Status Anxiety Pt. 2: How Did We Get Here...How Do We Get Out


Status Anxiety Pt. 2: How Did We Get Here...How Do We Get Out


<b>Yesterday we talked about Status Anxiety and how it related to the Virginia Tech shootings. Today we continue talking about it and focus in on Alain de Button&#39;s book by the same title <i>Status Anxiety</i>.</b>

Part of understanding Status anxiety is viewing the transition from status that was given by heredity to a system where people who don&#39;t earn status are seen as failures. The example used in Alain de Button&#39;s book is that of Christianity the major religion of western societies and the one that the VT shooter ranted about in the infamous videos sent to NBC.

The gospels have three stories that Jesus told during his life time that provide an example of how people were viewed. The first story is summarized as, "The poor are not responsible for their condition and are the most useful in society." The second story says, "Low status has no moral connotations," and the final story says, "The rich are sinful and corrupt and owe their wealth to their robbery of the poor," aka, "It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle."

Now contrast those with the stories that have emerged in our western societies. The first of these says, "The rich are the useful ones, not the poor." The second says, "One&#39;s status does have moral connotations," and the final alteration to the stories surmises that, "The poor are sinful and corrupt and owe their poverty to their stupidity."

This is a form of meritocracy. In this system, "all persons, however humble, know they have had every chance...If they have been labeled dunce repeatedly they cannot any longer pretend...Are they not bound to recognize that they have an inferior status, not as in the past because they were denied opportunity, but because they ARE inferior."

All of this plays into the recent shootings because something of this magnitude generates questions that demand answers. Questions like, how could this have be prevented? What causes people to act out in such a violent fashion? Is there anything that we can do to prevent these types of incidents in the future?

The shooter at Virginia Tech really doesn&#39;t stand out from other recent school shootings because in each case the shooters had similar personalities. Whether we are thinking of the killers from Columbine or the most recent shooting at Virginia Tech the common thread is people who are unhappy about their status in life. So how do we stop this from happening again? How do we beat this.

Alain de Botton shares some suggestions that have worked in the past and continue to work in various degrees. He lists these as philosophy, intelligent misanthropy, art, Christianity, and finally bohemia. The book goes into great detail on each of these solutions, but the common theme is that they help people find value in their lives despite what those around them might be saying or despite what society at large is pushing upon them.

John Ruskin is quoted in Button&#39;s book and in my estimation does a good job summing up the problem and the solution. He says, "There is not wealth but life, life including all its powers of love, of joy and of admiration. That country is richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the function of his own life to the utmost."

My hope is that the few people that read this stop comparing themselves to everyone else and start living their lives. John Lennon famously said, "Life is what happens when you&#39;re busy making other plans. " Could this be translated as &#39;life is what happens when we&#39;re comparing ourselves to others?&#39; I know I too have experienced this reality. The hope is that in the future we will learn to recognize more situations that are happening right here right now. Personally I would be fine with becoming successful or popular or even having money. In fact I think status anxiety in moderation is a good thing. I just don&#39;t want you and I to HAVE to get rich, famous, or powerful to view our lives as a success. I&#39;m sure that the VT shooter was a disturbed person and might have needed hospitalization, medication, and more but there are other people out there right now who just want to be recognized for the person they are . Can&#39;t we do more of this? I for one am going to try.

Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 12:29AM <a href="">AJ Meyer</a>


Original Source: <a href=""></a>

Licensed under <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5</a>.


AJ Meyer




Brent Jesiek


Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5




AJ Meyer, “Status Anxiety Pt. 2: How Did We Get Here...How Do We Get Out,” The April 16 Archive, accessed April 15, 2024,