Our Self-Esteem President

by Scott McPherson

Once upon a time, we had this crazy notion that people should accomplish goals, and in so doing learn that they are capable human beings. The reward is an earned sense of self-worth.

Some even surmount incredible physical, emotional, and mental obstacles. All will eventually gain a sense of self-esteem, what psychologist Nathaniel Branden defines as “the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.”

And, in time, the person of high self-esteem reaches for greater heights. Sometimes he fails, but that psychological foundation helps him pick himself up off the ground and move ever upward.

The person of high self-esteem and great accomplishments might even feel capable of helping others less fortunate. Here are a few examples of this kind of person: Sima Samar, an Afghani woman who, in defiance of the Taliban regime, ran schools and clinics for girls and women; Ingrid Betancourt, an anti-corruption activist held hostage for six years in Columbia; Denis Mukwege, a doctor in Africa who has dedicated his life to helping female victims of violent sexual assault; the people who run organizations like Handicap International and Cluster Munition Coalition, which are dedicated to ridding the world of landmines; Hu Jia, an anti-communist activist sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a Chinese prison; Wei Jingsheng, now a resident of the US, but for 17 years the resident of a Chinese prison.

What else do all of these people have in common? They were nominees for the 2009 Peace Prize.

Sadly, our culture long ago jettisoned the view that self-esteem should be earned, and therefore respected. Instead we embrace the idea that we must first create self-esteem, and that greatness will then follow. That’s why we dumb down learning; it’s why we view intentions as being equal to results. (Hitler, who killed 6 million civilians, is reviled: he was a racist; but Stalin, whose policies killed probably 5 times that number, is excused: he was an “idealist”.)

It’s why kids can’t read or think logically today, relative to earlier generations: they are told their failures are really successes, because to do otherwise would “hurt their self-esteem”. It’s why games often don’t have “winners” and “losers”; instead we honor participants just “for playing”. And it’s certainly why we live in a society where the sense of entitlement leads people to speak with a straight face about their “right” to healthcare, jobs, houses, food, income, and entertainment. If they are great “just ‘cause”, then someone must owe them a living.

In an Associated Press story dated October 10 (“Ulterior motives were admitted in Obama win”), we read that “The Nobel committee members made no bones about it. Helping Obama achieve ambitious peacemaking goals was their goal in awarding the prize Friday to an as-yet mostly unaccomplished United States president.”

In a rare moment of humility, President Obama said, “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize.”

That’s putting it mildly. The United States has not begun a withdrawal from Iraq. President Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan. The conflict in that region is even spreading into Pakistan, with Mr. Obama’s blessing. And now his administration is vamping up for a war against Iran.

“Comments from Nobel committee members revealed that they fully intended to encourage, not reward. Consider this: The nomination deadline was only 12 days after Obama first entered the Oval Office.”

There you have it: Obama will achieve greatness, if we just give him enough encouragement. Let’s not cloud the issue by actually waiting to see what he actually accomplishes; true greatness comes from those who are first told they are great. “I hope it will help him,” said committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland. “Obama is the right man at the right time, and that’s why we want to enhance his efforts.” And so the real greatness of others is once more sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity.

During the 2008 primary season, a friend of mine said he actually got “choked up” voting for Obama. “To think, that I was playing a small role in electing America’s first black president,” he said. Let’s call Obama the Commander in Chief of Self-Esteem, a product of our universal obsession with feeling good about ourselves at all costs.

Scott McPherson is a member of Seacoast Liberty.

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