ENVY AND ENMITY
I mentioned Taylor Caldwell as my favourite fiction author when discussing conspiracy theories a few weeks ago. She wrote fiction based on real historical events, in some cases predicting future events with uncanny accuracy. No doubt this is because of her extensive knowledge of history and impressive grasp of human nature as it really is, with all its imperfections. One of her books, published in 1938, predicted the course of World War Two so accurately it is hard to believe it was written when high government officials were still trying to appease nazi-ism. Another written in the 40’s predicts the nature of our present big-government, loss-of-freedom state of affairs exactly.
In her novel “The Balance Wheel”, which chronicles the run-up to the first world war (written in the 50’s), she discusses some of the seamier sides of human nature, here is a quote.
Charles had learned, after Wilhelm’s death, that a man’s integrity, his decency, his tolerance toward his fellowman, his friendship for his neighbours, a more or less exemplary life, his earnest affection for his city, his refraining from engaging in any sort of nasty chicanery, his devotion to his family and to his church—in short, his exercising of his duties as a good citizen and a good man—did not necessarily exempt him for hatred, envy, and enmity. Rather, he had discovered to his dismay, that sometimes those virtues were the very things that aroused animosity, not only among rascals but in “good” men themselves. Some of them were members of his own church, and he had talked with Mr. Haas about this.
“Well,” said the Reverend Mr. Haas, ruefully, “I’ve been sermonizing about this off and on for at least twenty-five years, now, Charlie, but it seems that you’ve never heard a single word I’ve said — —you see, Charles, men don’t like their neighbours to succeed, brothers don’t rejoice too much when their brothers rise a little higher, sisters resent another sister who is prettier than themselves or who have made a more profitable marriage, and even fathers have been embittered when sons do better with their business than they did themselves —- that’s the way people are —“
This animosity toward members of a community who give too much, or are too successful, is a shameful but real part of life. It is one reason too many of the brightest and best move away from their smaller community and home, contributing to the rise of the cities and the demise of the countryside and eventually the country. Fortunately, that trend is reversing, as the brightest and best now flee the cities with their traffic, crime, and pollution. Our young people are coming back home in spite of petty politics, and we are seeing new young families moving here to benefit from our amazing lifestyle.
Countering that, we seem to be having an exodus of older people. Of course some of that is lack of senior-friendly housing. Of course, too, those who are disgraced or unsuccessful fitting into our too-stratified class system might move away. But it is at least possible that some of our successful people are moving to escape negative local politics, along with this envy and enmity. They say they are seeking better weather, or cheaper living, but is there more to it? (Hello, have you really looked at the weather out there? Or the real cost of living in never-never-land?)