Bigger is better. We’ve heard it over and over, ad nauseum. It’s a child’s perspective. We learned it as kids, when everyone who knew more than us, everyone who had more power than us, everyone who could kick or throw a ball better than we could, was bigger than we were. Our society reinforces it with commandments [Honor thy father…], pop-Confucianism and an abundance theology that tells us big success is a sign you’re favored by that big guy upstairs [always a guy, and always upstairs, so you need to look up to him]. Even the statues surrounding us in churches, parks and streets are larger than life. Goodness is conflated to bigness.
Bigger is better. As kids – then and now – we want the largest possible pizza, ice cream cone or whatever. More’s merrier and there’s no time to waste waiting til tomorrow. And children often seek the security of familiar foods, to the exclusion of anything new. As they grow older, but not up, too many people prefer the predictability of big chain retailers over mom & pop stores owned by people in their own towns. Predictability is a security blanket. Remember Howard Johnson’s orange-roofed outhouses in Blazing Saddles?
The Same seems secure. This secure predictability gives us confidence that the bigger person will tell me a story or kiss it and make it better. Whether it’s an anxious child relying on a parent or an anxious voter relying on a bigger-than-life candidate, the motivation is the same. Make me feel good. Now. Long-term thinking is not in the equation. Many times thinking of any kind isn’t in the equation, either. Emotionally, their size becomes our security.
The Same is seems secure. Often, when these same kids are served a food with colour, flavour or texture they haven’t seen before, they don’t want it on their plate or in their stomach. As they accumulate birthdays they might expand their diet, but if there’s a person with different colour skin, different language or a different religion, they don’t want them on their street or in their schools. This stranger means danger. In schools, forget the smaller classes that engender better learning, think of larger schools with more resources [read recruits] so their teams can win with bigger scores.
Are these needs for security and authority the roots or the result of a Stockholm Syndrome that’s infected our society? When you’ve lost or surrendered control of your life, you just make the best of things to the best of your ability.
Many times, when we’re small, we can feel that the big person or organization is ignoring us. And it’s probably true. When children can’t get what they want and feel powerless, tantrums generally get attention, as does the violence of their elders in similar situations. But does either resolve the situation? Does either address the cause of their frustration?
Through the years I’ve learned that respect is a good start. But that’s all it is, a start. How do we buy time and create appreciation for long-term solutions in an instant-gratification world where people don’t see their way to any power or control?
“It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
— Rick Blaine, Casablanca