There is nothing really new. And nothing old that doesn’t apply today, at least unless it involves floppy discs. The invariably interesting and absorbing writer Maria Popova’s latest entries in her Brain Pickings site includes a piece about trolling and bullying – in the 19th Century, not the 21st. The crux of her article is this quote from philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:
There is a form of envy of which I frequently have seen examples, in which an individual tries to obtain something by bullying. If, for instance, I enter a place where many are gathered, it often happens that one or another right away takes up arms against me by beginning to laugh; presumably he feels that he is being a tool of public opinion. But lo and behold, if I then make a casual remark to him, that same person becomes infinitely pliable and obliging. Essentially it shows that he regards me as something great, maybe even greater than I am: but if he can’t be admitted as a participant in my greatness, at least he will laugh at me. But as soon as he becomes a participant, as it were, he brags about my greatness.
That is what comes of living in a petty community.
Just as I did, just as I’m sure you did, Popova sees the Ben Franklin effect in that passage. I have Benfranklined people now I know of it, I can think of people I need to Kierkegaard too.
But just as I urge you to read this one piece on Brain Pickings I’ve already read it so I’m off to continue my regular poking around the whole Brain Pickings site. Join me when you’re done.