Gender, Race, and Envy

Critical Distinctions

Gender and race are distinctions that cut across all other ways of discriminating among human beings: class, religion, region, nation, and so on. Class blends into class; individuals change religions, regions, and even nations. And religions and nations change over time. But in the United States, gender and race distinctions are the most prominent and divisive.

The combatants are the principals — “threatened” white males, females who are striving for success (or merely frustrated by the lack of it), and persons of color (particularly blacks and Latinos) who by and large find themselves at the bottom of the economic and social pecking orders — and the principals’ various mentors, supporters, and opponents. These latter are borne to the field of battle on the four horses of emotion, financial interest, ideological fervor, and political advantage.

The Stuff of Strife

Why does this strife persist in spite of laws that seem to mandate “equality” among races and genders? (Or does it persist because of such laws?) There is, of course, the notion that “equality” should mean equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. Many enraged white males, strident women, and militant minorities view the laws on civil rights and sexual harassment in that light.

Enraged white males tend to see the laws as giving females and minorities (especially blacks) unearned advantages in the competition for jobs, contracts, and government largesse. Strident women and militant blacks tend to see the laws as mere tokens of white male condescension, knowing that the “elite-white-boys club” will always manage to keep them “in their place.” Enraged white males, of course, are not elite white boys.

About the “Elite-White-Boys Club”

The club doesn’t exist, not even in the minds of its supposed members. Yes, there are elite clubs, formal and informal, which are not always made up of white boys, in whole or in part. But elite white boys are too egotistical, back-biting, and sharp-elbowed to have even a mental tie that binds them in an unselfish way to the mass of other elite white boys.

Moreover, if you think that the typical elite white boy — that is, a white male who seems to have some amount of money and success — has got it “made,” you’re in Ozzie-and-Harriet land. What do you think drives most such white males? It’s massive insecurity. Their need to “get ahead” and stay ahead is built on their fear that failure lurks beyond every sunrise. They don’t show it? Of course not; a guy with a so-called “big ego” is usually a guy with a small ego whose effort to overcome it makes him a jerk.

White-male rage, female stridency, and minority militancy flourish, nevertheless. Why? All three are symptoms of envy, the off-shoot of frustration.

Envy as the Source of Strife

Consider the child who covets another child’s toy. The envious child is frustrated by its inability to have the same toy right then and there. The envious child may then strike or lash out at the other child in rage, stridently voice its envy at high volume and in irrelevant terms (It’s not fair that Johnny has a new toy!), or militantly seize the other child’s toy as if it were its own by right.

The envious child doesn’t care that the toy belongs to the other child. The envious child is bent on expressing its own frustration in the way, or ways, that he believes will garner the toy or an acceptable substitute for it. The envious child might fleetingly consider the idea of earning its own toy by some means but it finds rage, stridency, or militancy too emotionally rewarding to forgo, even if ineffective.

Then there are the envious child’s supporters and mentors: those who are so fraught with their own envy that they foment rage, stridency, and militancy.

Putting Away Childish Emotions

Envious children and their mentors and supporters tend to ask this rhetorical question or its logical equivalent: Is it fair that some other children have more or newer toys than me or my favorite child? But that’s the wrong question: One may as well ask whether it is fair for summers to be milder in Maine than in Florida, or whether it is fair that you were born in the United States in the Twentieth Century and not, say, in Mongolia in the Tenth Century. Here is the right question: How can I (or my favorite child) get better toys of my (its) own?

Grow up, children of rage, stridency, and militancy. Don’t blame “society” or the “system” or the mythical “elite-white-boys club” if you feel deprived of “rights” or material goods or dignity. You have legal rights, and you should exercise them, but those rights do not include the right to pick others’ pockets. You have as much dignity as you allow yourself to have.

Rage, stridency, and militancy are not only undignified but also ill-advised. You cannot advance yourselves by behaving badly toward others. In fact, your vile manners (or worse) will only hamper you.

If you do achieve some degree of success in spite of your vile behavior toward others, you will be all the more susceptible to the rage, stridency, and militancy of those who come to envy you. What goes around comes around.