Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Nothing new under the sol invictus

Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld (she kept her own surname and enjoys the prominent first mention, yikes) write:
Strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.
I'm reading a biography on one of the most fascinating characters in Western history. While sailing to Greece in his late teens, ostensibly for educational purposes but more probably to get away from Sulla's faction in Rome, Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates. As a patrician from a well-pedigreed family, he commanded a non-negligible ransom. But when the pirates agreed to one, Caesar scoffed. He was worth more than that. He demanded they up their request. They did. The ransom was met. Before being released, Caesar let his captors know that he was going to have them all crucified for having taken him hostage. They allegedly took it as a joke and let him go on his way. Without the auctoritas he'd accrue later in life or any legal authority to do so, he raised a militia on little more than charisma and patriotism. With that militia, Caesar hunted down the pirates who'd captured him and had them crucified just as he said he would. He slit their throats before they were strung up, though. The guy knew the value of clemency.

I bring up ancient Rome because one could be mistaken for thinking that Chua's description of successful groups was referring not to disparate groups in 21st century America, but to the Roman upper echelons in first century BC. In the atriums of many accomplished senatorial and equite households were ancestor rooms (imagines maiorum) where busts of clan ancestors were somberly displayed. They served to simultaneously remind those ancestors' living descendants of their clan's historical greatness and as an impetus to motivate said living members of the clan that they had a lot to live up to. It took patience and dedication to climb the cursus honorum, and time spent dawdling was time spent disgracefully.

In many ways these tribes sound similar in nature to the "groups" Chua focuses on in her newest book. They might be thought of as extended families with some level of inbreeding present. Where have we read about that before?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

She's missing a step. A couple in fact. Like what Noble actual entails. Or entrails.

1) "raised a militia on little more than charisma and patriotism." Not here you don't B___.

2) Geography. For all the brains can't apparently read a map.

To wit..she is several thousand miles from where she gets to be the asshole overlord. She has no idea, they are quite the clueless Commissars.

You can bet Jeb knows the flight schedule to T/A..but timing?

Maybe Anil has a spare seat on his Lear Jet.

She's getting ahead on easy street because the people who the road was paved for [not the actual racist pavers of course] can't seem to be bothered to take it. It's easy to coast in a rental limo in your own special lane. Should reality suddenly intrude..perhaps she'll feel the hard hand of racism at last. And it's so overdue.

I'm not even racist. It sounds like a great hammer though.

VXXC

Anonymous said...

Strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success.

The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.


Chinese put more of their superiority complex in their family affiliation and their insecurity in their persons.

WASPS do the opposite. Seems to work out better once you sift out the effect of IQ (and the highly selected nature of Chinese migrants).

And impulse control is rather overrated.

Wanting the wrong things and being able to control yourself < just wanting the right things in the first place.

Chinese are kind of emotionally spazzy but have strong norms of emotional suppression though, so maybe that's how they do it.

CJ said...

Seeing the spelling "Jeb" sent me into a spasm of Bushophobia. I believe Amy's husband is actually Jed Rubenfeld.