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What is this… Status Anxiety… ?

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Today I was listening to the Rush Limbaugh show in the background while doing something else.  So, not paying real chose attention – just listening for something interesting.

One of the segments was on why women dislike Sarah Palin.  Why would women – especially women – dislike Sarah Palin?  It would seem to me, on first pass, that Sarah would be a positive role model.  What is there to dislike about her as a role model?

One caller spelled it out.  She (Sarah) is:  too pretty; too successful; she is a good mother; she loves camping; she can hike up a mountain; she can be mom to a special needs child; she is wealthy; she has a regular segment on Fox News; she can hunt and fish and she can field dress a moose.  In short, she can “do it all”.

As the caller said, “What is not to dislike about her?”

Status Anxiety

So the bottom line is that some women dislike Sarah Palin because of her success.  The following segment on Limbaugh was on Status Anxiety.  Folks who are jealous of other people’s success.  I think this book may have been mentioned on the show.  (Sorry, was not listening that close)

This is a book about an almost universal anxiety that rarely gets mentioned directly: an anxiety about what others think of us; about whether we’re judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser. This is a book about status anxiety.

We care about our status for a simple reason: because most people tend to be nice to us according to the amount of status we have (it is no coincidence that the first question we tend to be asked by new acquaintances is ‘ What do you do?’). With the help of philosophers, artists and writers, the book examines the origins of status anxiety (ranging from the consequences of the French Revolution to our secret dismay at the success of our friends), before revealing ingenious ways in which people have learnt to overcome their worries in their search for happiness. It aims not only to be entertaining, but wise and helpful as well.

Isn’t it interesting – people who are jealous of other people’s success.  Why?  Didn’t we all start out – when we were born – with “nothing”?  Isn’t it the case that we are the product of every decision we ever made?

If we all start out with nothing and if we are all the product of every decision we ever made then why should anyone be jealous of anyone else without the concomitant understanding that we are responsible for our own success or failure?

If anything, successful people can be role models.  How did they become successful?  What did they do to become successful and how is this different from people who are not successful?  Successful people – rather than people to be derided – can provide an aspirational vision.  That is why we have heroes – people we desire to emulate.  Where would we be without aspirational vision and those successful people that model the way for us?  To be jealous of successful people and dismiss them is to throw away the proven templates of success.

Dealing with Status Anxiety

I did not read the book mentioned above.  But I was intrigued by this part of the blurb on the book: … “revealing ingenious ways in which people have learnt to overcome their worries in their search for happiness.”

What are these “ingenious ways” that people deal with status anxiety?  I wondered if I could connect the dots with something I heard on NPR a long time ago and what you can see on some sitcoms.  If you can’t get ‘Status” in the strong sense  like Sarah Palin and others have it then what could be a viable proxy?

A long time ago on National Public Radio I heard a story about the growth of urban churches.  Bottom line, anyone can rent a store font and call themselves a preacher or minister.  You can’t do the same thing in a denominational church.  In the Lutheran or Catholic church it takes a lot of education in a school of theology or seminary to be able to get the responsibility, right, and title to be a minister or a pastor.

So why spend all that time in school when an alternative is to open a church storefront?  If you need a degree why not go to the Internet and buy one?  Why not take the easy route?  How about easy status positions and job titles?

Instant Status Transformation – one lodge meeting at time.

I always liked these adult  fraternities or clubs that dole out fancy (but empty) job titles and status.  Here near Chicago we get a couple of over the air television channels that play classic TV.  One of the shows you can catch is the Honeymooners

In The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton are members of the Raccoon Lodge.  It’s interesting how Ralph and Ed can become utterly transformed by the Lodge.

In the morning, Ed is working in the sewer and Ralph is driving a bus.  In the morning their  status is sewer worker and bus driver.

But come the evening on meeting night at the Raccoon Lodge, donning their uniforms, they become, or can become, so much more.

Motto: “Brothers under the Pelt”

The Raccoon Lodge has titles like “Grand High Exhalted Mystic Ruler”.  You could run for President or Treasurer.  You could be named “Raccoon of the Year” which came with special Lodge privileges.  The Raccoon uniform was almost as spectacular as the job titles

Ralph and Ed belonged to Bensonhurst chapter which had a membership of 300. Their uniform, costing $35, was a double-breasted military jacket with oversized epaulets on each shoulder, white shirt, dark tie and a hat with a raccoon tail. Morris Fink, a sewer worker with Ed Norton, was the Grand High Exhalted Mystic Ruler. He wore three tails on his coonskin hat. George Williams was the president of the Bensonhurst Raccoons. Monthly dues were $2.

When I went to look some information up for this posting I was not aware of how many of these types of fraternities exist.  You can check the links below.

The transformation of status is nothing short of astonishing.  On Raccoon Lodge meeting night you are “Grand High Exhalted Mystic Ruler” like Morris Fink.  The next day you wake up, go to work, and find yourself  knee-deep working in the New York sewer.

Reality bites.  Perhaps these adult fraternities are a welcome respite for people seeking relief from Status Anxiety in their everyday careers.  I wonder if the tenacity to which some individuals cling to these adult fraternities, and the inflated job titles and statuses they provide, is in direct proportion to individuals status/career anxiety and the effectiveness of these institutions to provide a remedy.


All about the Racoon Lodge

Other fictional fraternities

Haven’t read the book.  Just found out about it.  Maybe I’ll take a read

Written by frrl

June 10, 2011 at 1:56 am

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