“Impatient, immature, all-or-nothing attitude to ambition”

There an interesting psychiatrist and author, Theodore Dalrymple. Not his real name, which he chose because it “sounded suitably dyspeptic, that of a gouty old man looking out of the window of his London club, port in hand, lamenting the degenerating state of the world”. How accurate.

His writings are a joyous mix of thought crimes and insight porn expressed in an academic, albeit overwhelmingly British, manner.

Following on from our discussion of “specialness” and achievement, here are his musings on class in the context of the Hillbilly Elegy:

It might be said, of course, that not everyone can go to Yale Law School (thank God, one might add). But it is not a question of Yale or jail. Gradations of success are innumerable and every way of earning a living that is of service to others is honorable. Part of the problem, I surmise, is that we have been infected with the idea that only the highest achievement—either in academic status, monetary reward, or public fame—is worthy of respect, and all else counts as failure. From that premise it follows that there is no point in making a vast effort only to be a quiet, respectable, useful, God-fearing failure. It is precisely the absence of this impatient, immature, all-or-nothing attitude to ambition that accounts for the success of Asian immigrants. Whether Hillbilly Elegy will reinforce or counteract this attitude is an open question. Source.


11 thoughts on ““Impatient, immature, all-or-nothing attitude to ambition””

  1. “… the idea that only the highest achievement—either in academic status, monetary reward, or public fame—is worthy of respect, and all else counts as failure.”

    This is particularly true in Western nations. From my experience, the villager in a second or third world village is not crippled with the same existential torture. They have their mate, their children, their job, their country, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if we peel back the layers we find the same mechanism at work. Members of our species are always looking for strategies to “survive” better. In most societies that’s interpreted as accumulating the most resources – fame is an easy to identify factor in that process.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written post. I, too, have been infected with that same idea…and I notice that McDonald’s employees do not have an opportunity to walk down the Red Carpet. So, that idea is constantly being reinforced by the media…leaving the striving by never arriving “others” constantly chasing their tale. Unless those others can finally learn to be happy with what they have and who they are.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. …I’ve always been the same person both rich ad homeless. The difference has been how people perceived me and treated me. People always treat you well when you’re the big spender…when you’re not, you don’t exist. That, too me, is truly pathetic. It’s not about religion, love and compassion, it’s all about a selfish interest in money.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. How interesting that you experienced all that.

        Depending on how I introduce myself on the phone, I get a different response, directly related to a certain hierarchy. Oh well. But then again, I don’t think it’s useful to blame people for selfishness, because ultimately self-interest governs a lot of our nature.

        By personhood, btw, I meant dissociation, as in what you described in your story. I sometimes ask myself, what would it be like, to see the world through the eyes of X person and completely forget that I am me. It’s a fascinating thing to do.

        Liked by 1 person

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