I’m constantly hammering on the permanence of status and caste and popularity. Meritocracy is a cruel fraud, and most of our myths and stories are designed to ruin unpopular and low-status people.
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All human traits and talents and tendencies are innate and permanent. Some traits are more strictly determined than others, but the initial condition is always permanent. You can’t change your status or your skills or your likability.
In his strong and lyrical discussion of peasant life, Michelet sees the origin of fables like Cinderella and Ugly Duckling.
A very real and very genuine passion underlies it, that of her unhappy, quite hopeless love, one that cruel Nature often sows between pure souls of too widely separated ranks, the poignant regret of the peasant woman that she cannot make herself fair and desirable, to be loved of the knight; the stifled sighs of the serf, as looking down his furrow, he sees riding by on a white horse a too, too charming vision, the beautiful, the adored, mistress of the castle and the lands he tills. It is like the Eastern fable, the melancholy idyll of the impossible loves of the Rose and the Nightingale.
Those fables may have been helpful in an era when your job was also predetermined and permanent. They’re destructive in an era when jobs, and other ways of using your skills, are more flexible.
Unpopular people can’t become more popular or respected, but they CAN seek indirect popularity for their products or services. This is the ONLY way to avoid total frustration and depression. If you are hoping for a miracle that makes you attractive or likable, you’re bound to fail. If you try to provide respectable products or services, you have a good chance of success.
Even in the empathetic ’30s, very few stories made this point. After WW2, raw meritocracy sponsored by Deepstate made the truth impossible to say or see. Every source tells us that riches and popularity are possible for everyone if you try hard enough. This is a DEADLY LIE.
Booker T Washington is the only celebrity who ever told the truth. He has been forgotten and canceled for a long time.
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Here’s a rare story, told for children, that sends the right message to low-status people. ‘The horse who had his picture in the paper’ by Phyllis McGinley, dramatized by an educational radio service at UTexas in the ’50s.
A horse who works for a food peddler hears dramatic and romantic stories from an arrogant Police Horse, and starts dreaming of heroic glory. He tries various forms of glory. He saves a life, then gets punished for it. He leads a parade and gets derided and laughed at. Finally, by accident, he ends up in a newspaper picture while pulling his vegetable cart. He receives a small dose of genuine admiration and no contempt.
This is how life works for low people. We need more HELPFUL realistic fables and a lot less CRUEL glass slippers.
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Credit footnote: The original story was written in 1951, and doesn’t seem to be available free online. The audio clip has no date or context info. I’m guessing it was between ’55 and ’60 from the feel of the narration.