After watching the 2008 BBC miniseries Sense and Sensibility, I had to look up this quote to see if it was in the book, “What do they want from us? Perhaps they see us not as people but as playthings.” — Marianne Dashwood.
It is apparently. Now if I may expound on the thought. If there is such a thing as hierarchy, which there is, then it is a common temptation for those with the upper hand to view those below as playthings. Women can possibly relate in regards to children, pets, younger women, and possibly employees. The strong ones in a relationship get an inflated view of their own power and the significance of the others’ weakness. If one is weaker, then why should they be listened to or considered in a similar way to onesself? Isn’t that destroying hierarchy? Doesn’t it raise the other up to an equal level to consider them as an similarly valid being, worthy of consideration? Doesn’t it undermine the whole idea of authority to let the weaker or lesser in the relationship have a considered voice?
I believe the answer is that one should listen and put oneself in the weaker being’s place, but the final decision rests on the one in authority. This position should not be abdicated to the lowers.
However, I believe the appropriate balance of properly considering others and not considering onesself higher than one ought is very hard to attain. People in higher positions can glory in the weakness of those beneath. They can stifle them and trip them up to keep them down. They may enjoy their feeling of superiority and feel threatened by supposed attempts to usurp them. This may also stem from insecurity in their position. Someone beneath can appear stronger in some way, so surely they would want to take over, right? From whence comes this fear? Perhaps an unhealthy passionate attachment to a high position. What would become of me if I were lower? It must seem like death. Someone who would have an identity crisis in a lower position is probably not the best sort of leader. This is why we like reluctant warriors. We don’t want someone to enjoy being the biggest and the strongest. They should view it as the same sort of job as being a sanitation engineer. Their responsibilities may look different, like providing for a kingdom, but really, they are the same. Cleaning up after a kingdom is the same sort of provision as defending it. A good king wants his people’s needs met. He wants them all to be successful in the things they are made to be good at. Their successes and strengths reflect well on him, and he shouldn’t feel threatened by them. If some uppity lower-than does harbor feelings of insurrection, then discipline should be taken. But I think that more often it is the case that diagnosing these feelings, both in onesself and in those lower than onesself, is harder to do than people think. Understanding a person’s potential is very complicated, and doing it wrongly can lead to frustration, bad feelings, ill-treatment, and unnecessary conflict. Doing it well will mean the kingdom is left better than you found it.