up as a pop journalist instead." We feel good about it, because by pointing at someone else's failure, we disguise our own shortcomings. Maybe if we would attempt to write that book, we'd make a complete fool out of ourselves, but the ironic person doesn't take that into account, since irony is essentially a passive activity, always coming from the eye of the observer, not from the participant of the world.
This is like raping innocent civilians or throwing puppies down cliffs to prepare yourself for war; by targeting a more or less defenceless victim, you get to feel like a true soldier - inside your head - and substitute that for any random Iraqi soldier that would try to blow your brains out the second he'd spot you. It's not reality, it's a game we play with ourselves to compensate for true motivation, true strength, and true courage. Further, a person suffering from a false superiority complex lacks the property of a noble, heroic soul: honour.
There is a common scene in which Friedrich Nietzsche, upon witnessing a horse being whipped by a coachman, throws his arms around the horse's neck and collapses, never to return to full sanity again. Why did Nietzsche, who rejected the notion of pity, feel compassion with the horse? Because what he saw in the coachman was a person suffering from false superiority (in this case, the belief that man controls nature and therefore can do whatever he wants with it), beating the horse to feel good about his position as (false) master of the situation. It's a sign of emotional detachment from the world. That coachman is representative for all the individuals who are motivated by resentment, which Nietzsche spent his entire philosophical career attacking, defending the traditional aristocratic values of honour and nobility - the same values we need to apply to our individual lives today. Nietzsche urges us to overcome our own self-pity and rise above underconfidence, fear and confusion.
A nihilist overcomes underconfidence by shifting the focus back to his natural talents and abilities. It is true that many people have low intelligence, are physically unhealthy, and lack higher moral standards. For those people, the world will always be an unequal place to live in and that is why they'll do everything to drag us down to their level (democracy, equality, peace). But for those of us who feel we have something important and constructive to contribute to the world, we need to start trusting our abilities again. We won't find any security or peace in buying products, killing puppies, or laughing at people who fail. At the end of the day, nothing's changed; reality remains the same.
We need to succeed, because success is ultimately what only matters in this world. Either you defy challenges, test your skills, and face death with a smile, or you revert back into yourself and construct a false reality where you are king. I've only got this to tell you: you're living a life of lies and you will eventually be seen for what you are. If you think you are king, rise up to those demands in real life and prove that you're worthy. Those who try, die as heroes, regardless if they succeed, but those who refuse to participate in the battle of life are the cowards of this world and they will live, and die, like losers.
May 29, 2008
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