There is often a corresponding role in that same context: The irreproachable. Where the untouchable is the person no one dares to treat as a human being – and, possibly, the one everyone else feels obliged to mistreat by some more-overt means – the irreproachable is the person that no one in that group dares to reject, criticize or chastise.
Prom King, right? Head Cheerleader. Attractive, talented, prosperous, well-groomed and popular – where popularity literally means the imputed power to reject, criticize or chastise anyone else on the ladder of irreproachability. The untouchable is in the corresponding role: Putatively denied any right to reject, criticize or chastise anyone higher up.
From Chapter 7, “Empathy for the machine.”
But not all social groups are evil – just most of them. People generally kiss up and kick down. They brag over or at least don’t complain about injuries inflicted upon them from above them in the social hierarchy, perhaps because they’re too busy inflicting injuries of their own on those further down. Status amounts to who you can reject peremptorily, expecting them to take it without rebellion, and who is putatively empowered to reject you in just that way. The untouchable is scorned by everyone, of course, but his counterpart – the irreproachable – is prized by all the others precisely because he scorns them – with their own consent.
That’s kinda sick, huh? Pretty ugly. Have you ever seen anything like it before?I’m joking, of course. The real question: Have you ever seen any enduring social organization that did not exhibit this vicious pecking order?
Ever wonder why that’s so?
Here’s the bad news for the Prom King: He attracts people to himself – for now – by rejecting them pre-emptively, but he can only retain their… not affection… not loyalty… their on-going submission to him, really… he can only retain their presence around him by preventing their absence – by blocking their escape with threats of untouchabilitation, as it were.
And thus, in very short order, does the Prom King become the monster – the thing that is most beyond reproach precisely because it is too terrifying to touch. The irreproachable and the untouchable – the real monster and the totem – stand back to back in a circle of infinite pain.