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While I’m at it, let me introduce Tall Poppy Syndrome. I was reminded of this one by something I read in the paper about how Anne Hathaway has supposedly gathered quite a few haters that were dubbed by the media as “Hatha-haters”. The part that got me was that (direct quote):
“The intrigue is that people can’t put their finger on what it is about Anne Hathaway that has sparked this hatred. Somehow this woman that puts herself out there as sweet, good, humble and grateful is coming across as exactly the opposite, and Hathaway hatred has gone viral”.
Can’t put their finger on it? Let me give them a hand.
Introducing Tall Poppy Syndrome. This isn’t so much a field of study on its own as something that is genuinely integrated into human behaviour. The term describes the phenomenon where somebody who is successful in what they do is attacked and put down for no justifiable reason. Those of you who have not heard of this time might be thinking up myriad examples of where you’ve seen this happen.
I’m not exactly a Hathaway fan or anything but I don’t see the merit in anybody putting down another person when there is no specific, justifiable reason to do so. Even less so when you have absolutely no relation to the “Tall Poppy”. I mean, what’s the use in a bunch of obese keyboard warriors talking shit about an athlete. Are they going to get up and back up what they’re saying? No. They can’t. The fact is that most people aren’t qualified to judge Tall Poppies.
This doesn’t preclude objective analysis, of course. One can always objectively compare two Tall Poppies and conclude that one has better attributes than the other, but – well, you’ve all probably seen how serious it gets. Death threats, physical violence, outright abuse and filthy language are often thrown at people who are put in the spotlight.
Why does this happen? Like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s a part of human nature. If nothing else, it’s a personification of envy – and damn, humans are envious creatures. Sociologists like Max Weber have suggested it is due to a zero-sum game scenario, which is a game theory (economics) concept that basically means the sum of a certain thing in a system equals zero. In this case, that thing would be success. If some people are successful, that means there are people who are not successful. People who are not successful feel the need to “cut down” Tall Poppies, so to speak. By attacking the successful, subconsciously people think the effect will lower that person’s success and thereby increase their own chances of success.
A more psychological approach to it would be to consider that by focusing on the bad things about a successful person, and even propagating the spread of such, one can elevate their own sense of self-worth by comparison. “Hey, XYZ failed high school so at least I’m smarter than him”. Those with low self-esteem (most notable in those who are not successful) will thus feel even greater need to put down others – lowering successful people to their own level so that they can feel less disappointed in themselves. A relatively more successful person, however, will be confident in him/herself and feel far less need to engage in such activity.
Humankind has the need to assert its own superiority over everything. That includes all life on our planet, even ourselves. Tall Poppy Syndrome is pretty much just the ugly green face of human kind showing itself. For those of you who have noticed this phenomenon but didn’t have a term to describe it, here you go.