Accepted Inequality

David Brooks reviews socially acceptable vs. unacceptable ways to display one’s superiority. Some accepted forms:

Academic inequality is socially acceptable. It is perfectly fine to demonstrate that you are in the academic top 1 percent by wearing a Princeton, Harvard or Stanford sweatshirt. …

Fitness inequality is acceptable. It is perfectly fine to wear tight workout sweats to show the world that pilates have given you buns of steel. These sorts of displays are welcomed as evidence of your commendable self-discipline and reproductive merit. …

Sports inequality is acceptable. It is normal to wear a Yankees jersey, an L.S.U. T-shirt or the emblem of any big budget team. The fact that your favorite sports franchise regularly grounds opponents into dust is a signal of your overall prowess. …

Technological inequality is acceptable. If you are the sort of person who understands the latest hardware and software advances, who knows the latest apps, it is acceptable to lord your superior connoisseurship over the aged relics who do not understand these things. (more; HT Tyler)

A world that disapproves of most all superiority displays could be one with a distaste for overt inequality, and sympathy for the less fortunate. In contrast, a world that disapproves of only some superiority displays while relishing others looks more like a world where folks with some types of excellence have won a battle to be seen as higher status than folks with other types of excellence.

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