Precious Dears

In sixth class, the teacher sat us all down one day and asked a strange question. "Who's the most important person in the world?" We suggested a few, like the Prime Minister, Ronald McDonald, maybe the Pope (it's a long time ago). All wrong, as it turned out. The teacher paused for dramatic effect, and then said "it's YOU."

Well bugger me, I remember thinking, or words to that effect. This was the same teacher who had decided to teach us the skills of debating, and then had terminated our first practice run at a debate about 10 seconds in, followed by smirking and laughing with the deputy outside the room (we were obviously embarrassingly bad at it). And who'd given dux of the school to an under-achieving kid whose mother was a great friend. Kids see through hypocrisy pretty quickly.

Anyway, it's not difficult as an adult to see what he was on about, that the individual is noble and that we should value ourselves for who we are rather than who we would prefer to be. Etc. Unfortunately though as a kid it made very little sense at all, and we left the room dreaming of world domination and telling the teacher where to stick his homework, as we were all equally important now.

In hindsight this was maybe the beginning of the 'self-esteem' emphasis in educational theory, which still thrives today. As another writer (can't find the reference) has since said, the outcome has been millions of children who have become "towering erections of self-regard." Who may not know very much at all, but are absolutely certain of at least one thing - that existence revolves around them. By reversing the usual order of things where achievement and understanding led to self-worth, and injecting a full dose of self-esteem prior to actually learning anything, you get an army of opinionated pharaohs who can't actually do anything much at all.

Every petty ignorance and stupidity is now allowable under the banner of inviolable 'opinion'. So you can't be wrong, even spectacularly wrong, about anything, because it's "just my opinion", and that makes it sacred. Scales of value and worth developed in art, science and everyday life over thousands of years can all be ignored because the sole test is now the tiny subjective frisson each precious dear experiences. That 'great' artists and thinkers and whatever else emerged from our history with that label is irrelevant; now as long as it stimulates the petty prejudices and passions of some boob, it's as valuable as anything else, and don't you dare say otherwise.

It's all about 'me'. If you disagree with somebody's view, you're attacking them personally. The view and the person have merged into this impregnable zit-like godhead which finds discussion of any view boring and pointless, all wrapped up in the false sanctimony of "hey, each to their own, you like what you like and I'll like what I like." Heaven forbid you would actually talk about something that wasn't you, that you would grow up and be engaged with and interested in the affairs of the world. What's the point? It's a vast sea of noble and unchangeable opinion out there, why try to change anything? Better to stick with lists of unchallengeable likes and dislikes, and getting wasted, and 'friends' (relationships that get much deeper than that create the horror of all horrors, actually needing to surrender part of yourself to another viewpoint).

Precious dears.


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