As humans, we often do not judge things based on what they are. Instead, we judge them based on how they compare to other things. “How smart is this man? Well, let’s consider how he compares to other people.” “How special is this person’s talent? Well, let’s compare it to other people’s.” “How good was that movie? Eh, I’ve seen better. I’ve seen worse.”
Say there’s a business owner who hires people to package and ship books. He finds that an employee can, on average, package and ship 250 books a day. So he gathers the workers who consistently ship less than average and fires them, hiring faster workers in their place. But then the average obviously rises as the sample set changes; now the average is 270 books a day. The employer continues to go through the same process, firing the “below average” workers and hiring faster workers. From his point of view, he’s maximizing profits. The more books he can ship, the better, so what does he care? But the workers are the ones who will suffer; they will be forced to worry about not making ever increasing quotas.
The same principle goes with any system of judgment which measures “success” in numbers and values people by relating them to others.
There’s a moment in the Pixar film The Incredibles in which a mother with super powers tells her son with super powers: “Everyone’s special, Dash.” To which her son pouts: “Which is another way of saying no one is.” The movie leaves it there. Unfortunately many stories and movies glorify the “specialness” of the main characters, the talents and gifts they have that nobody else get to have as if that’s something to be celebrated in and of itself, inviting audiences to daydream the satisfaction of knowing they’re in some way better than everyone else.
That’s right, Dash, you’re not special, and how dare you base your self-worth on the worth you place on others!
Now, who else is looking forward to the Olympics 2012?! Yeah!!