The most basic hierarchal ideologies have been around since the beginning of “human time”. The Neolithic revolution left men higher than women because men worked in the fields not just in the home. The original feudalistic system in Europe and all around the world set a hierarchy for a community and how vassals and serfs functioned as cogs in the king’s great social machine. The Hindu caste system places certain groups of people above others in order to ultimately be reincarnated in a higher caste. All of these hierarchies have major defining layers to them. When you think of a hierarchy in a school setting, you automatically think of jocks and nerds but there are no definite classes, everybody is meshed together in a melting pot of education and social ambiguity. Where do we actually rank, and how do other people’s perceptions of us and our perceptions of others transfer into the real world?
People establish themselves as better than others based off of a few key factors, wealth, intelligence, command / confidence, and status. (Wealth and status are two different things. I will clarify).
Wealth has been defining classes since the inception of currency itself. Since 5,000 BCE, currency has dictated our every move as a society. Students see the the amount of money another person just by looking at them. That person has now been catalogued in the mind of their peer, in a certain economic “rank.” By asserting that one person as higher or lower on the socioeconomic chain than yourself you prejudge them and make your decision on how you’re going to treat them. Depending on your own individual perception of someone who is higher or lower than you on that scale, you may scoff at a “poor” man/woman or grovel at the feet of a “rich” one. The point is that one will view someone else in relation to himself or herself and his or her opinion of that person will dictate how one perceives him or her.
There is most definitely a line between people who are intelligent and people who are unintelligent (definitions in hyperlinks). People who are intelligent may look down upon someone who is not as intelligent. For example, if two students received a test grade from a teacher and one student asks the other student what he/she got as a grade, there is immediately a superiority. One student will most likely have a higher grade in which case that student is now higher on the scale. The student who received the lower grade now feels inferior to the other student and sees the other student as superior. The school system avidly encourages this as well. The ranking of valedictorian and salutatorian forces students to compete in a race to the top of the intellectual ladder. The same goes for adults in the workplace. In the job space, people compete for that one promotion or raise, and the result will always result in a difference in power.
Command / Confidence is a complex, and frankly ambiguous concept of hierarchy. In its simplest form, it means that, regardless of all other factors, if you are confident and command the space you’re in then you will establish superiority.
The final factor that dictates hierarchy is status. This is a completely separate concept than the other three yet also seems to combine all of them. Status is defined as the relative social, professional, or other standing of someone or something. For example, the boss is higher than the intern, and the teacher is higher than the student. The boss and the teacher both have superiority over their respective spaces because each possesses the status in that space. The intern and the student are both inferior due to their lack of status.
Superiority is a construct; it is based off of your sense of consciousness and how you and you alone perceive the world around you. In order to be optimally aware of where you should be, you must understand where you are. While wealth, status, and income may be factors that affect power, they do not define us. You can get smarter and richer, but first, you must be aware. You see, for interpersonal relations are like a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. While one may be bigger than another, the medium can only fit in the large. When one becomes aware that he or she is below someone else, he or she has the ability to move up through the ranks. Russian dolls cannot change size, but we can.
[Image Attribute: Strong Design Studios]