FAQ: What is Tall Poppy Syndrome?
The introduction is my inauguration to TPS. A chance phone call to an Australian friend introduced and explained the concept of the TPS as well as its consequences. An illustrative example of TPS, Thomas Edison versus Nicola Tesla, follows. The journey into the world of the TPS begins.
Definition and History of the Tall Poppy Syndrome
Tall poppies and TPS are defined through various dictionaries and scientific papers. The terms have gone through various meanings through time. For example, TPs were once considered offensive, but now tall poppies are good; when they become conspicuous, they are deemed bad. The remainder of the chapter describes the presence of the TPS in most of the world's countries as well as a historical framework beginning when it was first detected. TPS was first noted by Herodotus in 430 BC. Examples of ancient and modern TPS are presented from various countries throughout the chapter.
The Australian Experience
TPS is most recognized in Australia of the Anglo-sphere nations. Australia's roots are explored to explain their egalitarian culture and why TPS is so prevalent. Examples of Australian TPS are peppered throughout the chapter to reinforce its primacy. A section on linguistics explores the Australian definition TPS which began in Chapter 1 but focuses on the evolution of terms in the English language.
The American Experience
This chapter is juxtaposed to the Australian chapter to aid in explaining why we do not know or have TPS in America. One of my theories is that we embraced the individual in our constitution as opposed to egalitarian cultures of Australia, Japan or the Scandinavian countries. The early history of our forefathers' thinking is explored to explain our culture of individualism. The small numbers of historical usage of TPS is documented with some examples. I offer some of my examples of TPS which are previously undetected or unknown. The rise of collectivism in American is established (a premise for TPS) and why TPS may become more prevalent in the U.S.
Why the Poppy Flower?
The poppy is a universal weed but also a popular ornamental plant. The universality of the plant possibly gave rise to the term TPS but Australia's role in WWI and the poppy fields of Flanders probably cemented Australia's love affair with the term. World War I, to some extent, helped spread the popularity of the poppy and perhaps some recognition of the term to the remainder of the Anglo-sphere countries.
The Cutter's Emotional Mindset: Envy, Jealousy, Resentment, Anger and Revenge
The cutter's motives are most commonly driven by emotions, usually envy. Emotions are defined, the prevalent emotions detailed and then some of the more negative emotions. The so called negative emotions such as envy are redefined by today's psychologist who give new definitions to emotions. For example, envy has a good component as well as the more notable bad component. The bad component, one of the seven deadly sins, has been emphasized in the past, but by emphasizing the good component, the so called negative emotions can improve one's stature in life. An individual with poor self esteem often stimulates the negative emotion of envy which results in TPS. Other emotions leading to tps are discussed. Case reports illustrate the various motives as poppies are cut down.
The Tall Poppy's Downfall: Unworthiness
Just as the cutter has emotional motives for cutting down a TP, the TP may act egregiously giving a potential cutter reason to act. Jonathan Haidt's moral foundation is the basis for explaining cutters' mindset as well as Australian's leading psychosocial research, Normal Feather - "deservingness". The cutter deems the TP unworthy which justifies cutting down the egregious poppy. Examples such as Harvey Weinstein or Eliot Spitzer cement the concept.
Conditions Similar to TPS: Bullying and Schadenfreude
Just as envy and jealousy are incorrectly used interchangeably, so too are bullying and TPS. The symptoms of bullying are defined so that the two entities can be differentiated and not mistaken. Examples of bullying are given. Schadenfreude , which means joy from someone's pain, often follows TPS so can be associated with TPS. Schadenfreude may occur without TPS. Both are driven by envy and worthiness
The next three chapters are the most entertaining aspect of the book. Premiere examples of people who: are TPs; have been tall poppied; have been tall poppied our government. Everyone has their own TP and one's TP may not be the other person's. Selections may be controversial but should have broad appeal. Most were time tested people, many from a century ago, with a bias for those with ideals of individualism. Many were immigrants or not many degrees separated from their parent's immigration. Most were not in politics or business who have enough accolades or are not discriminating choices.
You Have Been Tall Poppied
The author picks people who have been outrageously egregious and have been cut down. There should be universal acceptance of choice in this chapter. The cutter and their motive and roll in the cutting is also discussed since many played an initiating or leading role in the cutting . A few of the TPs had such egregious behavior that no one person had to lead the charge to cut them down. This is an all star list for bad behavior. The main problem is that it the list of fallen hurts too much to laugh (schadenfreude). Most are from the media-entertainment, business, sports and political world.
The Government as a Perpetrator
This chapter may elicit some controversy as many authors do not list the government as a cause of the TPS especially Australia. In fact, throughout history governments (most were not democratic) were prime cutters in TPS. Our government appears to be no exception. Not only are politicians powerful people but they head organizations that can cut people down which sometimes hides their own involvement. Since the government has so much power, they can take down groups as well as one person. The American Indians were cut down as a population, individuals and TP chiefs. World news reveals daily of governments cutting down TPs who they deem are enemies of the state. Many times they are TPs who are a threat to the state's status quo or its leadership. Much stems from Lord Acton's aphorism: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Examples of cutting by central government and various departments are presented.
Is TPS in America?
The answer is yes and greatly so. The question is will it increase. The entity remains unrecognized it goes undiagnosed but the author sees examples daily. The causes here are similar to those around the world but our culture and politics may makes our own cutters and cuttees unique. The political landscape is rife with TPS. Whenever there is competition and only one winner such as a political race, TPS is commonplace. America's various movements such as #MeTOO or #BlackLivesMatter are potentially big cutters. An intriguing aspect is that these movements cut down by moral justice in many instances and the cuttee disappears for various reasons: mainly they are guilty as charged but others are cut down without recourse. Various other causes of cutting down such of identity politics is presented.
How to Become a Tall Poppy
This is in the appendix and not necessary reading to grasp the concept of TPS. The meat of the book has been presented. The author spent a great amount of time researching the essence of the TP "tall" and it is his vain attempt to answer the question. The chapter may fall short. Why? As noted in the TP chapter, TPs and their circumstances, backgrounds, goals, or missions are so different it is difficult defining how to become one. There are certain traits that can be identified but possessing them does not guarantee tall poppydom. Many books already exist and more come out annually which implies the author is not the only one who has trouble defining excellence. It is much easier to spot in person than to define.
Why Tall Poppies Count
This chapter attempts to demonstrate how TPs make a difference. Many management books have sought to answer this million-dollar question and many have great points. In the end the author felt that "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey (24 million copies sold) was one of the best books on the subject. The author applied those seven habits to his job and demonstrated how it his service's performance become tall poppydom.