Miller in subsequent chapters adds:
A child learns early there is a fashionable and an unfashionable in the world, an ugly and a pretty, a valued and an unvalued. Where this system comes from, God only knows, but it is rarely questioned, and though completely illogical and agreed upon by everyone as evil, it remains in play... And here is what is terrible: There will be a sort of punishment being dealt to those at the end of the line, each person dealing out castigation as a way of dissociation from the geeks, driven by the fear that associating with somebody at the end of the line might cost them position...
This really touched a nerve with me.
See it's quite apparent in grade school. There is a system with clear boundaries that separates the cool with the uncool, the attractive and the unattractive...we have all had our share of experiences...regardless of what side of the spectrum we belonged too...
The thing is, I am forced to ask myself at this moment...how much of this is still going on in my life today, albeit in more subtle ways? Are we still in such a system?
Association vs. Disassociation.
The author states that we associate with those on the upper end of the scale and disassociate with those on the lower for fear of it hurting our "position..."
Now let me take an honest look at how this might play out in real life...
Being nice to a homeless person and spending time with someone less fortunate...well that's almost easy. People will only perceive you as an altruist, and think highly of you for helping and associating with the homeless or less fortunate. I wonder though about the socially akward, or the person that nobody likes to be around, the "unatrractive," the outcast I think that's a truer example. Am I not to some level inhibitied because I'm afraid of what people will think about me based on my association with them? Sure one part of it is that I might not greatly enjoy my time with someone I and others think of as a "weirdo," but maybe there remains a part of me that is afraid of my "position" in this invisible, social hierachical chain. Because I myself want to be valued, loved, thought of highly by others, my friends, family, and complete strangers. I am concerned about my place in this system... because what these people think and say about me (the people also in the system) defines me and my value.
Here are some of the things the alien pointed out to Grant and me, you know about how to be loved on earth.
1) Slam Dunking a basketball
2) Good looks
He expanded on each of those points, but I think you get the jist from the list.
Lifeboat theory? Miller expands on the discussion with these words:
When I was in elementary school my teacher, Mrs. Wunch, asked our class a question that I've come back to about a million times, trying to figure out the answer: If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mome, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown overboard to save the others, which person would we choose? I don't remember which person we threw out of the boat. I think it came down to the lawyer, but I do remember however, that the class did not hesitate in deciding who had value and who didn't. The idea that all people are equal never came up...
I wanted to feel what it would be like to explain to everybody else in a lifeboat why I shouldn't be thrown over board. The reason I wanted to feel this was because I wondered if those emotions, the emotions you would feel in a lifeboat, were anything like the feelings we all feel when we are living our lives, just hanging out at the house or going to the grocery store. The thing is, if people are in a lifeboat, the reason they feel passaionately about being a good person and all is because if they aren't they are going to be thrown overboard; they are going to be killed...when you really think about it, these wants we have, like wanting to be right, wanting to be good, wanting to be perceived as humble, wanting to be important to be people and wanting to be loved, feel perilous, as though by not getting them something terrible is going to happen. People wouldn't get upset about being disrespected if there weren't some kind of penalty at play.
How much of my actions, the way I relate to people, talk to people, the clothes I wear, the words I use, the things i purchase, things I do and the way that I do them...is influenced by this fear of being thrown out of the lifeboat? How much of it is about my self worth, about receving validation from others? Don't I want to be perceived as Intelligent? Attractive? Charming? Kind? Generous? Strong? Humourous? Whether from those closest to me or complete strangers...And when I feel that I have not received such positive feedback from others how does it make me feel...? Pretty worthless at times...other imperfect, fundamentally insecure people dictate to me my very value...
Just some thoughts...but sure to be continued...