Self-subjugation is not a virtue
Every culture on earth teaches its young that it’s virtuous to place certain people above them. We’re supposed to call our parents, elders, the police, teachers and bosses “sir” and “ma’am.” We’re supposed to address judges and politicians as “your honourable” or “the honourable.” We’re supposed to address anyone with a doctorate degree as “doctor.” We’re even supposed to call priests “father.” Aside from using titles to distinguish these people as being superior to us we were taught not to talk back to them and obey them without question. Some languages even have formal speech patterns lower ranking members of society are supposed to use when talking to higher ranking members.
We’re told we’re supposed to subjugate ourselves to our superiors out of respect, but that justification ignores several profound truths. Firstly, we were all created equal. We have equal value and deserve equal respect, because the value of a human life isn’t determined by social status; it’s determined entirely by the fact that we’re alive. We can believe in equality, but that belief is meaningless if we’re not all treated equally.
Even if higher ranking members of society have accomplished something in their lives worth bragging about, that doesn’t mean that everyone else has done something wrong by being born later, poorer or less academically inclined. One person’s success in life isn’t someone else’s failure and doesn’t indebt others to them.
The people who enjoy the privilege of titles will insist there’s nothing sinister about expecting others to treat them with respect, but that claim is proven false by what happens if you don’t subjugate yourself to them: you get punished. The best example of this is the power dynamic between military officers and enlisted troops. Enlisted troops are told to salute officers out of respect, but if they don’t then they get punished. They’ll keep getting punished until they conform to the rules or get kicked out of the military with a bad conduct discharge that will keep them from getting a good job for the rest of their lives. So enlisted troops can salute officers out of respect if they want, but they have to salute them out of fear. Anyone who threatens to punish you for not massaging their ego is placing you beneath them, which is disrespectful to you and disregards your equal status to them in the eyes of God and the cosmic perspective.
Military and civilian leaders alike will defend their actions and expectations by asserting that forced respect is necessary to instil discipline, maturity and good order in society. Every cult leader and dictator in history will agree that it’s necessary to convince the lower ranking majority of society that blind respect for their superiors is necessary to ensure good order, but their idea of good order is being worshipped and served like gods forever by the toiling masses who will never have any real hope of upward mobility.
No honest psychologist would argue that wilful self-subjugation is a vital step towards self-actualization. It is a long-established fact that forced respect is a step towards battered person syndrome though.
Enthusiastically subjugating yourself to anyone isn’t a sign of maturity. It’s a sign of captivity. It doesn’t make you into a better person. It makes you into a servile person, and the more you practice it the more you normalize subservience in your mind until you take it for granted. Then, at the end of your life you won’t be able to turn around and realize that it was never preparing you for your turn at being a leader. It was just indoctrinating you into spending your life serving others. And an entire society that thinks this way isn’t progressing towards an enlightened utopia; it’s regressing into a stratified dystopian society where the powerful and privileged exploit everyone else.
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Originally published at thewisesloth.com on January 29, 2014.