OPED: Powerful people in fear of the 'others'

Edward B. Golla
Springettsbury Township

When powerful people fall from their pedestals, I often remember some wisdom I heard long ago: Be good to the little people when you are on your way up, so that they will be good to you on your way down. 

The root of that wisdom is a sense of humility — which powerful people often forget.

Power can lead to arrogance and a feeling of superiority over the "lesser people." When people take on that arrogance without tempering it with humility, they are often fearful that they will be treated badly by the little people if they lose power and fall from a privileged place of grace. 

Truthfully, they deserve bad treatment if they have treated others badly. And because of what they fear, they become hateful, angry at the "others," even if the "others" do not make an effort to hurt them as they fall from grace. They blame any loss of power on the weak little people whom they arrogantly despised.

There is a bunch of that going on in our country these days. There is a lot of fear and undeserved hate for little people, and the hate and fear are being deliberately fired up by opportunists who want to climb to the top of the heap — and stay there — by destroying "little people" on their way up.

Fearful 'superiors': It is most clearly obvious with the ultra-white motivators, the people who ascribe to the "truths" of the KKK and White Nationalists and neo-Nazis and the Aryan Nation. 

Demonstrators against racism march along city streets as they mark the anniversary of last year's Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

As a cluster, they believe one thing: The superior people who belong at the  top, who control the world, are or should be non-Jewish Nordic Caucasians. 

Necessarily, that means that blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs and others are therefore the "little people" to whom they should feel superior and whom they should dominate and keep in servile positions.

At various times in history, that has worked out: Slavery and the Holocaust are obvious examples. But in our modern world, how is one of these superior Aryans supposed to react when his oncologist is a black doctor, his general practitioner is Indian, his IT specialist is Asian, his lawyer is Jewish or his accountant is Hispanic — and, without any effort on their part, he begins to feel beset by inferiors. 

And all because he dropped out of high school because he was bored. Or maybe he got his GED, but still is only "equal" to these non-Aryan, non-Caucasian, non-Christians. It's enough to make some folks think they are losing primacy to inferiors, which makes them angry, which makes them hate the very people who enrich and prolong their lives.

It seems to me that our current national epidemic of hate is caused by feelings of some people (who thought they should naturally be privileged) suddenly discovering that "little people" earn privilege, too.  Somehow, the thought of having to share privilege, or wealth, or station in life with "little people" makes the "big people" — especially the arrogant ones — feel that they are losing something: power or prestige or position in human hierarchy. 

They feel like "losers," which is what they always called those little folks whom they bullied and despised.

And, truthfully, if that is what they believe, then they really are "losers." What worse can you say to a person on his way down from the top than, "Hey, buddy — you're a loser!"  If their only claim to fame is "whiteness," they have a sad boast.  They did not earn whiteness. That is an accident of pigmentation.

The people who are promoting white supremacy fear the possibility that they will be out numbered by the little people — the black, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, Jewish little people — who were once the subjects of white superiors. Worldwide, that has been true for a long time.

So I am reminded once again of that wisdom — treat the little people the way you would want to be treated if you were, or may become, one of them. It takes humility but also some common sense and not-so-common decency.  At any point in time, the powerful can be required to change places with the powerless. What goes up, also goes down.

— Edward B. Golla is a resident of Springettsbury Township.