The Problem isn’t that You Think You’re Special, it’s that We're Acting like that Basically Only Jeff Bezos Is
By Peter Kremidas
I know this may come as a shock to anybody who has read anything I have ever written ever, but I have pet peeves. I know. And one of the most persistent cultural sores in my mouth that I can’t stop running my tongue over is this idea that thinking you are special can only mean that you are entitled, selfish, naive, and worthy of privileges that other people are not.
If action and inaction speak louder than words, then this might be the loudest bullshit screamed in the ear of American culture: “Only the weak complain, because only the weak get hurt. Your lot in life is only the aggregate of your own choices and nothing else. There is no amount of weight that cannot be carried by a single individual. There is no such thing as chance. You are owed nothing. Nobody cares about you. To think otherwise is a deficiency of character. Asking otherwise is the hallmark of the spoiled nuisance.
“You are not important.”
“You’re special, just like everyone else,” says the idiot, not coincidentally almost only ever when something is asked for that requires concession from the powerful. As if it were not the case that every single person is a unique strand of DNA and experience. As if there is no such thing as infinity. As if declaring that I matter implies that nobody else is. As if the only way someone can be important is if they are more important than you. As if it weren’t the case that you are an experiment in nature that will never be repeated.
Here’s a crazy idea: You actually are special, you actually are important, and you actually are entitled to fair treatment, and you actually do have rights. Just like everybody else.
It’s a great rhetorical trick. If someone asserts that people deserve more, turn it around and frame it as the childish belly aching of the selfish individual. The response to “We want X,” gets thrown into a machine that turns a we into a you’ “What makes you worthy of X?”. Use their own language against them. Call it “free stuff,” when we’re being honest about what it will cost. The conversation becomes one of the great philosophical stand offs in the history of human curiosity. Are people who want universal healthcare fundamentally selfish and lazy, or are they not?
Meanwhile, I am being led to believe that all the most well known people are there because they are, in fact, special. It’s just that I’m not. Celebrities, CEOs, athletes. The most celebrated. Those given the most attention and, to be fair, scrutiny, too. I think a few of you might be getting it twisted. I actually happen to believe that these people are special and deserving. I just happen to also believe that I am, too. And that you also are. And, yes, everybody is.
I do not see what is so controversial about just saying that. Yes, every human is important. Not better, this is an infinite sum game, importance is not a measure that can only be taken relative to another thing. We aren’t talking about a to do list. We aren’t in a situation where we can only treat one person at a time with respect. It is entirely logically consistent and just as possible to make sure as many people as possible can comfortably live the lives they want to, and treat them with respect.
That is all I mean when I say “special.” That because you are unique, because you are important, because you truly are good enough just the way you are, there are certain things that you deserve and you don’t deserve. You deserve to be free to be whoever you want to be, and in fact I am so concerned about your freedom that I will step in to prevent things that would hinder your freedom. You are less free if you are starving, so let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Illnesses and injury are random and affects all of us just as randomly, so let’s make sure you don’t have to worry about having to choose between your money or your life, because if those are your only two choices that’s not much in the way of freedom. You’re not free if you don’t know anything, so let’s get some schooling for you. Plus it’ll teach you things like responsibility, accountability, keeping a schedule, hard work, etc. Your choices are definitely limited if you don’t know how to do any of that. Plus it makes for better voters. Basically, a world where, at the end of the day, nobody can tell you what to do without you agreeing to it, and the same goes for you.
Fred Rogers wasn’t naive. You are, in fact, special. And important. And you deserve to be treated just as well as anybody else on a basic level. I am in no way proposing that we go about creating this kind of world in some way that makes other people less free, because, holy shit, they’re special, too. I do not think this is an unreasonable thing to say. I don’t understand what is so radical about the idea that we actually act as if we have been telling each other that love is the answer for a very long time.