Self and esteem

Yay! A snow day.

Lucky me, and all that. Just when I have 50 essays to read and grade, the weather gives me a break. Light fluffy stuff has been falling outside, not much of it so far, but being the paranoid state, they have already declared the schools closed. So I can get caught up a bit.

I’ll have to read some of those self-esteem articles that several blogs are on about right now, but I suspect that it’s just more of the usual:



It goes back to the postmodern party line, built on myopia: romanticism= the cause of all the worlds problems. Issues of self and self-esteem in romanticism are actually quite complex. Issues of self-esteem were also strongly connected with cult behavior and susceptibility to fascism by Eric Hoffer. Destroying self esteem is the first step in subjugating people, and most philosophers which deny the importance of self are first in line to support repressive regimes. History ought to count for something in this mess. Don’t we ever learn?

However, there is something to be said for Henry Miller’s perspective, paraphrased from memory: “In America, everyone is taught that they can grow up to be president; people in Europe don’t suffer from this delusion, so they are happier with just being what they are.” Runaway self-esteem is a problem; it ends up in unrealistic expectations and unhappiness.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in ancient Greece lately, and as I begin to contrast this with Rome, it seems that there is an increased separation between the general population and the perception of knowledge. The Greeks were concerned with educating everyone to be good citizens. This concern seems to be lost, as rhetoric is stripped of its power as tool to improve people as moral evaluative beings. Rhetoric instead becomes the tool of the ruling class, bent more on legislating and developing policy. It’s as if they gave up on the idea that ordinary people had a right to determine right and wrong. This became the province of law, which was applied by those who were specially trained to deal with it. The public becomes largely unimportant, and a nuisance.

Especially if they have pesky qualities like self-esteem. They’re much harder to subjugate that way. They’re just supposed to feel lucky that they have such great leaders to see them through. I tend to think it’s because somewhere along the line we gave up on the idea that we could train people to be good citizens. We can make them good mechanics, good carpenters, good businessmen, but good people? Nope, that’s an accident of birth. All men are created equal, it’s just that some are more equal than others.

Thomas Carlyle argued that lesser men need their great men to look up to. He was a fan of Kings, and scared stiff of democracy. Most intellectuals through history have been, including Plato with his Republic filled with the best and brightest. Only a vocal minority, the Sophists, argued that there was no level criterion to measure the best by. It’s only the continual process of valuation that causes self-esteem to be a problem at all. Since we apparently can’t teach people how to value things without resorting to edicts from our “great men,” self-esteem is always going to be problematic.

Just tell them to shut up and shop, yeah, that’s the ticket.