There is this scene in the first Superman movie:
It is early in the movie amd "Clark Kent" has just appeared at the Daily Planet. And there he is, a ridiculous anachronism of sorts, all "golly gee" and "can do" and Lois Lane, wise, sassy, and completely unable to to deal with Clark's innocent presence and, is asserting herself all over the place. So there she is, walking all over him and out manning him at every turn (no doubt because she is a woman in a man's world, and perhaps just a bit because she's self important and more than a little self absorbed and you can't really blame her but that isn't the point). So when their boss, unable to open a bottle, hands it to Clark, Clark makes a good show of trying to open it, and then hands her the bottle, ostensibly to keep up his cover as the weakling he claims to be, and after shaking it and loosening it, she hands it back to him.
And, well, we all know what happens when you open a shaken soda bottle.
Lois, slighly taken aback as anyone decent would be, apologizes "I'm sorry Clark, I didn't mean to..."
And he cuts her off, and directly states with a slight smirk "Ofcourse you didn't Lois, Why would anyone want to make a total stranger look like an idiot?"
It is, by all accounts, a wonderful moment.
And I think of this moment, time and time again. During the power plays that are inevitable in daily life. The cynicism and delicate jabs and moves we make to clarify our wit at the expense of others implied lack of intelligence. I think of it during teen movies and the memories they bring back of cruel and clueless children, mocking the odd man out because it made them feel better.
I think of it when someone makes me feel fat, or comes on to my boyfriend to prove she is sexy and more worthy than me. I think of it when someone shuns me for no good reason or looks at my shoes like I could have done better.
I think of it when anyone tries to make me feel small.
I think of it because it is the ultimate one liner. That response you were dreaming of in the bathroom as you tried to imagine the appropriate zinger to being verbally wedgied. That thing you wanted to say to stop it all, stop them in their tracks. make them regret what they did.
Why. would. anyone. want. to. make. a. total. stranger. feel. like. an. idiot.?
I mean, really? Doesn't that say it all. In no uncertain terms: what could your actions possibly say about you if it was your intent to kick the underdog. OF COURSE you didn't mean to do that? What sane and kind person would want to see another suffer, would want to watch another squirm. Infact, I am such a big person I am going to give YOU the benefit of the doubt, because only the smallest shriveled heart would sing to such a petty attempt.
We forget this as we grow. Verying levels of sophistication takes foot and the insecurities over being inadequate make it tantamount we seem right. We forget.
we roll our eyes and we snicker and we get better, and we get subtler at making others feel small. We don't kick and we don't call ugly names. Atleast not in mixed company.
But what we DO do, is we use our brain. To out think and over analyze and find a rationale as to why we must embarrass and degrade, as a initiation by context, to prove our relative worth. We tell ourselves there is a point, a rationale, to highlight the bottom rung, and how very far below you it is.
We shine our correctness like a headlamp. We use our clever mind.
Which really must, in the end, have something better to do than to make someone feel like an ass. Because really, truly, who would want to make a stranger feel like an idiot?