The Climbers

Two climbers in different fields can understand and respect one another, and perhaps even be friends — with a wink. Two climbers in the same field can understand and respect one another, and may even appear to like one another, albeit with a slight sneer. But to the climber, nothing is more offensive, more viscerally disruptive, than the presence of a non-climber within his own milieu. One might wonder why this should be, since the climber might be supposed to appreciate, or at least to pity, the one whose character represents no threat to his material aims.

The reason, however, becomes immediately understandable, and even inevitable, as soon as we grasp that the label “climber” is a misnomer, almost a euphemism, since in truth the person we call a climber is by nature and stricter characterization a groveller. To climb is to curry favor, to schmooze, to flatter others and demean oneself, and above all to think and act in accordance with what one believes will satisfy others’ expectations and meet with others’ approval, all for the sake of mere material gain. In a game defined by climbing, then, the most sacred unwritten rule is that everyone must abide by the law of the grovel. For it is only by the universal and egalitarian application of the Groveller’s Principle that each groveller may protect his ego from the shame of self-recognition. If, after all, grovelling may be perceived as merely what everyone does, what one must do, and therefore as inseparable from human nature itselfthen looking into the mirror so tinted becomes less dangerous and disturbing. “We are all the same” is the perpetual mantra of the compromised in their desperate attempt to save face, and therefore also the chief psychological mechanism of social deterioration. That is, as long as we can all effectively excuse our self-diminution as “the way the world works,” as though we had no choice in the matter, we liberate ourselves from those harsh processes of self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-contempt which constitute the very roots of human dignity, and the pathway to whatever nobility we are capable of achieving, individually or as a species.

But the maintenance of this unwritten rule of the groveller’s world, namely the convenient perception of universal grovelling as a natural fact, requires, self-evidently, the consistent and almost ritualistic denial of non-grovelling as an alternative way of being. Thus, if anyone appears in the midst of the groveller’s milieu — which means any social context (office, department, bureau, institutional hierarchy) in which “climbing the ladder” is regarded as essential to the inner workings of the place — who does not exhibit the tendencies of the groveller, and whose attitude toward the Groveller’s Principle stems from self-respect and an abiding feeling that there are transcendent things within oneself which must be preserved at all costs, this person will be hated as only the most frightening threats may be hated. For such a person represents the dreadfully clear mirror into which the groveller must never allow himself to look, a quiet but incessant reminder of the most disquieting truth, namely that grovelling is not natural and therefore universally necessary, but rather a choice, and a distinctly anti-natural one, however universal it may sometimes appear in social practice.

The non-groveller in the groveller’s milieu will become public enemy number one, unless and until his will can be broken, for his mere presence shatters the comforting and collective delusion that allows the ordinary men of today (and the great “successes” most ordinarily of all) to lower themselves so shamelessly for so little. His rejection of the rules of the game proves that it is just a game — an arbitrary and conventional set of rules without any basis in nature or necessity — which is precisely the distant truth that the men who have devoted their lives to the spirit-damning smallness of “climbing” must never permit themselves to recall.

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