Schadenfreude. It sounds like the name of an Austrian village, perhaps where Sigmund Freud walked in the shade while contemplating the human subconscious. The word refers, however, to a state of mind: the pleasure we derive from someone else’s misfortune. It is but one of the many human emotions Douglas Garland explores in his remarkable new book “The Tall Poppy Syndrome.”
The title, based on a concept well-known in Australia and New Zealand, derives from the tendency for farmers to cut down distinctively tall individual plants in a field of otherwise homogeneous poppies. Typically, Tall Poppies are high achievers in virtually any field of human endeavor. In this exalted status, they become targets for the envious and jealous among us. Indeed, according to Garland, fully half of the articles in such magazines as the National Enquirer and the Star focus gleeful attention on comeuppance visited upon the rich and the famous.
Garland spends a considerable time detailing the subtle but important differences between: envy and jealousy; anger and rage; contempt and hostility; revenge, bullying, and schadenfreude. He points out that one need not be a notable person to be a Tall Poppy. In fact, most TPs are ordinary folk who nevertheless engender envy or jealousy from acquaintances. Likewise, there are good Tall Poppies and bad Tall Poppies, depending upon how one achieves Tall Poppyhood in the first place. Similarly, we can improve our own lives by favorably envying an eminent TP and fashioning our efforts after such a person.
After reviewing the admittedly scant academic literature on the subjects of envy, jealousy, and related emotions, Garland offers his unique perspective on the scope of interpersonal conflict from the dawn of recorded time to the present era. He starts naturally enough, with the story of how Cain Tall Poppied Abel after growing jealous when God favored the younger brother’s offering.
We learn from Garland about ancient Roman kings and their intrafamily rivalries, about Thomas à Becket, and Genghis Khan. We hear about the Tower of London where TPs were literally cut down by the headsman’s axe. Numerous other examples from European and world history illustrate Garland’s observations about the way people relate to each other in times of stress and in times of plenty.
The final chapters of Garland’s opus focus on the American experience where The Tall Poppy Syndrome was hardly thought to exist, yet reasonably accounts for numerous episodes in our country’s less-than-honorable past. Examples include Burr and Hamilton, Boss Tweed, New York’s infamous Tammany Hall and its multigenerational cast of nefarious characters, Chief Crazy Horse and George Armstrong Custer, rival nuclear physicists Oppenheimer and Teller, Martin Luther King Jr. versus J. Edgar Hoover, as well as the ups and downs of Martha Stewart.
Garland also offers us his personal “Hall of Fame,” those individuals who rose above TP cutters to the benefit of all mankind: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Helen Keller, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Dian Fossey.
Douglas Garland concludes his monograph by sharing what he learned from his research, and how initial concepts proved incorrect upon deeper reflection. He rightly points out that he had not intentionally written a self-help guide, but rest assured Dear Reader, you will be greatly enriched after completing Garland’s remarkable volume.
~ Stuart A Green, MD
The Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) provides an in-depth analysis of an action committed by an individual or groups to bring down another based on a combination of deep seated, often negative feelings that all human beings are endowed with.
I started reading this book with very little sense of the relevance of this action. I thought it was more of the physical action, the visible action and the outward appearance as the results of those actions that all of us sees, specially during this digital age where information travels at a rapid speed. Looking at it closely, I came to realize that this is heavy topic that required much in-depth analysis and extensive research.
Doug Garland provided such an analysis and brought forth extensive literature from across the ages that really highlighted this action and all the human emotions and instincts that can lead into bringing down one human being for whatever reason- valid or not. Be prepared to feel all the emotions identified in this book. It will force you to remember events in your life as the victim or the culprit of TPS. Take time to absorb the details and points in this book. It is heavily supported by research, evidence, and examples from ancient times all the way to the very present.
I particularly identified with the current social media culture and the many examples I see right now. I hear it in my children's vocabulary - so and so got "demonetized" the other day for such and such.
Finally, I was particularly intrigued by the crab mentality that leads to TPS by growing up in a culture where this is so common. When I was a kid, we used to go crabbing and would come home with a bucket full of little crabs. When one crab rises to the top and is about to get out of the bucket, the other crabs grabbed on to the top crab and they all fall down!
Bravo for this great book!
"The Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is a rarely discussed metaphor of cutting down the "outliers" in society. This wonderfully factual and interesting book clearly presents this common syndrome with its cultural and historical differences. It is ultimately inspirational as it provides evidence of cultural variations that have encouraged idea leaders to find American TPS to be most tolerable and encouraging.
Tall poppy syndrome is easily understood in a cursory fashion. Variation from mediocrity is often hailed with scorn. Envy can be good; however, it is mostly treacherous. Dr. Garland has dissected TPS in this most through treatise to be of value to the psychology scholar. Even better, the author has provided clear examples of how TPS has directed mankind's development to such an extent as to be valuable to the serious history student.
Human examples of TPS in the lives of Genghis Khan, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, and other luminaries are fascinatingly depicted. Subtle cultural and historical differences of TPS from China, Australia, Northern Europe, and America are beautifully described and their consequences presented. It is all brought home with specific examples of the TPS effect on early America.
America's handling of TPS is unique. The Tall Poppy (TP) has a specified right to growth and development. Its Constitution prohibits mob rule from thwarting the TP. However imperfect our protection of the TP, a large number of the world's tall poppies immigrate to America to thrive. One need only look at some of our greatest new and old spectacular companies to see that visionary people immigrated to this American culture. A national heart full of grace and tolerance has proved to win the age as far as human improvement is concerned.
Dr. Garland has shown that TPS changes as individual people, countries and cultures develop. Social media and globalization have the capacity to encourage good TP development. However, he warns us that "cancel culture" and other forms of mob rule have a long personal and cultural history of treachery ending in individual and cultural frustration and mediocrity."
~ D. Kevin Lester
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." James 3:16, NASB
This book could just as easily been subtitled, "When life doesn't make sense", "What is wrong with America", or "Why did our government of the people and for the people turn on us".
The author, a distinguished surgeon from Southern California, has applied his diagnostic skills to the what ails America today. As a surgeon, myself, I have been particularly impressed with what has happened to the medical profession over the last forty years, a downfall we were warned to expect in 2007 by Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard business professor, in "Who Killed Healthcare".
From Cain and Able to Donald Trump, Dr. Garland traces the history of Western Civilization to shed light on how we got here.
If you are interested in history, politics, psychology, the Bible, or why people in the workplace behave the way they do, you will enjoy this thought provoking look at America from the other side of the world, Australia, home of the Tall Poppy Syndrome.
If you could even take one or two things away from this book, you’ll be a better human being. It’s encouraging to know that more and more cultures on the planet recognize this syndrome, and discouraging that the most powerful nations of the world; the U.S. and China first and foremost, are in desperate need of what this book has to offer, in fact almost relish in being cutters of others. We don’t even need to mention Russia.
"I was not sure what to expect from this book as I anticipated that “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (TPS) was just another name for an act of revenge due to anger or envy. After reading Dr. Garland’s book, I now have a much better understanding of the causes and examples of being “Tall Poppied”. The book goes into detail regarding the origin and history of TPS citing examples from ancient history to modern day politics. After reading the book I also felt like I had just completed a crash course on world history. I now try to analyze events that occur in my life as well as in the lives of famous people to determine if any of us are victims of being Tall Poppied. I think that readers will find the book thought provoking and enlightening!"
~ Terry Habig
"Very informative and interesting. Opens your eyes to what's going on around you. This is an extremely well written and researched book. The topic is fascinating and informative. It is thought provoking as well."
~ E. M. Vasilomanolakis
"Wow! This book really touched on something that I have observed and felt but could never put into words. Interestingly my friend’s very exceptional son had a situation in a medical setting where he was assured of an after graduation position at a hospital where he was well known. A new and more senior doctor, was hired. All of the sudden, my friend’s son's assured job offer was withdrawn. I told her I thought this new senior person was threatened or jealous. I continued to think about what had happened. Then somewhere I heard the term Tall Poppy Syndrome. Thanks to Google I found Dr. Douglas Garland’s book. I realized the motivations that Dr. Garland discusses, are in operation on almost a daily basis in areas of our lives. The book was very thorough in discussing TPS and related emotions that cause it to kick in. He explores the nuanced differences of emotions such as envy versus jealousy, anger versus revenge, the concept of schadenfreude, and more. Dr. Garland illustrates via real examples in history of how TPS and its related emotions actually created the course of history. This book is not a light read, but I definitely learned something and found the concepts really resonated with me."
~ Jean Klein
"In the world of human understanding, The Tall Poppy Syndrome, as thoroughly researched and explained by Dr Garland is a universal truth, understood and made legendary by the Greeks and Romans and referred to by world-wide societies, irrespective of ethnicity. There are but three basic elements, - the cutter, the cuttings - it’s aftermath and The Tall Poppy! Everyone knows about it, so why are we, in this country as reflected by the author, so surprised and so unaware of its existence? If nature abhors a vacuum, is it true that Homo sapiens abhors a tall poppy? Are we as Americans so imbued with our egalitarian society that we deny the existence of tall poppies and therefore, The Syndrome?
This book may well challenge the insight of the professional social psychologist, but in my opinion, is of equally broad appeal to the sentient observer of the human condition in society. Bravo land thank you for bringing the concept and corollaries into the light of my awareness."
~ P. F. Corbett
"I thought the first few chapters were somewhat academic, but necessary, as the author explained the concepts of the tall poppy syndrome. The subsequent chapters were interesting and enjoyable. I found myself thinking about who would be my “tall poppies” and “tall poppies” that have been cut down. While reading the book, I kept thinking about the amount of research that was required to write it. This is an important book on a subject that has been largely ignored in the Unites States. My personal opinion is the America has been a country that looked up to and respected their tall poppies and allowed them to flourish. I think those attitudes have been mostly beneficial to America. Unfortunately, I think the Tall Poppy Syndrome may be creeping into American culture."
~ Susan Reiman