Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tall poppy syndrome?

THIS ARTICLE WAS PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ON CONANSTEVENS.COM, you can find this article in its original form by clicking HERE.

Tall Poppy Syndrome

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tall Poppy Syndrome is a distinctly Australian negative trait. It refers to those who get their kicks and sense of self importance by bringing down others who are successful. It can also refer to these same type of people who revel in the misfortunes of these same successful people.

Tall Poppy Syndrome is such a wide spead trait that even our current Prime Minister felt moved to make this statement:

"if there’s one thing we need to get rid of in this country it is our tall poppy syndrome."

- John Howard (Australia Prime Minister 1996 - current(2007))

The Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the cutting the head off the tallest poppies (in a garden) so that none stand out from the crowd. In human terms it refers to many Australians wanting to see everyone leveled and for no one to rise and shine.

You see this in schoolyards where those who excel are picked on and bullied, in workplaces where those who try and want to get ahead are ostracised (socially excluded) and bad mouthed. This leads to a social atmosphere where many do not want to "make waves" or get "too big for their boots" and so succumb to this social thuggery.

Successful entrepreneur, Brad Sugars said it this way. What is wrong with Australians? In America I am driving my Cobra down the road, I stop for a guy crossing he looks at the car and says good on you buddy, now in Queensland Australia I am driving my yellow Ferrari, a guy on the side of the road yells at me Wanker!

Here I would say our Tall Poppy Syndrome sufferer felt threatened that Brad could drive a nice car and reacted abusively/aggressively as animals do when they feel threatened.

This is one thing that was extremely noticable in America on my trips there, even random strangers build up your confidence, they cheer you on, tell you that you can do it. When I went to the States to try to get a wrestling contract with WWF/WCW people were congratulating me, telling me I am already there, and that I was going to make it.

Now contrast this with my own best friends when I was growing up, before I left I spoke with them individually, only one wished me luck, the others said you won't make it then proceeded to tell me every reason why I was not going to make it. Needless to say I never talked to them again - with friends like that who needs enemies.... right?

Tall Poppy Syndrome in action. If I succeeded then it would make them feel like failures, therefore for them it was preferrable if I failed, or even better yet if I never even tried to succeed. They would rather see a life long friend fail so that they feel vindicated (in their lack of "success") rather than cheer on and share in that friends triumph.

The Tall Poppy Syndrome extends throughout Australian culture to the point that it stifles innovation, excellence and the willingness to give it 100%.

One quote from an Australian author that I found particularly spot on as a performer was this;

As no one has so far come out publicly against Tall Poppies, their general characteristics can only be guessed at. Here are a few I have managed to ascertain:
1. Tall Poppies are just like you and me only more so.
2. Tall Poppies never live overseas. If they did, they would be known instead as Aussie Icons*.
3. Tall Poppy is the designation Australians give their enemies, just before attempting to destroy them.
*Provided, of course, that they still call Australia "home"."

- Robert Treborlang

With great restraint I will not write my personal views on this, it is enough to say that I heartily agree, especially with point #2.

To get ahead in Australia you must learn to ignore the failures who want to see you fail too, you must learn to ignore the Tall Poppy Syndrome and if you are an entertainer or artist get out and show the rest of the world your talents.

Tall Poppy Syndrome sufferers be buggered.


I have witnessed and experienced the 'Tall poppy syndrome', and it is something which is often used as an excuse to kind of 'nudge' you into a bit of a reality check, but I have noticed that most often the very same people who claim "I'm doing this for your own good, to keep you grounded", are the main offenders of "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME... SEE WHAT I CAN DO, AND HAVE DONE". It can be very discouraging at times to be in the presence of a person of this character trait.

1 comment:

  1. Good point! I was noticing this, but couldn't quite explain it, this clarifies things a lot! I find that the same kind of mentality takes place in Serbia, and to a slightly lesser extent in France. Now it's so much clearer to me where the difference I sense (between US and Europe) is coming from. I couldn't quite explain it before, thank you! :)

    I have countless examples coming to mind now that are very well explained by this. In the US, the "Tall Poppy Syndrome" is indeed quite rare, but very common in Europe.