I’ve recently noticed a few ‘bonfire pissers’ around. Definition: people who ‘piss on other people’s bonfires’ – a metaphor for putting people’s ideas down. I’ve noticed both men and women doing it but perhaps in different ways. Couples do it to each other, friends, colleagues. There could even be different categories including: blatant, subversive, jokey (ha ha!) etc (maybe I’m also one at times!)
Other terms for bonfire pissing include: ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ – again a metaphor for ‘cutting’ successful people down. The Australians love doing it. According to the unspoken national ethos, no Australian is allowed to believe that he or she is better than any other Australian. This is supposed to come from a culture of resenting the English feudal system.
(Although, as I further researched this fascinating cultural trait, it’s suggested that Australians aren’t against the success of the others, just anyone who puts on ‘superior airs.’)
Even further research led me to reading about ‘Crab Mentality’ – the idea that, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a bucket of live crabs. If one tries to escape, the other crabs will pull them back down to prevent any from getting out and ensure the groups collective demise!
The comparison in human behaviour is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence or progress of any member who achieves success beyond the others. This is due to envy or competitive feelings linked to insecurities.
Does this ring any bells? Do we all revel in a bit of schandenfreude? (pleasure derived from another’s misfortune) At my husband’s work they have a current secret sweepstake about how long a new person is going to ‘last.’ Is this a deflection to make others feel more secure? Does there always have to be a ‘scapegoat’?
Apparently, this is a universal phenomenon but just more common in some cultures. In Scandinavia and Scotland there are similar sayings to ‘bonfire pissing’ and ‘tall poppy’. Although, I don’t think Americans do it much – there’s more of a celebratory culture there. I find it fascinating that it’s not just individuals who do it but whole cultures!
I’d be interested to hear other people’s views/experiences on the subject but in the meantime – Stop pissing on people’s bonfires!