Downward Social Comparison

We’ve moved from being a country of “doers” to a country of “could doers” and the result is Christine O’Donnell, Ron Johnson and every other third-rate idiot running for some major political office this year.

We want candidates who say they’re “just like us” for the most part. That’s why we’ve gotcommercials that rip on people for having pools, homes with nice driveways and other various sundries. We don’t want to be told what to do or that someone else might know better. That’s why we’ve got“career politician” attack ads.

Even people I like these days have put together campaigns that make me want to kick them in the balls. I don’t know if Russ Feingold has ever played a down of football in his life, but I don’t need him lecturing me oncelebrating in the end zone. I also don’t give a shit if he wears a tie or a sweater, puts his campaign promises on his garage door or if he’s eating lunch alone in D.C.

And yet, it’s my fault that he’s doing this. It’s nature.

The concept ofUses and Gratifications theory notes that we watch media to satisfy needs we innately have as people. In the days in which this was a stronger and more necessary set of instincts, we had surveillance needs. These kept us aware if another tribe or group was going to attack us or if danger was coming via animal or weather. We had needs for knowledge gain so we could grow better crops or survive harsh winters. Other similar needs existed as we surveyed our dominion.

While we still have these needs, the primacy of specific needs has changed. In a study we did a few years ago, we found out that the main reason why people flocked to reality TV programming was to satisfy our need for downward social comparison. In other words, we wanted to see people who were like us or just below us. That’s why we liked crap like “The Real World:” We wanted to see people like us dealing with much shittier roommates. It’s why we love “Undercover Boss:” We honestly believe that if our boss had to do our job for one day, he’d fuck it up something fierce. It’s why we watch “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?:” Chances are, we think we are, but we are glad when we see confident adults who just fall on their keys when asked who led the first successful effort to circumnavigate the globe.

Most of the population in this country isn’t above average. Saying this doesn’t make me or you or anyone an elitist: It’s a statistical impossibility.

There are people who are above average, those who are average and those who are below average. This is true in every field and on every topic. When it comes to education, I’m above average. I know this because I looked it up. I have a higher level of education than the average American. When it comes to art, I am below average. I know this because I’ve drawn shit on the board for my students to help them understand something and then had to spend 10 minutes explaining the explanation.

In my area, I have an average house. My marriage is below average when it comes to the number of years we have been married (Average is 24 years. Gimme some time.). I’m below average in the number of offspring. I am about average on the number of pets I own, depending on how you feel about fish.

When it comes to political knowledge, I’m way, way, way below average. That’s why I don’t want to elect people who spend all this damned time trying to convince me they’re just like me. I want smart people who make this their lives’ work. I want people who have been around a while and have managed to produce something with that time. I want people who understand the shit I don’t or just flat out don’t care to.

Ron Johnson’s recent ads paint Russ Feingold as a career politician. He’s been in the Senate for 18 years, so he’s not Strom Thurmond, who we kept propping uplike the semi-dead father in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”He’s also making a shit ton of noise about how we’ve got 57 lawyers in the U.S. Senateand no one who is a manufacturer. He’s pitching himself as a businessman and an accountant. (We’ve apparently got one accountant there now, which means that if Johnson gets elected, they can spoon at night and share stories about zero-dollar budgets underneath the soft moonlight.)

Earth to Ron: It’s a LAWMAKING BODY. I WANT LAWYERS THERE. I also want a proctologist there as well, but that’s a different story…

Too many voters want their leaders to be “just like them” because then they don’t want to feel inferior to the people running the country. I understand. I don’t like it when someone can run faster, jump higher or draw better. I also don’t like it when Athenae keeps beating my ass bloody in Scramble on Facebook. However, that doesn’t mean that I hang out with slower, weaker, shittier artists who have the vocabulary of a salad bar.

Instead, I try harder, accede to those who are better at those skills and learn to live with what I am, even though the thought has occurred to me to go looking for a Scramble cheat somewhere.

I have no idea who I’m voting for this season, but I want it to be some people much better than me when it comes to lawmaking for this country.

And if they suck at Scramble, all the better.

They will be my new Facebook friends.

6 thoughts on “Downward Social Comparison

  1. Athenae says:

    You had a little bit of a winning streak going on for a while there last week, when I was so tired I could hardly see straight. 🙂
    I think people are just fucking paranoid. We all think somebody’s out to get us. The teawads based their whole thing on convincing us that it’s the Democrats, socialists, Marxists and Muslims.
    A.

  2. Phaedrus says:

    Don’t overlook that people want politicians “just like them” because of their values. They know that rich lawyers are assholes, so they want non-assholes in charge – good people like Jim the electrician who helped me shovel my car out of a drift, or my child’s math teacher who takes the extra time with all the students.
    They hope that, when faced with the decisions of government, these people will make the right decisions and look out for the interest of the common man. They can hire all the dicktard lawyers later to make sure the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s are crossed.

  3. Mass says:

    I voted this week in north La.
    Talk about feeling like a starvation victim staring at a shit sandwich named Charlie Melancon. You’re welcome, Charlie. Asshole.

  4. mass says:

    But Phaedrus, I’d rather sweet Jim stick with wiring houses and shoveling the goddam snow if that’s what he’s cut out for. Good intentions don’t do shit for policy or legislation if you don’t know what you’re doing on the Hill. And I sure as shit don’t want a lawyer wiring my house!
    It’s no better than the Republicans and their Joe the Plumber bullshit. When Joe actually answered question from the media, you saw that he knew shit about how the government works, shit about policy, history, what taxes he was actually paying, foreign policy.
    Dog knows there’s plenty of shitferbrains already in Washington. Why waste your vote to have some regular Joe wandering the halls lost for two years?

  5. jpr says:

    Reminds me of a Joel Stein column back in August, “Bring on the Elites” http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,2010191,00.html
    Not just in public life, but in all areas, “…But until we come up with a better system, if I have brain surgery, I want it done by a doctor who went to an amazing medical school. Just like I want my Brazilian jujitsu instructor to have a red belt, my prisoners of war to be rescued by a Navy Seal and my technical-support phone operator to speak passable English. In fact, I wish more jobs had clear forms of elitism. Specifically, building contractors.”

  6. Paul Luscher says:

    Sorry, but intellectual ability is looked on with suspicion by a large number of Americans. Mediocrity and conformity is what we’re comfortable with in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Goes a long way to explaining “Joe the Plumber,” Sarah Palin, and Christine O’Donnell.
    To quote Frank Zappa: “Stupidity is very American.”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: